Why Join a Masters Swimming Group
For those of us lucky enough to get started in swimming at an early age, memories of swimming on the local town, club, or school team are filled with wonderful moments laughing and swimming alongside our friends. For those talented enough to swim in college, that feeling of belonging to a team may have continued into our early twenties. After that, for most of us swimming likely changed. Swimming became primarily about “staying in shape”. Swim sessions became solo affairs. No more meets, and no more team. Unless you’re a member of a masters swimming group.
Masters swimming groups, teams or clubs provide the opportunity to prolong or revive the feeling of belonging to a team into your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond. You get to be around like minded people and collectively experience the joy of swimming. Few group sports are as accommodating to varied ability as swimming. Most clubs accept swimmers of all ages, skill and level of commitment. Whether you are new to the sport and looking to learn the basics of training, or you’re a seasoned triathlete training for your first Ironman, you’re sure to find others with similar goals. The friendships one finds in a masters swimming program are easily formed, and they can stay in the pool, or grow to provide a social outlet out of the water. As you get to know the other swimmers, you’ll benefit from holding one another accountable. It will make it that much harder to hit snooze on the alarm clock and skip that early morning workout.
Beyond the social benefits, participating in a masters swim program gives you access to experienced coaches who can refine your stroke and make you a stronger swimmer. They will expose you to new drills, suggest technique adjustments, and design workouts to achieve specific goals. A quick online search can help you find a masters club near you. And if you’re looking to be part of an even larger network of swimmers, consider joining US Masters Swimming.
Unique Challenges for Masters Swimmers
Jobs, families, and other responsibilities limit the time most masters swimmers can spend in the pool. The daily 2-3 hour workouts of your youth are long gone. Now the norm is squeezing in a 60 minute workout a few times per week… and that time often includes clothing changes on both ends. Because training time is limited, masters swimmers need to be particularly efficient and intentional to make each session count.
In a recent article in Triathlete magazine titled “Why I Quit Masters Swimming“, the author noted potential disadvantages in swimming the same workout as the larger group. You are likely at different fitness levels, swim widely different weekly yardage, are at different stages of your training cycles, and are likely prepping for different events. Swimming a workout tailored for someone else’s needs may not be a best strategy. Talk with your coach to see how much workout personalization the practice can allow.
Lastly, our bodies aren’t what they used to be. We have lost strength. We have lost flexibility. We don’t recover as quickly. We need to modify our training accordingly. Proper warmup is extremely important. We need to listen to our bodies. If you haven’t been swimming recently, limit your yardage. If you feel a persistent twinge in your shoulder, don’t just “suck it up”. The last thing you need is for a minor issue to turn into a chronic injury that keeps you out of the pool for months.
Gear for Masters Swimmers
Some of the physical challenges masters swimmers must deal with can be (partially) overcome with gear. Lots of swim equipment is designed with the young, healthy, flexible swimmer in mind, but a few manufactures offer products that are perfect for the aging bodies of masters swimmers. Here are some of our favorites.
Kickboard – Ray-Board
Many masters swimmers have eliminated kick drills from their routines because use of traditional flat kickboards is literally a “pain in the neck” (and shoulders, and back). Flat kickboards place a lot of unnecessary stress on your upper body when you’re trying to focus on your kicks. Ray-Board overcomes this problem with a unique design that places the elbows low and wide, allowing you to kick in comfort.
Fins – Finis Z2 Gold Zoomers
Large fins can help you go fast, but they may also overly stress your legs and feet. Consider using fins with a relatively short blade. These designs promote short, fast kicks that are fins that don’t cause a significant change your kick technique. Also, fins like the Finis Z2 Gold Zoomers are designed to catch water on the up kick, which strengthens the hamstrings and glutes, muscles that are quick to weaken as we age.
Swim paddles come in a variety of styles, some primarily aimed at technique and others designed to build strength. Masters swimmers should use paddles designed to enhance the feel of the water and promote correct stroke. Avoid paddles that cause or allow your hand to cut through the water in an unnatural way, as this can lead to injury. Oversized paddles may also overly stress your shoulder muscles. Finis has a number of different paddle designs that promote an efficient stroke, and they are relatively inexpensive so its worth trying a couple different styles to see which work best for you.
Post workout care for your muscles should become an important part of your routine as you age. Using a foam roller helps loosen tight muscles and increase blood flow to speed recovery. Foam rollers come in all manner of shapes and colors, must of which fit easily in your swim bag.
Pain Relief – Feelgood Sport Recovery Lotion
When aches and pain do arise a recovery cream can help. Feelgood Lab’s products comprise 30 all natural ingredients. It soothes muscles without the smell or stickiness of traditional sport creams. Previously available only online, it is now available in box stores including Target.
You may also want to check out our other recent product reviews including “Best Swim Training Gear of 2020” and “Best Large Kickboard for Swimming – 2020“. If you love a particular swim product designed for masters swimmers, let us know and we may include it in a future article update. Happy swimming!