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by Chris Ritter

August 3, 2015

Lifetime Best Swims in Your 50s and 60s

It’s never too late to improve performance with these tips

In working with many Masters swimmers over the years, I’ve seen an array of backgrounds and goals. Some swimmers decide to get back into the sport after many years out of the water and others are exposed to it later in life and develop a pure enjoyment of swimming and accept the challenge of getting better.

Despite the variety I’ve seen, swimmers’ results sometimes really surprise me—especially swimmers who competed in college who swim lifetime bests in their 50s or 60s. Or swimmers who get close to times they haven’t swum in decades.

In thinking about the commonalities of these performances, I wanted to see if there are factors that helped drive these outcomes that could, in turn, help newer swimmers focus and improve their performance. I’ve boiled it down to these three tips:

Belief

One of the most powerful traits that swimmers can take advantage of is their belief that they can achieve a certain time or level of performance. For many returning swimmers that hit best times decades after their college or high school years, knowing that they’ve been there before is a big factor.

In sport and in life it’s generally accepted that what you tell yourself repeatedly in your head has an affect on your performance. If you take a positive approach to a realistic goal and believe that you can get better, you probably will. Conversely, if you’re cynical about your performances or downplay your potential to succeed, you might be left wondering why you can’t get faster. I’m not advocating just sitting on your couch and visualizing yourself to an amazing performance, but if your mind isn’t in sync with your training, your true potential will always be a “What if?” thought.

Focus

Many Masters swimmers don’t train nearly as much as age group or college swimmers. However, a little less training is a good thing because it allows you to be more focused on what you’re actually doing in the moment.

If you only get to the pool three times in a week, you might be more likely to make those practices count—everything from your technique to your pacing. Whereas if you had six practices a week, you might be more likely to coast or zone out—justifying it because you have a lot of practices, so you don’t have to be intentional all the time.

The best coaches are adamant about intentional practice—practicing with total focus. Even with less time in the water, if you’re swimming intentionally, you’ll be more productive than if you were swimming more often with less focus. Be present and get the most out of each practice you attend, whether it’s in the pool or the gym.

Strength

Swimmers who see lifetime best times later in life are often physically stronger than they were in their college years. Strength can be achieved later in life, but it requires a well-planned training program that includes appropriate rest and recovery. You can still gain strength if you stay consistent and on a planned program.

Gaining strength won’t happen overnight, but I’ve worked with many swimmers who couldn’t do a single pull-up and watched them progress to full-range, bodyweight pull-ups—some even with added resistance, such as a weight belt. It took commitment, but they followed the plan and the results speak for themselves.

Bottom line: Don’t sell yourself short on the potential that you have inside of you right now. Put these tips into action and you’ll be amazed at how high you can raise your performance level.