I first started swimming when my then 15 year old son’s coach decided to start a master team so that the parents standing at the side of the pool screaming ‘Faster! Just go a little faster, honey! Go! Go!” would know why that was just.so.wrong. That isn’t quite how he put it but the truth would not be denied.
At the time I was a runner and I hated swimming or so I thought, so I decided that joining masters would be a really good thing for me. You know, expanding my horizons and all that. The first day of practice the coach gently coaxed us through the workout. We (mostly middle aged folks in dubious shape) were panting and puffing and exhausted but felt pretty triumphant. At the end of the season we reminisced about that first workout and he laughed and said, “yeah – you did 400 yards”. If you are a swimmer you know how funny that is. 400 yards is an okay warm up – it hardly constitutes a decent workout but it was a good start. 25 yards is a good start.
Out here in the triathlete blogosphere there is a lot of silliness about going to masters class to have your ass handed to you and I’ll bet a lot of you non-swimmers reading that are thinking “swimming?? – no thanks!” and who could blame you? No one wants to transcend the humiliation of showing up in public in a Speedo only to have his or her butt handed to him so that he (or she) feels like slithering out of the pool and pouring himself down the shower drain.
Well I’ve got good news for you. I know nothing of having my ass handed to me even though I am one of the slowest people in the pool no matter which workout I go to. Today I swim with a US Masters Team and USM is like God – they love everybody. No ass handage involved.
I ended up joining the team because one of the coaches cleverly recruited me. After my first masters class ended due to the end of the club summing season I was so hooked on swimming that I started going to the public pool for adult lap swim almost every single day. For extra motivation and to keep it fun I would go to a site called Swimmingcommunity.com which generates a workout for you, print it out and take it to the pool. I was a solo act but a happy one.
The masters program has workouts in the morning at the same time. The coach would see me show up every day with my little piece of paper which I would have to refer to repeatedly during my workout like a kid using a crib sheet in an open book exam. He came over one day and said, “gee – that looks like a lot of work. Why don’t you come over and swim with us?” I hemmed and hawed and demurred and he gently suggested I just give it a try so I did. He put me in the appropriate lane and I found that although I really couldn’t keep up it was fun to swim with other people. I made friends and my every attempt at self deprecation was met with “You’re doing great! You’re here – that’s what counts!”
Another advantage to ‘being on the team’ (and use that term quite loosely as much of the team consists of competitive swimmers who swim in meets) is that in the winter when is seems just a little too dark and a lot too cold to go swimming (because in California we swim outdoors year round) my absence is noticed. I know that when I finally get it together to get back to the pool I will be questioned. “Hey, haven’t seen you in weeks! Where were you?” is not a question I like to respond to with “in bed”. Oh no – that would imply sloth and sloth is a sin and swimming is a semi-religious experience and you see where this going. No can do. Must get up. Must show up.
If you live in a major metropolitan area or even a minor one you probably have a US Masters team near you. To find out just go to this site and do a lookup by city (click on the local programs tab and then on the left find ‘places to swim’ and after you click on that click on ‘search places to swim’ also found on the left).
US Masters rules the pool and I mean that literally and figuratively. If you can swim at all you will benefit from showing up. Contact the coach of a local team and tell him or her what your interest is (cross training, triathlon, a change of pace, fitness – it doesn’t matter) and what your experience it. You will be welcomed and you will learn a lot and your swimming will improve. No worries about your ass, either. No one will take it away and smugly hand it back. It’s all yours.