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by Marty Hendrick

May 18, 2014

Visitor drop-in guidelines

We're adults, and our day-to-day lives cannot always revolve around swimming. So what’s a swimmer to do when the need to travel, whether for business or pleasure, gets in the way of the workout routine? You keep swimming, of course, with the help of USMS’s resources to help you find a place to swim and maintain your training regimen. 

The benefits of continuing to train when you travel are many, including fitness, peace of mind, the maintenance of your routine, and maybe even new friendships, not to mention the locals’ lowdown on where to eat and what to do while you’re in town.

In Fort Lauderdale, we have a large number of visiting Masters swimmers on a daily and weekly basis, with more arriving in the winter months.

For example, in a single, recent workout, we hosted one swimmer from England (a registered member of USMS) and five swimmers from two different clubs in Connecticut and a club in New England. Being able to swim with other clubs while on the road is a great benefit of your USMS membership.

But, how do you best prepare to swim with another USMS Club? The following is what I tell my swimmers who ask what they need to know about swimming with other Masters groups while traveling.

Before You Travel

If you’re unfamiliar with the area you’re visiting, your first resource can be the USMS website to help you find a Masters workout. On the website you can locate pools and Masters workouts by selecting the Places to Swim page which can be found under the Local Programs tab on the home page. Another option is to search the Local Masters Swimming Committee website for the area where you’ll be traveling. There, you can learn more about the clubs and workout groups available. If there is no club website, there may be a phone number. Remember that some of the pools listed in the Places to Swim database may not have Masters workouts. In that case, it is best to find out if they offer public swimming times, meaning certain times when they permit nonmembers or visitors to swim.

Once you've found a pool or club that appears to be close to where you're staying, find out if they run official Masters workouts, which are nearly always listed on the club’s website. Check for workout schedules, visitor or drop-in policies, and for a phone number so that you can confirm that the information on the website is accurate. If you do call, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • Does the group or facility welcome visitors or drop-in guests?
  • What’s the workout schedule—what days and times are workouts offered?
  • What are their fees, and whom and how should you pay?
  • Where should you park and are there special instructions for finding or accessing the facility?
  • Do they have locker rooms to change and should you bring your own lock?
  • Are bags and shoes allowed on deck?

Day of the Workout

You must bring a copy of your USMS card with you to the workout! You can also now display your card on your phone or mobile device, but for some coaches, it may be helpful for them to have a hard copy of the card so they can remember your name. Some clubs may also require it for their own internal paperwork. Asking whether they need you to bring a hard copy of your USMS member card with you could be another question to ask in advance of arriving at the pool for a workout.

You should also bring your driver’s license or other government-issued photo identification, as some facilities require it to enter.

Plan to arrive to the workout early so you can introduce yourself to the coach on deck or the person supervising the workout. This gives you the opportunity to get the lay of the land and determine which lane would be best suited for you. I typically ask a visiting swimmer what interval they use when they do a set of 5 x 100 SCY to place them in the appropriate lane. You can also take that opportunity before workout to let the coach know of any limitations you may have. Ask the coach if they require circle swimming within each lane. 

Things to Avoid

Arriving late can be very disruptive to the coach and the swimmers in the workout. When you arrive late to a new group, the coach—who is responsible not only for the actual workout but also for the safety of the swimmers in the workout—has to divert attention from the swimmers already in the pool to talk to you. You’ll also be interrupting swimmers who began workout on time. Some clubs don't allow swimmers to enter the practice once workout has begun, so get there early.

One of the most frustrating things for me as a coach, and for my swimmers, is for a visitor or drop-in guest to start our structured workout and go off-script or do their own thing in a lane that’s doing the organized workout. If you want to swim on your own, please find the times and pools that offer noncoached public swim times.

Lastly, remember that you are a guest. Thank the coach and your lanemates for hosting you! 


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