Swimming and Diving Survives Hell Week


Photo from paceuathletics.com.

James Miranda, Sports Editor

If you thought finals week was hard, give 21-straight days of intensive and extensive training a try. The men’s and women’s swimming teams survived to tell the tenuous trek of hell week.

Hell week has many different connotations, but for sports it’s a week or weeks of heightened training. It only occurs during an offseason, postseason, or intermission, and every day athletes are pushed to their limits mentally and physically.

“Hell week’s a week that we practice twice a day, every day, and for some practices some would be three hours or some would be two,” said Kaitlyn Siriano, captain of the women’s team. “It’s really intense training with a lot of volume and a lot of yards.”

Technically, the swimming teams’ hell “week” lasted three weeks; three weeks of the hardest training some of them have been through.

Week one (January 2-10) was pre-hell week where the volume of workouts gets increasingly more difficult. Week two (January 11-17) was the coined “hell week” where there were two intensive practices starting at 8 and 11 a.m. and another at 2 and 4:30 p.m. every day. The third week (January 18-23) was more of a laid back week.

Regularly, there’s training in the morning and after that swimmers can go about the rest of their day. Hell week is during an intercession so swimming is all these athletes are doing.

The tenacity and strenuousness of hell week is real, however. Physical and mental exhaustion is a thing and injuries are commonplace. They are pushed to their limits, but not so much that it will kill them.

“I’m not trying to push them to the point where they’re breaking down,” said Dan Allen, head coach. “I’m just trying to push them to the point where they understand to get better; they have to push their limits. I really monitor their training and if I see an athlete’s completely exhausted, I’m not going to keep on training that athlete because it serves no purpose.”

As head coach, Allen’s been through hell week and recognizes when his swimmers are drained. He’s had to remove some from practices and Siriano confirmed that she and others had to take a break.

The swim team swam an estimated 60,000 yards per week—the equivalent of 600 football fields—in the pool during hell week, according to men’s team captain Jakub Lewandowski.

Lewandowski also suffered tendinitis in his left shoulder and damage to his rotator cuff. The whole team frequently visited the athletic trainers.

“I don’t know if it was tendinitis, but my shoulder was definitely overworked and I was going to the trainer every day,” Siriano said. “I had to back off from some of the practices because it was bad. A lot of our breaststrokers were starting to get knee problems and weren’t able to swim because they were hurting badly.”

Many do not understand the reasons for hell week, but for the athletes that have to participate in it, surviving it gives them a sense of fulfillment.

“I hate going through it, but once it’s over you feel accomplished,” said senior Marissa Mignano.

Hell week was different to some because they have experience it in other countries, as is the case with freshman Nianzhong Liu from Greece.

“Personally, I believe the time schedule was tougher back in Greece, but it was challenging [here],” Liu said. “The training intensity was also tougher in Greece.”

In Greece, Liu swam 16 kilometers, or 17,498 yards, per week.

It is all a part of a bigger picture in this instance, however.

Currently, the teams are in taper, which refers to resting and rebuilding muscle to get ready for a meet—in this case, the Northeast Championship meet on February 4-7, or, to the swimmers of Pace, the most important meet of the season.

“In the end, [hell week] comes back to working for that one meet at the end of the season, that’s what it all comes down to,” Lewandowski said. “We know that when [we’re going through hell week]. It’s hell; there’s tons of injuries and everyone’s sore. But with taper, I think we’re all going to rebuild and we’ll be ready for the meet.”

The whole team is closer than past teams have been. Each person was pushing and helping each other out to get through the weeks.

Not many people can say they have gone to hell and back.