Free the Pee – Why it’s okay to pee in the pool

By Earyel Bowleg

If you are a competitive swimmer or an elite diver, you have done it before – admit it. And you are probably not alone. British swimmer Rebecca Adlington has done it: “You have two hours in there, you can’t get out. Everyone does it. If you’re full on training you cannot get out. You’ve just got to go.” Even G.O.A.T Michael Phelps has confessed about doing the act: “It’s kind of a normal thing to do for swimmers.”

Yup, I’m talking about peeing in the pool.  

It is not cool to do it, but I think of it as Jaywalking or keeping money that you found on the ground – an acceptable sin that is harmless.

Most athletes who train in the water don’t have time to take a potty break. Case in point, take a look at Rebecca Adlington’s training program. She has to swim 3,000 m for two hours twice a day for the whole week. Not to mention that an aerobic session of swimming is 8,000 m.

Anyone who knows Adlington knows her specialty races are the 400 m and 800 m. Why is she doing all these crazy lengths in the pool? These daily sessions of swimming are to help build her endurance for the shorter lengths and increasing her anaerobic threshold.

 Imagine if she stopped in the middle of her lap just to go and use the bathroom. Not only would that slow down her pace, but also the improvement she is making towards her performance.

Even if you are not that dedicated, many coaches of national-caliber teams will not allow you to get out and go to the bathroom during practice time – the bathroom is seen as a ploy for a rest.

They feel that swimmers can use it as an excuse to miss something difficult and that it can become a distraction. So unless you are going to hold it in for five hours, you gotta let it out in the pool.


I’m not gonna deny the fact that you are swimming in pee – which is beyond gross for females. But it is not the urine itself that is harmful. Urine is sterile but compounds in urine, including urea, ammonia, and creatinine react with chlorine to form byproducts known as DBPs that can lead to eye and respiratory irritation. Long-term exposure to the compounds has been linked to asthma in professional swimmers and pool workers.

Sweat and body gunk also reacts with chlorine. You can take a shower before swim practice, but you are gonna be sweaty all over again in the pool.

A study from the University of Alberta showed the urine in a pool cannot cause too much harm. The pee percentage ended up being approximately 0.00009%, or about 250 liters of urine in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

I know it is embarrassing for girls to talk about this topic, but there is nothing to be ashamed of. Take it as a good sign. You need to focus on what is important – training to be the best. Go on and free the pee.


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