Is Quitting Swimming the Right Thing to Do?

When the idea to quit swimming first comes to mind, one of the following questions is ‘is quitting swimming the right thing to do?’

The knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘yes’. You’re tired and ready to be done with the sport. But the reality is that the answer should not be decided quickly. 

Because despite what you think, sometimes quitting swimming isn’t the right thing to do. 

But sometimes it is! 

If you’re thinking of quitting swimming and want to know if it’s the right step, keep reading for a full, in-depth review to leaving the sport.

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In a Nutshell

Is quitting swimming the right thing to do?

Our golden standard to this question is and will always be ‘when you’re no longer genuinely happy and enjoying the sport then it’s time to look at quitting.’

A wise coach once told me that swimming would always be there. Even if I leave, the sport will still exist. And it’ll be there if I decide to come back. Whenever that may be. 

Those words have stayed with me over the years. And serve as a reminder that swimming will be forever. But I only have one life to live and I can’t go back to change things. I can always go back to swimming though. 

What Should I Do if I Feel Like Quitting Swimming?

Take a breath and evaluate why you feel like quitting swimming. Or why you want to quit the sport. 

We all have times when we feel like quitting swimming. Especially when we’re waking up for morning practice and instead of five more minutes, you want five more hours.

And that’s okay!

Those are more fleeting desires before you get out of bed and head to practice. And typically, once you finish your workout, you feel better. A bit more comfortable in your skin and ready for the day.

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Sometimes moments like these you need to take a day or practice off. Yes, your coach and/or parents might not agree. But mental days are important for your health and commitment to the sport. 

They can also help you get into a better mindset and act as a ‘refresh’ button. And sometimes you need that break more than you realize. 

But if your feelings start to gravitate towards annoyance, discontentment, frustration, and truthfully not wanting to go, then it’s time to seriously look at the issue.

When is it Time to Quit Swimming?

When should you quit swimming? Our golden standard to this question is and will always be ‘when you’re no longer genuinely happy and enjoying the sport.’

Will you have frustrating days and practices? Yes! You will have those moments throughout life no matter what you’re doing. But they’re small patches that you work through and the frustration ebbs.

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But if you’re waking up for practice and you’re already mad about it and hating yourself, then you’re already at the point where you’re not happy. And it may be time to consider quitting – or at least stepping back from – swimming.

Because forcing yourself to do something that brings you no joy or comfort isn’t healthy. The same applies to anything in your life. 

First and foremost, you need to take care of yourself. And that means not staying in the sport because of your friends, coach, or even your parents. Not at the cost of your mental and physical health.

Should I Quit Competitive Swimming?

If you find yourself at this junction in life where you’re asking if you should quit swimming, we encourage you not to make a hasty decision.

Sometimes what you need isn’t to quit the sport. Rather, it’s a combination of things that you need to ask yourself and evaluate before making that choice. 

Here are 3 things to ask yourself before deciding to leave swimming.

Do I Need a Short Break Instead of Quitting?

I think we can all agree that competitive swimming isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a grueling 7-10 practices a week. Sometimes more depending on your level and your team. 

It’s hard on the body and the mind. And the breaks that swimmers get are minimal compared to other sports.

That said, is your body trying to tell you that you need to stay away for a bit? Or even cut back on practices some?

It’s an unpopular opinion for sure. Most coaches will disagree and say that you need to work through the struggle. But when the heart isn’t in it, it’s hard to push through that struggle.

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In cases like this, try to talk with your coach and/or parents. See if cutting back on practices is an option. Even taking a morning or two off a week or an afternoon off may help spark that desire again.

And if that doesn’t do it, maybe a month or two off can help make you find your passion for the sport. 

It may or it may not though. Absence can make the heart grow fonder! But the time to yourself may also put life into perspective, too. 

Regardless of the choice, be sure that you’re ready for whichever decision you end up making.

Is it My Team or Coach?

Sometimes, it’s not swimming that you dislike. Rather, it’s your team and/or coach that’s giving you grief. 

In times like this, question where your frustration is coming from or directed at. 

Is it because your teammates make snide remarks and nothing comes of it? Or does your coach belittle you (or others)? Or are you butting heads with everyone because of a difference of opinions?

If someone on your team makes you feel inferior or less, it could be the cause of your dislike for the sport. And that’s 100% understandable. No one should have to put up with that type of behavior and be expected to ‘work through it’.

Related article: How to Tell Your Coach You’re Quitting Swimming

If this is the case and it’s your team and/or coach making you dislike the sport, try talking to someone. Talk to your coach or parents if teammates are giving you trouble. And try speaking with another coach or your parents if it’s your coach that’s causing the issue.

Even if you’ve brought it up before, let someone know that your teammates’ actions are seriously making you consider quitting.

Unfortunately, some coaches do let that type of behavior continue for far longer than it should. Mainly because they don’t see the harm in allowing a little ‘tough love’ between swimmers. But just because it might’ve worked when they swam doesn’t mean it should work now.

After all of this, if things don’t change, you may want to consider a different team.

Is There a Different Team to Join Instead?

Sometimes, the best option is to switch teams. And we know, it’s a bit political to leave one team and join another. It can cause some stress and hurt feelings on both sides. But we are of the firm belief that you need to take care of yourself first.

Swimmers leave their teams for new teams for a variety of reasons. This can range from the program not being the right fit to a clash with coaches/teammates.

Whatever the reason, don’t rule out switching teams if it’s an option for you.

You may find that you’ll flourish with a new team and coach. And if so, that’s great! Not everyone meshes well with every coach they train with. Just as not every team is right for every person.

Before deciding to join a new team though, we highly encourage you to speak with the new coach. Typically, there are rules and waiting periods that need to occur before, during, and after the transfer.

It might be a bit of a hassle to change swim teams. But if you want to give swimming another chance or keep swimming, it’s well worth the effort.

When to Quit Swimming

As mentioned earlier, we believe that you should quit swimming when you’re no longer happy with it. When it doesn’t spark that joy for you and you realize that the thing you used to enjoy feels more like a chore.

How to know you’re ready to quit swimming though isn’t always that simple. 

There’s really no one answer as it varies by person and circumstance. For some swimmers, it comes naturally. Such as the end of a high school or college career. They just know that they’re done and that’s that.

Related article: 8 Tips to Tell Your Parents You Want to Quit Swimming

Others may struggle to find the right time to quit. It might not be a natural break for them. Rather one that’s in the middle of the season or school year.

There are no set criteria or list of signs to watch for in yourself. Mainly because it varies so much by the swimmer. We’ve found though that there are set groups that most swimmers fall into when they’re ready to quit.

So when is quitting swimming the right thing to do?


When swimming begins to negatively affect your attitude – both at and away from the pool – it might be a sign that you need a break. 

This can be something as simple as being negative all the time and towards every little thing, up to a negative attitude bringing down other teammates. Your attitude shouldn’t impact your teammate’s training.

Mental Health

Your mental health plays a huge role (in our opinion) as to when quitting swimming is the right thing to do. This goes hand in hand with your attitude. And you’ll find that as your attitude towards swimming starts to turn negative, your mental health can start suffering as well.

If you need to speak with a specialist because you’re struggling with your mental health, please do so. Swimming isn’t worth your mental health. Period.

Financial Health

Swimming might not be the most expensive sport out there but it’s not cheap either. For those that swim on a year-round club team, dues, fees, and equipment add up quickly. And if your family can’t financially afford the sport, unfortunately, it might be the best decision to quit.

Again, swimming isn’t worth the financial ruin that it could cause. And making the gamble that it could pay off six to twelve years down the road might not be worth it.

That said, we do encourage you to talk with the coach to see if financial aid or other options are available.

Physical Health

While swimming can do wonders for your physical health, it can also hurt you. Injuries do happen. And while you can recover from some of them, there are other times that you can’t. 

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If your medical provider has recommended that you stop swimming because of your physical health, you should probably listen to them. Can you get a second opinion? Of course! But don’t keep pushing yourself if doing so will only cause more damage. 

Pros and Cons of Quitting Swimming

Just as there are some pros to quitting swimming, there are also cons. You should take time to consider both sides of the decision and weigh the various outcomes. 

You may realize that the negatives of quitting swimming outweigh the positives and that it might not be the right time to quit. 

Or you may find the justification that quitting is the right thing to do! 

Draw up a list of the various pros and cons of quitting swimming to see how the decision balances out. We’ve listed a few pros and cons below for your consideration.


Swimming Will Always be There

No matter what you do with the sport, swimming will always be there. In any type of capacity. Recreational, exercise, or competitive. And no rule says that once you leave competitive swimming, you can’t go back. 

Just ask any Masters swimmer. 

Some have kept swimming since high school or college. Others, such as myself, took years off before coming back to the sport. While others joined Masters, left, and came back again.

For some, this may feel like a negative. But others may find it a comfort to know that you can always pick it back up again when you’re ready. Just jump right in 🙂

Related article: How to Join Masters Swimming and 14 Reasons You Should Join Masters Swimming

More Time*

We’re putting an asterisk on this one because it’s a pro and a con of quitting swimming. Keep reading to see the con version of this!

It’s no secret that swimming takes up a heck of a lot of your time. Several hours a day, at least. 

When you leave swimming, you’ll find that you have much more time on your hands. You have some experience with this during your breaks or ‘off-season’. 

Having extra time allows you to focus on your studies, pick up a new hobby or interest, hang out with friends, or just relax. 

Sleep In*

Like the previous pro reason, we’re asterisking this one because there can be a con side to this reason.

My favorite part of break is getting a few more hours to sleep in during the week. When you quit swimming, you’ll find that you can gain an extra hour or two of sleep come morning. And it can leave you feeling more rested and ready to take on the day!

Reduce Injury

Swimming isn’t without risks of injury. Shoulder injuries are the most common in the sport and once you quit swimming, your chances of a sports-related injury drop.

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That’s not to say that you can’t face injury outside of the sport. Falling down the stairs can hurt your knee just as easily as pushing off the wall wrong. 



Swimming is a full-body workout. From your muscles to your cardiovascular system, to stimulating your mind. Swimming works it all. 

One con of quitting swimming is that your health may decline. Especially if you continue to eat the same as you did when you trained but you aren’t working out. 

Once you quit swimming, you may find that your muscle mass will lessen and you may get out of shape if you don’t pick up another form of physical activity. 

More Time

While you may have more time on your hands, it’s incredibly easy to waste that new free time. 

You may plan to be productive and learn a new skill or pick up a hobby. But it’s very easy to get lost watching a series or playing a game. And all the free time that you just picked up is now negated.

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For some, this can leave you scrambling to finish other tasks, such as homework or housework. And it can leave with a sense of feeling unaccomplished. 

Sleep Schedule

One con of quitting swimming is that it can mess with your sleep schedule. Or your inability to fall asleep easier.

With how intense swimming is, it’s usually easy to fall asleep at the end of the day. Your body is just so exhausted after a long day that you fall asleep easily.

But without the same physical demands of swimming, it may take you longer to fall asleep. And the hours that are gained by sleeping in in the morning will be negated by falling asleep later. 


Another negative to consider when quitting swimming is adjusting your diet. You’re no longer burning a high amount of calories that need to be replenished. And you should consider cutting back on all that you’re eating.

Speak with your health care provider if you’re not certain what your meal plans should look like after you quit swimming.

Your Swimmer Identity

This may seem like a strange thing to mention. But many swimmers have their life built around the sport. It’s what family, friends, teachers, and co-workers know you as. You’re ‘the swimmer’. 

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And when you no longer swim, it may feel like you’re missing a piece of yourself. That thing that you identified with so much is no longer there and it’s hard to let it go. Hard to start building a new chapter in your life.

What Happens to Your Body When You Quit Swimming?

Physically, you’ll start to lose muscle mass and strength. Unless you pick up a different workout or sport. If you don’t do anything to maintain your muscles, they’ll start to lose their definition.

You may also find that for the first few weeks or months, your body will still wake up for morning workouts. Mainly, your bladder. Most of this comes from your body being trained to go to the bathroom at a certain time. 

Once you’re done swimming, it takes a while to develop a new habit of when to go to the bathroom first thing in the morning. 

You’ll also lose your endurance and speed in the water. Most swimmers know this but are always surprised at how quickly that ability is lost.

What isn’t lost though is knowing how to swim. That will continue to stay with you. Even if you do feel a bit weird the first time you swim again 😉

Lastly, you may find that your hair starts to come back! Not just the hair on your head but also body hair. The chemicals in the pool are harsh on hair and can either bleach the hair or make it brittle.

Once you stop swimming, your body hair can start to come back. And it may be darker than you remember without the chemicals bleaching it.

In Closing

Choosing to quit swimming may feel like the end of the world but it’s not. While there are things to consider and options to weigh, remember that it should ultimately be your decision. It’s never an easy choice but remember that swimming will always be there. And if/when you’re ready, it’ll welcome you back 🙂

Bonus Content

How to Return to the Pool After a Long Break: Returning to the pool after a long break can be a challenge for swimmers. Mentally preparing yourself can help ease your transition back into the water.

8 Best Swim Bags for Swimmers (And Water Enthusiasts): A swim bag is a swimmer’s best friend. They hold everything from towels and phones to goggles.  We’ve broken down the 8 best swim bags for swimmers.

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Image of a swimmer diving into the water

Chevron is a current competitive swimmer with almost 20 years of experience in the pool. And although she fell into the sport by accident in her high school years, she still trains daily and competes throughout the year. She’s committed to providing guidance to all levels of swimmers and believes that everyone should know how to swim.