Saturday, October 27, 2012

What Is a Swimmer?

According to the dictionary, a swimmer is "one who moves in the water."

I am here to tell you that there is MUCH more to it - especially if you're a competitive swimmer. Being a swimmer means being insane. All competitive swimmers have a touch of craziness in them. No one would deny the fact that a person who willingly tortures themselves every morning by dragging themselves out of bed and into the pool at 5 AM is crazy. To a swimmer, sleeping in is a luxury that we cannot have - it's something we dream about constantly. No person in their right mind would subject themselves to waking up at the crack of dawn every day just to jump into an icy cold pool and train.

This meme comes very close to the truth.
Swimmers are athletes of the highest caliber. While other sports boast of their intense training regimens, none of them compare to those of swimming. Swimmers are the only athletes that have to work out twice a day. While people complain about one workout per day, we have the privilege of complaining about two. I am basically in the water every 12 hours; the water is my home, my solace, and my workout room. Also, swimming is virtually a year-around sport. If you skip one practice, that is considered acceptable, but strongly discouraged. Skipping two practices means it will take you four days to get back to where you were before you skipped. Missing one week of workout is unthinkable - it would take a person two weeks to get back into shape! This is the case because a swimmer's medium is the water - not the air. While "land sports" can skip workouts occasionally and bounce back easily, swimmers cannot because they have to get used to their medium again. Land sports are in the air, and we are constantly in the air, which provides the same resistance as when they are practicing. However, human beings are not always in the water, so staying out of the water for long periods of time (ie: one week), can be detrimental to a swimmer's performance.
This is an underwater view of a competition pool -
something competitive swimmers see every day.

One side effect of being a swimmer is the chlorine. Chlorine is a swimmer's perfume. We always smell of chlorine, and there is nothing we can do to prevent it. We are immune to it. It also contributes to the scales on swimmers' legs. Yes, we do develop scales - and more quickly than the average person. The chlorine dries out our skin to the point where it actually looks scaly. The chlorine also naturally bleaches our hair, giving girls a lighter hair color, but killing the boys' hair. One of my friends could actually pull out a tuft of his hair just by tugging on it as a consequence of the chlorine.

The daily life of a swimmer.
Another definition of a swimmer is a person who is incessantly hungry. Especially when I have morning practice I eat almost 10 times a day: before morning practice, after morning practice, during 1st period, 3rd period, lunch, after school, before afternoon practice, and after practice. The nonstop exercise allows swimmers to eat practically anything they want to - although I generally tend to eat healthy foods because they make me feel better. The life of a swimmer often includes only eating, sleeping, and swimming.

Swimmers are also dedicated, self-disciplined, and excellent time managers. In order to survive high school and be a highly competitive swimmer, those three qualities are absolutely imperative. 4-6 hours of your day are taken up by swimming, so you have to make the most of your time. Although outwardly most swimmers appear to despise swimming, we have an innate, subconscious love for the sport. It is impossible to find a swimmer who does not have some love for the sport, otherwise they would have quit a long time before that. We don't like to admit it, but in spite of everything, swimmers actually love what they do.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Injustice of Being the Oldest

Being the oldest, quite frankly, has no benefits, whatsoever.

Sure, you get to have the new technology first. But guess what? By the time your younger siblings get it, the technology is a million times more innovative, with more amazing new features that you will never get to have. Other times you get the same technology at the same time - so you get no advantage over your younger brothers and sisters. In fact, you're at a disadvantage because you're getting the technology late, and you're siblings are getting it early.
It's a lose-lose situation.

This is one of my personal examples of the unfairness of being the oldest child: when I finished 8th grade, my grandparents awarded me with enough money to buy a 32 GB iPod Touch. After waiting 5 long months, I finally got it, and I was utterly indebted and grateful to my grandparents. Then I found out that my mom had gotten one too, on a whim. Although that does not seem unfair at the onset, the truth of the matter became clear extremely soon: my mom rarely ever used her iPod, and it basically became my sister's. So basically, my sister got her first iPod when I did. Now let's speed up to present day. It has been almost 5 months since my sister finished 8th grade. She just got the newly-updated, wonderful iPod Touch with a 5 megapixel camera and flash. Those were the two things I had been wishing for ever since smartphones started coming out with high-quality cameras! Of course she was appreciative, but she felt that she was entitled to getting that iPod since I had got one two years ago. Yes, that's right, she felt entitled to it. So now in addition to virtually having an iPod as long as I have, she gets the brand new technology that she thinks she deserves. The injustice of that is enough to make me scream!

My parents always say, "You always get everything first, and you can't expect technology to remain stagnant. Your sister will always have the better technology because everything is always new-and-improved two years later. Deal with it." That's what they said about a car for me too. "You'll most likely use one of our current two cars when you get your license. We'll probably get your sister a new car when she gets her license, though." That's literally what my dad said.

Growing up, I have fallen victim of being the guinea pig to all of my parent's hopes and desires. Piano, is one subject I have been especially been bitter about. Forced to play since I was three years old, my mother never once let me quit even up until this day. How many times did my sister quit? Twice. And she doesn't even play it anymore. Instead she got to pursue her short-lived wishes like flute and voice lessons. It's just not fair.

What other disadvantages are there to being the oldest? I assure you, there are plenty more. The youngest children in the family are always shown the most favoritism by their parents. No matter what my sister does, if we are both involved, I always get blamed. They will not listen to my explanations, and if they do, they always fall on deaf or biased ears. My dad always automatically assumes that everything is my fault. Whenever he hears yelling or anything suspicious, he says, "Sarah! What are you doing?!" regardless of whether or not it is my fault. Whenever my parents punish us, they are always easier on her, or punish us equally when I had nothing to do with it.

Going to school is also initially worse for the oldest. You have no idea what to expect as you advance through school because you don't have any siblings that you can ask for advice or which teachers to avoid, or tips on what to do in different situations. Essentially, you are the guinea pig again. And then you are expected to pass all of your knowledge along to your younger sister or brother because your parents believe it is your duty to tell them all about it. The only possible downside of that is that your younger sibling may live in your shadow for the rest of their life, but that's a really small price to pay compared to the rest of things the oldests have to sacrifice.

I also had the "privilege" of being restricted from doing everything. I wasn't allowed to go to birthday parties, with few exceptions, no sleepovers, and I barely went out with friends - to the point where my friends even stopped asking me whether or not I wanted to come with them because they knew their efforts would be futile. My sister? She's allowed to do practically everything she wants to. She's extremely worldly and allowed to go out with her friends almost every time she asks. Sure, she makes a big stink about it, but my parents practically always eventually let her go. She was even allowed to have a boyfriend last summer!

I'll acknowledge that I'm biased against younger siblings because I am the oldest in my family, but that does not invalidate any of the previous arguments and paradigms. I could go on and on about inequity between siblings, but there just isn't enough space in one blog post to rant and rave about all the terrible things the oldests have to suffer.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lightning: A Swimmer's Friend

Lightning shows look amazing when
you're not scared to death in the pool.

That split-second of light can be life-changing for a swimmer. Lightning is the only weather condition that can cause practice to be canceled for swimmers (if your pool is outdoors). Given any other circumstance, we practice rain or shine. People ask, "You guys still have practice when it's raining?!" And the answer is simple: yes, yes we do. We're swimmers. Rain makes you wet. We get wet regardless. Therefore it doesn't matter whether it's raining or not. Unless - there's thunder and lightning. Why is that the only reason we can't just keep swimming? Because everyone in the pool would die if lightning strikes the water. However, practice is only stopped or canceled if the lightning is extremely close and in a position that it could harm us. In other words, the thunder has to quickly follow the lightning, or practice won't be stopped.

This morning on my way to practice at around 5:30 AM, my mom and I saw two flashes of lightning so my mom told me to call my coach. What did he say? "There's no lightning over here, so we still have practice!" When I finally arrived at the pool there was another flash of lightning. Walking to the pool deck I asked my coach, "Did you see the lightning? Do we still have practice?" He said, "I didn't hear any noise [thunder]! We'll wait 10 more minutes and then start practice." Despite my desperate pleas to the weather, there was no more lightning or thunder in the next ten minutes. So we got into the pool. And, of course, right after we got into the pool, there was a flash of lightning, and a faint sounding of thunder, but we kept swimming. By that point, I was scared. It's one thing to be scared in bed during a thunderstorm, but swimming in a pool during a lightning storm brings the scariness to a whole new level. It's life-or-death danger. I could have died! After numerous flashes, finishing warm-up, and starting a parachute set, my coach stopped me after the first 100 yards and says, "Sarah, get out!"

My first thoughts were, "What did I do wrong? Was it my pulling or my kicking? What was wrong with my technique this time!?" Then I realized it had to do with the weather and I joyfully hopped out the pool thanking the lightning for working its magic on my coach. We only had to swim for about fifteen minutes! With smiles on our faces, the rest of the swimmers got out after me, and we all got to go home early. All of us were thinking: Shortest. Practice. Ever!!! Immediately after we all piled into the car, the real lightning show started. It was as if it had been waiting for us to get out of danger so that it could fully unleash itself. The whole car ride home was filled with spectacular flashes and bolts of light that outlined the sky in an amazing fashion, followed by the powerful rumbles of the thunder.

Although personally I love swimming in the rain, lightning adds a slight hazard. If it is just raining, I normally enjoy the feel of the frigid drops pounding down on my skin. The stadium lights around the pool illuminate the rain and make the normally clear air look way cooler. Today was different. I was actually scared I was going to die out there because my coach refused to let us out at the beginning. BUT it allowed us to get out of practice early today - and anything that gets swimmers out of practice is always welcomed with open arms as a life-long friend.