Are you thinking about swimming in a Master meet, but always seem to hesitate before you sign up? Here are the top five reasons you should follow through for that next event and start competing!
- Attitude Adjustment
If swim meet experience from your youth has soured you on competitions, you need to recognize that Masters Meets are a whole different animal. Attitudes from bygone days no longer apply, and incorrect assumptions should be cast aside. Here are the most frequent excuses for nonparticipation, along with the reasons they lack validity:
I’m not fast enough. Everyone is welcome at Masters Meets, regardless of speed or ability, and regardless of age, body type, or fitness level! There are just as many high-fives and cheers for the slower heats as there are for the fastest swimmers. The Masters community is universally encouraging to newcomers, and is always delighted to see people try something they haven’t done before.
I can’t do flip turns (or dive off the blocks, etc.). While there are rules regarding proper stroke performance, there is plenty of latitude for style (including encouragement for swimmers with disabilities). And it’s fine to start in the water, do open turns, and even to stop at each end of the pool. The point is to finish the event in whatever way works for you.
I’m not in good enough shape/I can’t hit my best times. Though many swimmers do achieve lifetime PRs as Masters Swimmers, the truth is that for most of us, life has intervened. Jobs, families, and the aging process have combined to put a dent in our superpowers. But that’s no reason not to get out there and give it your best shot. There’s no better way to maintain health and speed than to continually work on it.
There’s too much pressure. Dude, relax. There are no college scholarships on the line, nor any possibility of being cut from the team. Sure, you want to do your best, but any pressure you feel is self-generated. All you need to do is watch one Masters Meet to see how friendly everyone is, and how much fun they’re having. You’ll see people race with intensity, but also with huge smiles! It’s the perfect example of high performance in a low-stress environment.
There’s too much time between events. OK, this one may have some validity, especially at championship meets. But you can put that time to good use by taking advantage of the next three of our top five reasons.
Most of my best friends have been found through Masters swimming. Obviously, teammates form the closest connections because we’re in the trenches together, sharing the hard work and joy found in practice. But the connections we make through competition are no less enduring. It’s always fun to meet new friends through rivalries, time spent together on the pool deck, and even when counting laps for Brute Squad participants. Each meet provides an opportunity to catch up, to share memories, and to look forward to the next reunion.
Swim meets provide opportunities to watch elite swimmers and to learn from them. Almost every race provides lessons on technique, pacing, or race strategy. Your own results provide feedback about the effectiveness of your warmup, nutrition/hydration, and other race planning.
Everyone who attends a Masters meet (whether competing or not) comes away inspired and feeling good about life. You see folks of all ages cheering each other on, and people making courageous comebacks from injuries or accidents, as well as those enthusiastic rookies who are competing for the first time. Hanging around people who are giving it their best makes us better, too.
The best way to find out if your workouts are effective is to test your speed, and swimming in a meet provides the optimal conditions to elicit your best effort. After each race, you and your coach can review how the race felt, what corrections you can make, and what sort of new training you might want to incorporate. Even if your performance wasn’t what you had hoped for, the lessons from the experience make you better in the long run.
Terry “Speed” Heggy has been swimming for over 50 years. He won his age group in the 10K Open Water Championships in 2006 and competed in the National Championship Olympic Distance Triathlon in 2014, and qualified again for USAT Nationals in 2015. He coached the Foothills Masters Swim Team in Littleton, Colo., for 30 years before becoming Head Masters Coach with Team Sopris in Glenwood Springs, Colo., in 2016. Heggy is a USMS Level 3 Certified Masters Coach and NASM Certified Personal Trainer.