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by Bo Hickey

May 3, 2018

Your chance to perform at a high level may not have passed

Results from U.S. Masters Swimming’s Spring and Summer National Championships and FINA’s World Masters Championships show that swimmers are dropping time later in their careers. In 2008, Dara Torres was an exception in the sport, but she isn’t any longer. Masters swimmers at any age can tap into this magic.

Building a Plan

People generally experience a 10 percent decrease (a number that varies depending on whom you ask) in strength per decade after the age of 30. The same 10 percent decrease is also experienced with endurance.

Here’s the kicker: Many strength studies don’t look at if a person continued to strength train over the course of his or her life. Of course you’re going to lose strength without doing strength training. Many of our assumptions about athletic ability are made based off studies that don’t consider lifelong training of the variable they measure.

Now, when it comes to building a plan, you’ve got to ask yourself: What’s the biggest thing Masters swimmers struggle with? The answer: lack of time. This is often looked at as a disadvantage but, if you’re able to redistribute your time more effectively, you could use it to your advantage.

Instead of focusing on what you don’t have time for, focus on what you do have time for. Masters swimmers have an opportunity to capitalize on the basics. You don’t need flashy training. You need effective training.

Think back to your most recent practice. Did you hit a point where it felt like you were swimming in place due to fatigue? If so, do you think that’s really going to help your performance? Adjust your swimming volumes.

The quality of yardage is far more important than the quantity of yardage you complete. Don’t get to the point where you’re hardwiring bad habits. If you’re at a point where you can no longer maintain a straight-line body position, swimming more is not the answer. Refocus your energy on some dryland exercises to help strengthen your bracing capabilities.

Here are some movements you can do for better body positioning:

From a dryland perspective, excel at the basics. Can you squat, hinge, push, pull, brace, and rotate without issue? Start with these exercises:

Beat Your Younger Self

Along with assessing your program, assess your movement. If you’re struggling with a stroke or form, your range of motion could be playing a role. For example, if you have a locked-up thoracic spine, your dolphin kick is surely suffering.

Next, get stronger. Strength is critical as you age (and at any age). If you lose your ability to produce force, your speed will decrease. Strength gives you a bigger engine for performance.

Perhaps you’ve been out of the water for a while. It’s something that happens all the time in Masters swimming, someone who returns to the sport after a five-, 10-, or 15-year break (or even longer). How does this affect performance capabilities?

Simply put, it has the potential to shift your performance peak. The break in training that many view as a performance limiter could actually help your chances at beating your 34-and-under self.

Take, for example, MOVY Masters swimmer Siphiwe Baleka, who swam at Yale and then became a long-haul truck driver. He quickly learned that a sedentary lifestyle was not a positive for health. After a long break, he turned to swimming and is now, at the age of 46, within a second of his college times.

How many of you reading this have had a long gap in your swimming life? Do you work desk job? Are you worried that you’ve waited too long? It’s not too late—stop accepting that your performance clock has run out—make some changes and get after it!


  • Technique and Training


  • Drylands
  • Races
  • Cross Training
  • Racing