Competitive swimmers typically train twice a day, six days a week. Swimmers live and breathe swimming, but it’s not just the intensive training that makes it one of the hardest sports.

Swimming, one of the hardest sports?

A lot of you reading this might be vehemently disagreeing – or at least skeptical. In the sports world it’s often a heated debate. Everyone thinks their sport is the hardest. While swimming may not be the hardest, it definitely is one of the hardest sports. While every sport is hard, each with its own challenges; consider these four points and how they make swimming extraordinarily unique from dry land sports.


1. Water Resistance

What is unique to this sport is the aspect of water. The resistance of water makes it more physically demanding on your muscles adding more strain on your body. Imagine biking or running with a parachute behind you. Air also has resistance but it is significantly less than that of water. At sea level, air is 784 times less dense than water. Water is extremely dense in comparison, so the drag is larger. Drag is a type of friction – a force acting opposite to the relative motion of any object moving with respect to surrounding fluid. The faster you swim (or run), the more resistance there is.

2. Breathing

Breathing is something that comes naturally and unconsciously. However, since your face is in the water when you swim, you need to breathe consciously to control your breath in order to increase oxygen supply and avoid drowning. You must exhale while your face is in the water. So when you turn to breathe, your lungs are mostly empty and ready to accept a fresh breath of air. You do need to force the rhythm a bit. You should forcefully exhale through your nose/mouth as soon as you complete the breath. There’s no pausing. It is a constant rhythm.

hardest sports, swimming


3. Technique

Technique really matters in swimming. If your technique is poor, you will literally drown. Or at least not get far! Some people struggle to complete 50m – not because they’re not fit, but because of poor technique. Swimming well takes time. Any good swimmer with beautiful technique will tell you they have done a lot of drills and practice to get where they are.

4. Fear

Fear is a big one. To be able to swim well, you need to get to the point where you aren’t fearful. Fearful people panic and drown. It’s generally widely accepted that if a sport is dangerous and you can die – it’s a difficult sport. So, swimming, scuba, snorkelling, sky diving, etc. these are all potentially deadly sports. That is, if you don’t do them properly or you’re fearful.