With swimmers ruling the pool at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, many viewers are starting to wonder: “what makes these athletes such outstanding superstars?” You might be surprised to learn that the habits of many of the world’s top swimmers transcend country or ethnicity. Instead, these habits simply reflect the distinct, eccentric lifestyle that only those who swim competitively can truly understand.
However, by highlighting 10 of these common trends amongst world-renowned swimmers, you’ll be able to gain a behind the scenes look into what quirky habits make these super-athletes so unique.
One noticeable habit of Olympic swimmers is the amount of daily food consumption. While the average adult should consume around 2,000 calories daily, professional athletes – and swimmers in particular – need significantly more than that. Decorated Olympians Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte both claim to eat around 10,000 calories each day during training season and rave about the much talked-about “carbo-loading” before big competitions.
Olympic swimmers have more practices than there are days in the week, typically logging at least 10 workouts throughout seven days. Many of these practices are held in the wee hours of the morning. Take 19-year-old superstar Katie Ledecky, for example; on a daily basis she wakes up at 4 a.m. in order to be in the water and ready for practice which runs from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. Like Ledecky, most Olympic swimmers wake up long before the sun, which makes it nearly impossible to sleep in – even on the rare days-off.
Unlike many of their Olympic constituents, swimmers typically don’t have the time – or energy – to dry their hair. With just mere hours between practices, most swimmers don’t find purpose in drying their hair regardless of freezing temperatures or daily demands. Furthermore, after hours of training, weightlifting, and dryland exercises, the idea of lifting and holding a hair dryer for several minutes seems virtually impossible.
In the pool, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps are each other’s greatest competitors. Outside of the pool, however, the two thrive as friends of more than 12 years. Like Lochte and Phelps, competitive swimmer stick together. Just as dolphins and whales travel in pods, swimmers frequently hang in groups making mealtime, workout time, and even downtime a team event.
During training season, Olympic swimmers can often be seen creating as much drag as possible. To them, the equation is simple: stroke length, combined with stroke rate, results in faster speed. In order to capitalize on every single stroke, swimmers train with things like water parachutes and bungee cords to add resistance and help improve the overall effectiveness of their stroke.
For Olympic swimmers, being clean-shaven is a luxury that only exists once or twice a year. As previously mentioned, swimmers strive to create drag in every aspect of their training, and that includes even the most microscopic hairs that cover the body. Men grow beards that could make lumberjacks cry and girls frequently sport “leg-sweaters.” Olympic swimmers typically shed their “training layer” the night before Olympic Trials to reduce drag and capitalize on speed.
Watch Olympic swimmers file out before a race and you might assume you’re about to watch a skiing competition rather than a swimming event. With multiple winter coats, hoods, hats, and even gloves, these swimmers look like they’re preparing for a pending blizzard. However, these warm layers are donned to keep swimmers warm and muscles loose. What television doesn’t broadcast is that these Olympic athletes have already swam thousands of meters to warm up and get their muscles ready to race. By bundling up, swimmers can avoid cold, stiff muscles which ultimately result in slow swimming.
Often times before racing, many swimmers squat by the edge of the pool and violently splash themselves with that cold, chlorine-y goodness. This habit might seem odd considering their excessive efforts to keep themselves warm prior to race time and the reasoning behind the tradition varies. Some professionals claim it’s a measure they take to keep their suit in place, while others say it’s simply part of their pre-race routine. Others splash themselves in an effort to “wake up” their muscles and jolt themselves into race-mode.
Non-swimmers are quick to point out the unique fragrance that seems to encompass competitive swimmers: chlorine. But after spending nearly 40 hours a week in the pool, soaking in the chlorine chemicals, this scent is seemingly impossible for Olympic swimmers to thwart. Furthermore, many professional swimmers don’t admit to showering as frequently as they should during training season simply because they find no point in wasting time (that could be spent eating or sleeping) washing off the same pool water that they’ll be back in in less than 12 hours.
After spending four hours a day in a restricting, skin-tight swimsuit, the last thing Olympic swimmers want to do is don tight-fitting clothing. Perhaps this is why many swimmers can be seen wearing sweatpants, sweatshirts, and other comfortable clothing. In fact, many professional swimmers admit that “dressing up” means wearing leggings. Furthermore, these fit, muscular swimmers also have an unnatural ability to know what clothing will fit their broad shoulders and strong arms, and what items won’t.
Learn how to swim like an Olympic athlete and adopt these quirky habits for yourself by clicking HERE.