Disproving the “Black People Don’t Swim” Stereotype with a 30 Day Swim Challenge

I’m a big believer in getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and then when you are comfortable make it uncomfortable again.”

Swim Experiment

Out of the 3 sports in triathlon, I dislike swimming the most. It’s not that it’s bad or I hate it, it’s just not as much fun as running and cycling. But over the past 5 years, I’ve come to respect it and at times, even like it. It‘s a nice activity to do during the 8–10 months of warm weather here in Sydney, Australia, #HumbleBrag. I also feel I’m slower than my potential and after 5 years of saying “I’m new to swimming” I can’t play that bullshit card anymore.

Dude, didn’t you say something about black people not being able to swim in the subject?

Oh yeah, the title. Ha! I was split to have this post go 2 ways. I could write a few hundred words about how I have an existential internal conflict with disproving things that black people stereotypically can or can’t do. Once I thought about it, the whole stereotype of black people not being able to swim is pure unfiltered cow manure and not as complex of a subject matter as I thought. Oh and a bunch of people have written about it already. There are many reasons why most black people don’t (not can’t — huge difference) swim. The following words actually aren’t about that so I kind of did the click bait garbage thing that I typically hate. MY BAD! I promise I’ll only do it once… a year… maybe 🙂

Simone Manuel — US Olympic Gold Medalist & World Record Holder

Bruh, why did you choose a swim challenge if you don’t like swimming?

Bruh (or Brah — #GenderEquality), The answer is in your question. I’m a big believer in getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and then when you are comfortable make it uncomfortable again (then repeat!). I want to like swimming so why not push myself. My list of dislikes are (in no particular order);

  • It’s a pain in the ass to swim. Ride bike to beach (far) or pool (closer), then take clothes off, then jump in slightly cold water, then , then put moisturizer on, etc.
  • Swimming is racist… kinda! I’m back on this because it does bother me. From this legit Scientific NCBI study there were differences in body fat distribution (P ≤ 0.05) and buoyancies (P ≤ 0.01), with Whites storing more fat and having better buoyancy than Blacks. See I wasn’t lying… kinda. #Halfa-ClickBait
  • I’m just not as comfortable in the water as I am with riding and running. Makes sense since swimming isn’t natural for humans. Also makes sense as I just started swimming properly 5 years ago, but 5 years ago is a long ass time to still be relatively “slow”.

I also have a panic monster of sorts as the warm weather here in Sydney is on it’s way out and I’m in training purgatory between my previous triathlon season going into the running season. I know it would be hard to do this at an outdoor pool, in the middle of Sydney winter, and on a 5 degree C (39 degree F) morning at 5am. It’s also quite hard to fit this in during the summer as I’m focused training with triathlons.

As with anything I do I usually need an objective and parameters to avoid under or over performing (burnout/injury);

  • Objective; to improve my 50, 100, and 500 meter Time Trial by 3% or more in 30 days. That’s actually quite ambitious but if I can see something close to those gains, then I’ll take swimming more serious going into triathlon season in a few months.
  • Base it on time and not distance covered — minimum 15 mins — maximum 1 hour per session.
  • Mix up the type of swimming session daily and just pick it on the day so it’s not too structured and I fall prey to decision fatigue. (Example; Monday is 30 ish mins with steady intervals of 100–200m. Tuesday is slightly easy 15 mins drill/form focused as I ran and did strength training earlier in the day. Friday is longer 45–60 mins with steady state or faster intervals.
  • Must maintain my usual training as to keep this challenge supplemental. I’m not replacing my existing training with the challenge which ironically makes it an even more of a complex challenge.
  • Honestly, I’m tired of being the middle of the pack black dude at triathlons. It’s too much of a stereotype. (Warning: Humble Brag again) I know I’m a somewhat fast runner and a pretty strong cyclist but to blow open the stereotype would really help kill some repressed subconscious limiting thoughts about what black people can and can’t do.

Cool, you’ve convinced me – Where do I sign up?

Woah, hold up — there are lots of reasons to not do a 30 day challenge. If you;

  • Want a drastic body change
  • Want high performance gains
  • Have discipline issues with scheduling and prioritization
  • Get tired of doing the same thing over again day after day

Or on second thought maybe you should because of the above! As of the time of writing, I’m on day 18 and will update this area when I complete it.

Thanks for reading to the end. Please make sure to clap for me by holding down the green hand icon thingy below (it’s Medium’s version of “liking”).

Other Articles and other research

Props to Ryan Boddy for this one

BBC on Swimming in the world

A history behind black people & swimming

It’s time to address the persistent stereotype that black people can’t swim

Pros & Cons of a 30 day workout challenge

30 Day Challenge do they work