Off the Block – Swimmer Sensations

Courtesy of Claire Forrest

Claire Forrest is a recent graduate of Grinnell College with a degree in English. She is currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a freelance writer. The only competitive swimmer in her family, Claire went to her first swim meet at the age of eleven on a whim without even knowing what a swim cap was. She fell in love with the sport and never looked back. A S6 classified disabled swimmer for US Paralympics, Claire specialized in mid-distance freestyle and backstroke and made national and world rankings throughout her career. She was a 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Trials participant. Claire is passionate about integrating disability swimming into the larger swim community, having swam for able-bodied club teams and her college’s DIII team. She enjoyed both Paralympic and prominent integrated able-bodied meets equally for the many commonalities they share. Over 13 years after her first meet, she’s happy to report she now owns more swim caps than she can count.


10 sensations swimmers feel

There are a lot of benefits to swimming. The sport boasts innumerable health benefits. It also greatly improves your social and mental well being.

And then…there’s the sublime, bliss-inducing moments that only we swimmers experience. These sensations don’t directly impact our health or our performance in the pool, but when we experience them, it feels like nothing else could.


When the water FINALLY drains out of your ear after practice.

This usually occurs approximately ten hours after you’ve left the pool, after violently jerking your ear towards your shoulder approximately five thousand times. How one measly drop of water can stay nestled in there for so long, I’ll never know, but finally getting rid of that rattle is so nice.


Jumping into the water for warm-ups your first time wearing a brand new fast suit.

Yes, you may only get a season’s wear of use out of it, but the first time that fabric hits the water, you know you’re going to get in and fly. Eventually, it begins to take less than fifteen minutes to put on, or pieces of it start to fall apart or fall off (RIP to those Fast Skins with the little bumps!) and you know it’s time for a new one. But as they say, nothing’s as good as the first time…


Feeling your skin expand when you take your fast suit off.

Okay, so maybe something is better than the first time wearing it. Let’s state the obvious—fast suits are tight and they hurt to wear. You can literally feel your skin stretching out again as you strip the suit off inch by inch. It’s a bizarre feeling, but it feels so good.


That moment on taper when you feel truly invincible.

Everyone reacts to taper different. Some people have boundless energy, while some swimmers feel like they’ve been hit by a truck every day for a week. Regardless, there seems to be at least one day of taper for every swimmer when their moderate 50s turn into blazing fast sprints in the blink of an eye. It’s like you became The Flash for one set, and it feels pretty great.


That first bite of food after a challenging practice.

It’s most pleasing if this bite of food is from one of your favorite post-swim meals (a giant bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, anyone?) but some days, you’re so hungry, even the first bite of that disintegrating Nature Valley bar at the bottom of your swim bag does it for you.


Taking your first shower at the end of a multiple-day meet.

When you finish cooling down from prelims, and have to be back in four hours to warm up for finals, why would you even consider taking a shower? Multiply that logic for a three-day competition, and things start to get a little uncomfortable. That’s a whole lotta chorine! Rinsing off and shampooing for the first time feels like you’ve shed your old skin and are reborn.


Waking up from a post-practice nap.

What day is it? Does it even matter anymore? Did I slip into an alternative universe where time is eliminated and all that matters is resting my sore and tired body in these cozy blankets? Yes, for right now, that is all that matters.


Dolphin dives during cool down or bobs off the bottom of the deep end.

Okay, we admit it. Sometimes, we swim just for the ability to pretend we’re secretly mermaids or mermen from time to time. The water seems to go on forever, and you are one with it. There’s nothing more peaceful.


Entering the water when you’re shaved, suited, and tapered.

Unless scientists figure out how humans can grow gills, I think this is the closest we’ll get to knowing what it’s like to be a fish.


Taking off your cap and dunking your head underwater at the end of a tough workout.

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