Swimming matches have been documented as early as the Stone Age with paintings showing swimmers competing side-by-side. Swimming eventually made its way to the 1896 Olympics in Athens, and is now one of the summer event’s most popular sports thanks to the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time -- Michael Phelps.
How to Swim Competitively
Before even considering competitive swimming, one must be as comfortable and natural when emerged in water as they are with walking down a sidewalk. The best swimmers are incredibly fit -- with a lung capacity of a marathon runner or cross-country biker. The only equipment you’ll need is a regulation swim cap, swim bottoms, and goggles.
Swimming fast is all about technique and being able to reduce drag when cutting through the water. This is why before competitions, world-class swimmers may completely shave their bodies. Strangely enough, this strategy has shown to actually “shave” milliseconds off a swimmer’s time.
Rules of Competitive Swimming
- Competitive swimming can either be done individually or in teams (in a set of relays). There are many different types of events based off the different swimming strokes: Freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, individual medley, relays, and mixed relays (men and women).
- Each event will be done in an Olympic-size pool. This pool must be at least 160 feet long (or 50 meters) by 82 feet wide. There will be 10 lanes numbered 0 through 9. Each lane must be 8.2 feet wide.
- Each race has its own distance that the racer(s) will have to cover. These distances range from a fast up-and-down 100 meter race, to the slower 1,600 meter race.
- At the beginning of the race, competitors will stand atop their starting blocks and leap into the water at the referee’s signal.
- Every stroke has its own regulations. For example, a swimmer cannot rotate their body more than 90 degrees during the backstroke or they’ll be eliminated. During the breaststroke, swimmers must touch the end wall with both hands before they can turn around and begin swimming again. With the butterfly, both arms must exit the water during every stroke.
- If a swimmer is competing in the medley, they must swim the race in the order of: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.
Although swimming is one of the best exercises one can do, professional swimmers still have to overcome injuries from the sport. For example, shoulder tendonitis from the repeated stroke movements is a common injury. Regardless, swimming is a great way to get a full-body workout with very little resistance.
Written by: Devin Pickell