A Day in the Life of a Swimmer

In the first installment, we talked about what it took to qualify for the US Olympic Trials and how the various rounds progress from Prelims to being named to the Olympic team, but what the cameras don’t cover—and what we’re going to discuss today—is exactly what a typical day is like for any one of these swimmers at the Trials, from the time they wake up in the morning, until the time they hit the sheets at the end of the night. The Prelim session of Olympic Trials begins at 10am, so the swimmer needs to arrive a few hours beforehand to wake up, fuel and warm-up.  With the longer Prelim sessions, resulting from the large number of swimmers who have qualified in each individual event, the arrival time for each swimmer is determined by what event he has that day.

Swimming the first event? It’s best to arrive early, around 8am, to allow time to warm-up, stretch and mentally prepare for the race.  Just because the swimmers have early morning practice, doesn’t mean they are all “morning people.” If you take longer to wake-up, then an earlier wake-up call is needed to get ready for the day.  Swimmers who are not racing that day will wake-up, eat breakfast and get in a 1000-3000 meter swim each day.  This allows the swimmer to keep the muscles ready for the day when he will swim his event.

Regardless of whether the swimmer is entered in 1 race or 10, they will still spend each day at the pool, both getting in a swim as well as supporting their teammates.  The teams present at Olympic Trials are either club teams or college teams, but either way, the swimmers clock a lot of time together while training and traveling, and supporting one another is important.

So how does this schedule actually breakdown on paper? Here you go:

6:30am Wake-up call

7:00am Breakfast (Most swimmers pack foods they are accustomed to eating while in training.)

7:40am Leave for the pool

8:00am Begin warm-up, stretch, change into race suit, meditate, relax, listen to music

10:00am Swim race

10:30am Cool down, change and return to the hotel

11:45am Eat, hydrate, nap; Video games, cards, reading are also viable options between prelims and finals

4:00pm Wake from nap, hydrate and eat

5:00pm Travel to pool

5:30pm Begin warm-up

6:45pm Finals begin

7:15pm Swim race(s)

8:30pm Finals conclude

8:45pm Eat dinner

10:00pm Wind down for the day, watch TV and go to sleep.

Your sample Day One is complete.  Swimmers competing in multiple races maintain the same schedule for the entire seven days of Trials.  If there is a time difference from their hometown to the meet location, swimmers will travel to the destination ahead of time to acclimate to the time difference.

The day(s) that a swimmer has off, is spent off their feet and resting, especially if they have another race the following day.  It’s important to go into each morning swim as rested as possible.

For nutrition, each swimmer is different.  Some carbo load and eat pasta; some eat the same foods they eat when training and some are expending so many calories that they are just trying to put in as many calories as they are rapidly using up. Some eat with their families, some eat with their teams and some prefer to eat alone.

In our case, we rarely see Michael at the meets, as it is his time to focus on what he needs to accomplish in the pool – equate this to walking into an important business presentation every day.  His office is (quite literally) the pool and his job is determined 50 meters at a time. In the end, however, even though swimming accounts for a large part of each of athlete’s life, it is not who they are, it’s just what they do.

Lap after lap. Day after day.