A day in the life of an elite UQ student-athlete
Australian swimmer and UQ student Cameron Jones is a sucker for punishment. On top of a brutal training schedule that sees him up before the sun most mornings, the 2019 UQ Sports Achievement Scholarship recipient is also tackling a full-time Bachelor of Economics / Bachelor of Laws (Honours) dual degree – all with an eye on qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The sprint freestyle and butterfly specialist breaks down a typical day for an elite swimmer juggling university commitments.
Rise and shine... and freeze
5.35am: Swimming can either be the best or worst part of my day. It depends on my state of mind and the time of year.
In summer, I wake up with the sunrise. The outside pool is baking hot, suffusing me with energy and purpose. Winter is another story. My day starts at 5:35am, when I roll out of bed, throw on as many layers as I can as quickly as possible, and try to eat a bowl of cereal while remaining half-asleep.
After a short trip to the pool and some light stretching, my coach speaks the dreaded words: “Ok, let’s get going, guys”, signalling that it is time to strip down and embrace the cold. If we’re lucky, it will have been an overcast night, and the outside temperature will struggle above 10°C.
8am: After a two-hour swim session, during which I will swim between five and 6 kilometres, I will either head home or to the gym for some strength training.
This training schedule takes place from Monday to Saturday, with Sunday being the only morning I have a precious sleep-in. After morning training is complete, I will have a second breakfast of cereal or porridge followed by a coffee before heading to university classes, or back to bed for a well-deserved hour-long nap.
Exercising the mind
10am: My days primarily consist of fitting in classes and study alongside morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. Studying a full-time Bachelor of Economics / Bachelor of Laws (Honours) dual degree, I have an average of 12 contact hours of class each week, and many additional hours of study outside the classroom. I often have to catch up on lecture recordings at home due to them occurring while I am at the pool. Fortunately, as a 2019 UQ Sports Achievement Scholarship recipient, UQ provides me with the flexibility of priority sign-on to my classes, so I am always able to schedule my tutorials at a time when I will be able to attend, ensuring that I am able to understand and apply the content to problem scenarios.
While attending university can be draining at times, the mental stimulus of academics can be refreshing. Taking my mind off training is especially welcome when moving on from a poor training session or a tough week. It’s a way to occupy my mind instead of focusing on how difficult the main training set coming up in the afternoon will be.
Diving back in
3pm: Most afternoons I will head back to the pool for my afternoon training. Afternoon sessions, along with Saturday morning sessions, are ‘main sets’ and are all about pushing your body to its limit. They usually involve some stretching, core work and stationary bike to prime the body for a challenging swim set.
Refuelling and recovering
6.30pm: After arriving home about 6:30pm, I will immediately have dinner – unless I am still feeling slightly ill from the lactic acid produced during the main set. After dinner, I make a valiant effort to do some study. If I am too drained, I decide that a couple of hours of unwinding with some Netflix or a book will suffice before I have to do it all again the next day.
Missing training isn’t an option
Besides my coach expecting my attendance, I feel an obligation to always attend, as I know everyone in my squad will be there too. Ours is a special bond, forged through countless hours of hard work, of seeing your friend’s highest of highs and their lowest of lows, and knowing that they’ve seen yours too.
There are no excuses in the sport of swimming, and there is no easy path to achieve the results you desire. There is only the body you’ve been given and the gauntlet you are willing to put yourself through to earn your achievements, and that is why I love it.
Visit the UQ Sporting Scholarships website to find out how UQ helps athletes achieve both their sport and education goals.