A day in the life of an elite swimmer

Claire - UGA relay 2006The alarm goes off at 4:42 am for the fifth day in a row, and I wonder if anyone would notice if I wasn’t at practice. It’s Friday morning, and I was up late last night studying for an exam. I press snooze and seven minutes later the alarm screeches again. I must be in the water at 5:15 a.m., and it’s an eight minute drive plus three minute walk to the pool.

As a swimmer at the best division I swimming program in the country, every minute counts. Time management is imperative; without it, you will either fail your classes or get kicked off the team. Neither one is an option for me with my 50 percent academic scholarship and 50 percent athletic scholarship.

I make it to practice with exactly two minutes and 45 seconds to put on my cap and dive into the cold water. My teammates are there and doing the same. Practice is hard, and it is especially hard on Fridays because we’ve already completed seven practices (~15 hours) since Monday morning, lifted weights twice and run sprints twice. I really have to dig deep on Fridays even though I may be more tired than I’ve ever been in my life.

When I am swimming and my head is in the water it is only me and my thoughts. My passion, determination and desire to work hard must come from within myself. Mental toughness, positive self-talk and a positive attitude are extremely important.

After two hours and 15 minutes of swimming, I head to the locker room at exactly 7:30 am. I have an hour and 30 minutes until my exam. After showering (to rinse off all that itchy chlorine), my first priority is nutrition. I packed a healthy breakfast, healthy lunch and snacks since I will be in class from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and then I have another two hour swim practice. Planning ahead and prioritizing proper nutrition is another skill I learned from swimming. My dad always used to say, “Remember the 5 Ps: Prior preparation prevents poor performance.”

Now that I have retired from swimming, I realize how much what I learned from swimming translates to my life and my work: time management, self motivation, teamwork, commitment, and more. All of these skills I learned from swimming and now I use them every day to be the best coach, dietitian, friend, wife and person that I can be. Check back next week, and I’ll delve further into how swimming teaches important lessons and can help prepare for future success.

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Claire McDaniel

Claire is a swimming and nutrition expert who loves to educate and motivate others to healthier living. She swam competitively for 18 years, is a five time All-American, a Division I National Champion, was co-captain of Team USA at the 2007 World University Games and was named a finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award. She also has a master’s degree in nutrition and is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. After swimming, Claire started coaching and has coached all over the US and even in Switzerland! Her experience and expertise about both swimming and health fuel her passion for Clear Comfort’s mission – to make swimming a 100 percent healthy activity for swimmers, coaches, lifeguards and pool staff.