CHLORINE CHRONICLES: Interested in swimming? First learn the slang!

(Photo used by permission of Rebecca Waterson)
Freshman Rebecca Waterson and junior Amalie Fackenthal show off their tech suits poolside.

Freshman Rebecca Waterson lives at school and the pool. You will find her catching a nap in the car on the way to practice, staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool for hours every day, being yelled at to go to bed because she has to be up in four hours for morning practice or grabbing a snack in the kitchen. Waterson writes the biweekly blog “Chlorine Chronicles” on her life as a competitive swimmer training with the DART at Sacramento swim team.

Every sport has its slang. I often find it hard to talk to non-swimmers about swimming without having to explain what I’m talking about.

Let’s start with the basics: what swimmers wear at the pool. For practice, we wear “suits,” short for swimsuits. To keep our hair out of our face, we wear latex or silicone caps. Unlike what some people think, they don’t keep your hair dry; they just keep your hair from getting in your face. Hair is also a resisting force, which is why swimmers shave everything for big meets. We also wear goggles to keep the water from getting in our eyes.

Rebecca Waterson
Freshman Rebecca Waterson’s paddles

Basic practice gear includes fins, paddles, a kickboard, a snorkel and a buoy. Paddles are not like kayak paddles; they are made of plastic and strap onto your hands with little rubber tubes.

The snorkel is also different from the ones where the tube goes up the side of the head. A swimmer’s snorkel always has the pipe going up their forehead.The snorkel helps swimmers with head placement and body awareness. Finally, a buoy is a flotation device that swimmers put between their legs so they won’t kick. It helps train their arms, and is enhanced when the swimmer puts paddles on.

On deck a non-swimmer might hear the coach say many mysterious things.

Rebecca Waterson
Freshman Rebecca Waterson’s buoy floats in a pool.

“Let’s put on your pulling gear!” Brian shouts, and everyone immediately grabs their paddles and buoys. In swimming, pulling is when we work on our upper-body strength by taking away our kick. Depending on what kind of paddles you use, you can work on technique or muscle building.

“Grab your kickboards!” We scramble to pull out the short, floaty boards. When Coach wants us to work on our lower-body strength, we kick. Some people enjoy kicking on their backs more since it allows them to practice their turns and underwater kicks.

Sometimes when we don’t get in the pool for practice, we have “dryland.” Dryland lives up to its name; we work out on the dry land! For high schoolers, dryland means CrossFit, lifting weights, and increasing muscle mass. For younger kids, dryland focuses more on technique and learning how to perform basic CrossFit workouts.

Rebecca Waterson
Junior Amalie Fackenthal swims laps while using her snorkel that is in the center of her face.

All the strengthening and conditioning leads to one goal: dropping time in a race. At swim meets, or just “meets” for short, swimmers often wear different suits from the ones they practice in. These are called tech suits, and for women they usually go down to the knees. The suits cost $300-$500, and are only effective for around 30 swims. They were introduced in 2008, but have had several modifications since then. Practice suits, on the other hand, can be up to $70 and last for around a year.

By Rebecca Waterson

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