The Reasons Why Five Lakes Became New HOMES for Swimmers

Lake Swimming

The Reasons Why Five Lakes Became New HOMES for Swimmers

By Gigi Picard Swimming World College Intern

This summer was quite literally a dry spell for swimmers all over the world. A majority of swimmers in the United States lost access to school, club, community pools – and even local gyms dried up. Faced with rapid muscle deterioration, many opted for early-morning, six-mile runs or workouts in front of the computer screen. But, of course, nothing truly substitutes for real water work. So many returned to the local swimming holes they had grown up with: Lakes and ocean shorelines.

Here in the midwest, the Third Coast, water access is dominated by the five Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. They are traditionally remembered as HOMES.   

I am fortunate to live a few blocks from a wonderful beach on Lake Michigan, so this became a water refuge for me this summer. Yes, early in the summer, the water can be a bit chilly. But it has been proven that swimming in cold waters can increase a swimmer’s white blood count and perhaps boost the immune system. 

Listed below are some other benefits I uncovered during my summer at the lake.

Unchlorinated and Unsalted

Swimmers can finally take a vacation from chlorine! That’s right, no more irritated skin, gross green hair or even worse, orange teeth! And no stinging eyes or upset stomachs from salt water! That’s the beauty of the Great Lakes: No chlorine and no salt. Yep, they are refreshing in a way that’s hard to replicate anywhere else.

Swimming Outside the Bubble

When finding new HOMES, swimmers can also gain new teammates. In this case, lake swimmers come in a range of different ages and abilities – many of whom keep in touch through texting group chats and email chains. Further, these groups include swimmers who are training for a variety of causes that can be apart from staying in shape for their next college season such as charity swims and triathlons. If all goes well, swimmers could make some new fish friends too!

Wetsuit on the Runway


Photo Courtesy:

Meant to be worn when the water temperature is below 65 degrees, this virtually head-to-toe black slick ensemble with a cap and goggles will keep athletes warm through their swim. They may be fashionably questionable, but they do add a bit of buoyancy, which will make swimmers faster in the water. Similarly, full body suits such as the ones male swimmers wore in the 2008 Beijing Olympics also make swimmers faster. After the 2008 Olympics, the full body suits were banned by FINA after hundreds of world records were broken. However, full body suits are not illegal for open water swimmers for safety purposes. 

Life Beyond the Wall

Over time, swimmers develop their own specialty that can be sprint or distance events in a confined 25-yard or 50-meter pool. Walls factor prominently in a swimmer’s life. However, with the open water, swimmers can gain exposure to what it’s like to live without walls. They may even want to train for a triathlon or to swim the English Channel. In 2017, as reported by Taylor Brien, six swimmers from the Seven Sisters Colleges (Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, Radcliffe College, Smith College, Vassar College and Wellesley College) swam a historic 40 mile relay from Palos Verdes to Catalina Island and back. No walls, no limits!

The Only Shark is the Swimmer

Dunduunnn dunnn…duuuunnnn duun….We all know those sweet sounds that signal a Great White shark in the ocean on the hunt from the classic film Jaws. The Great Lakes are literally inland seas. They may look and feel like oceans, and they may have storms and riptides that frighten the bravest sailor. But…They. Have. No. Sharks. Over the years, there have been rumors of Bull Sharks in the Lakes, but there have been no actual shark sightings. So, there is no need for a swimmer to worry about being mistaken for a seal. Wait, there are no seals, either.

Extended Stay

Without a doubt, nothing beats the crystal clear blue waters of a Great Lake – unless it’s the soft, warm powder sand on the beach or watching the gleaming gold and orange sun gradually rise above the waves. The swimmers can even stay a bit longer to take an afternoon dip while the superior sun rays are out. Something about this swim experience is as good for the soul as it is for the body. 

Paddle Buddies


Photo Courtesy: Arch Academy

Another cool thing I’ve learned: If lake swimmers have friends or family members with a kayak or paddle board, then they have perfect training buddies. They can each take turns paddling and swimming that feels very cross fit. 

These are just some advantages to swimming in the Great Lakes. I do miss my college pool. And I’ll get back to you in November about the Lakes. But for now, I’m heading to the beach! 

P.S. If anyone is in the market for new stickers or shirts, I recommend a white long sleeve Lake Michigan Unsalted shirt. 

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.