Swimming Secrets: What Really Happens at Swim Practice

Swim practice is one of those odd things to people who aren’t swimmers. They’ll watch as swimmers go back and forth across the pool for hours and wonder what’s really happening at swim practice. 

Related article: What do Swimmers do at Swim Practice?

There are the obvious things that swimmers do. Starts, turns, and swimming for hours on end. But there’s also the other side of practice that only swimmers (and coaches) know about.  

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image with a faded yellow text box with black text that reads: 14 swimming secrets: what really happens at swim practice. The other side of practice that only swimmers and coaches know about.


So much complaining and groaning happens at swim practices. 

As much as swimmers like swimming, we’re also the first to complain heavily about it. Especially during practice. Swimmers complain about the water temperature, the practice and the various sets during it, the weather, and swimming itself.

Joking Around

Swim practice isn’t just hard sets and never-ending laps. During sets and in between them, swimmers joke around. Probably more than we should, much to our coach’s annoyance, if we’re being honest. 🙂

But it’s a good way to pass the time and still stay positive through practice. 

Related article: What is a Swim Team?

And even though rest in between sets isn’t exactly long, swimmers still know how to squeeze in a conversation. 

Skipping Sets

Even the best swimmers skip a set or two. 😉 

Perhaps not main sets or even the larger/more important part of the workout. But every swimmer has gotten out of the pool during practice at least once during their career. Whether that’s to hang out in the bathroom, take a long shower, or just sit on the wall.

Pulling on the Lane Line

It’s a swimming secret that we hope our coaches never see. But at some point in time, every swimmer has pulled on the lane line during backstroke.

As kids or newer swimmers, it’s easy and tempting to pull on the lane line all the time. It helps you go faster and it’s easy to pretend that your coach can’t see you do it. 

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We know it’s not the best for us. It encourages bad technique and equally bad habits, but it’s just hard to resist at times! It’s also fun. And part of the fun is seeing if you can get away with it 😉

Walking Off the Wall

Why swim when you can walk? Having a shallow pool makes it incredibly easy to walk off the wall instead of starting a set properly. Never mind that it only saves us a few strokes and it’s a terrible habit. It’s still deeply satisfying in a way that we can’t describe.

And while not every team can do this based on the layout of their pool, it doesn’t stop them from pushing off the bottom of the pool. Anything to make the set more fun.


We’re all basically kids at heart. Even college and Masters swimmers. That said, no matter the age, it’s tempting to pull off a handstand during practice. Especially during cool down when the coach isn’t paying attention. 

Related article: What is Masters Swimming? (coming soon)

And for one brief moment, we understand why people actually go to the pool to have fun 🙂

Blow Ring Bubbles

There’s something peaceful about ducking under the water and watching a perfect ring bubble float to the surface. It doesn’t matter that the coach might be waiting up on deck for you to rejoin the group. Because at that moment, everyone saw that perfectly stacked ring bubble you just made.

And after all, blowing ring bubbles is just an exercise in breath control!

Assisting During Kick Sets

Sometimes we just need a little more oomph during a kick set. A helping hand from the swimmer coming down the opposite side of the lane. It’s a hand outstretched in front of the kickboard. That plea for help.

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It’s grabbing hands and pulling each other forward. It might only give you a quick burst of speed, but it still counts if you make the interval.

Cheating During Kick Sets

Every team has a swimmer or two who swims during their kick set. It’s either walking into and out of the wall or pulling themselves into the wall. Or maybe both! And if they don’t have a kickboard, they’re probably taking a few strokes down the pool while they’re at it.

Playing Around During Warm-up and Cooldown

The main sets in practice might be the time to focus, but swimmers do anything but focus during warm-up and cooldown. Much to our coaches’ endless frustration. But ask any swimmer and it’s the best time to catch up on all the latest gossip and news.

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It’s also the best time to slack off some. Either decompressing from a long practice or enjoying the downtime before the set starts. Yes, we know we should warm-up and cool down properly. But sometimes the allure of a good story is just too hard to resist.

Get Out Swims

Those few sacred times during the season when we can convince the coach to let us out early. It might mean sprinting as hard as we can or making an underwater set. But with the right motivation, we’ll swim anything if it means practice ends early. 

Peeing in the Pool 

It’s no secret that swimmers pee in the pool. It’s gross, we know. And we hope the chlorine does its job or that we don’t swim through a warm spot. But sometimes getting out of the pool isn’t an option. 

Related article: 10 Reasons to Start Competitive Swimming

Like when you’re swimming outside in the middle of winter. Or the bathroom isn’t in the same building as the pool and you have to run for it. 

And sometimes it’s just easier. Unless it’s easier to go to the bathroom if it means we can get out of a set 😉

Losing the Count

Swimmers count far more than non-swimmers realize. We count laps, sets, minutes, seconds, and meters/yards. And yes, we count down the minutes until practice ends. And in between calculating interval time and all those turns, we sometimes ‘forget’ what number we’re on. Or maybe skip that last 50.

Related article: Swim Practice Etiquette

Most coaches are there to tell us to keep going. But on those few times where we can sneak in a shorter distance or set, we feel like we just bested the master.

So long as someone else doesn’t call out our lapse in memory!

Taking Forever to Get in the Water

The number one hardest thing about swimming? Getting into the water. Especially for morning practice or on cold days. Look, don’t lie to us. We know the water is cold no matter what the coach says.

It’s not at all surprising to see swimmers loitering on deck as they check their cap and goggles for the fifteenth time. Anything to avoid getting in the water.

As always, to happy swimming!


Bonus Content:

First Day of Swim Practice (And What to Expect): Your first day of swim practice can feel daunting. Knowing what to expect at swim practice can take away the unknown and set you up for success on day one!

How to Get Through Morning Swim Practice: (coming soon)

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