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OLIVIA SMOLIGA, 17
National medalist and state record holder in freestyle (50 and 100 yards) and backstroke (100 yards); competes this month at the Olympic trials in free (50 and 100 meters) and back (100 and 200 meters)
Training for the Olympic trials means nine practices a week for this student at Glenbrook South High School. Mondays are the busiest: She wakes at 5 a.m. for a 90-minute practice at the school’s indoor pool. “Those are power days,” Smoliga says, “where we work on sprinting—the breakout, the turn, and the finish.” That’s in addition to muscle-toning exercises, such as swimming underwater with resistance bands. Three afternoons a week, she heads to Rebound Fitness, a sports medicine clinic in Northbrook, where she cross-trains with boxing, running, and weightlifting. Then it’s back to school for a two-hour evening practice, where the focus is on cardio and yardage.
BEST SWIMMING SPOTS
1. FOR LAP SWIMMERS: When Smoliga wants to practice outside, her coach takes her to Deerspring Pool in Deerfield. The Olympic-size L-shaped pool features six lap lanes, and dedicated adult swim hours are offered. For kids, there’s a “sprayground” and a zero-depth wading pool. 200 Deerfield Rd., Deerfield; 847-945-7610, deerfieldparks.org. Opens June 2. $7 (free for kids under four) EXPERT PICK
2. FOR ADULTS IN THE CITY: The Olympic-size outdoor pool in Portage Park, where Mark Spitz set three world records at the Olympic trials in 1972, draws North Siders with its regular morning adult swim hours (7 to 9 a.m. weekdays) and free weekly aqua aerobics classes. 4100 N. Long Ave.; 773-685-7235, chicagoparkdistrict.com. Opens June 15. Free
3. FOR LAKE SWIMMERS: One of the few local beaches with a dedicated play zone for kids, Glencoe Beach doubled its swim area this season—and even rents kayaks. Occasional evening concerts and camp-outs keep the fun going after sunset. 55 Hazel Ave., Glencoe; 847-835-1185, glencoeparkdistrict.com. Opens Memorial Day weekend. $10 (free for kids under one)
4. FOR CROSS-TRAINERS: Anyone who’s bored with laps but still craves low-impact workouts will love Orland Park’s Centennial Park Aquatic Center. You can walk against the current of the lazy river from 6:30 to 8 a.m. Or break an underwater sweat at the new Aqua Zumba classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 15600 West Ave., Orland Park; 708-349-4386, orland-park.il.us. Opens Memorial Day weekend. $3 to $14
5. FOR FAMILIES: Parents in the know recommend Cypress Cove Family Aquatic Center in Woodridge for a water park experience at a reasonable price. It’s a slam dunk for swimmers of all levels: Older kids can coast down the six water slides (three body slides, a tube slide, a drop slide, and a kiddie slide) while tots splash around in the 600-foot lazy river and zero-depth pool. Parents looking for a quick workout (or just a moment of peace) can steal some time in the six-lane lap pool. 8301 S. Janes Ave., Woodridge; 630-985-5620, cypresscove.org. Opens Memorial Day weekend. $4 to $13 (free for kids under one)
EXPERT ADVICE: HOW TO DO A FLIP TURN
Many swimmers are scared of flip turns—and that’s an unnecessary fear, says Smoliga.
(1) When you’re an arm’s length from the wall, drop both arms to your sides as you glide into the wall.
(2) Duck your head into your chest and bring your knees up, curling yourself into a ball. Flip. “It’s a somersault in the water,” Smoliga says. Finish your flip with your bent legs at the wall.
(3) Push off with your feet, one hand over the other in front of you. Do a pencil twist to end up back on your stomach.
Photograph: Brian Kuhlmann; Assistants: Colin Beckett, Lauren Butterfield, Sarah Bruchman; Illustrations: John Kenzie