Swimming is the best exercise on the planet, and it’s even better with a group
As a rookie swimmer, your first day swimming with a Masters club can be intimidating.
If you grew up as a swimmer, it can bring back lots of memories, both good and bad. As a triathlete, it’s like entering a whole new world where you’re asked to swim strokes you never would’ve imagined swimming. But no matter your background or goals, swimming with a USMS club has numerous advantages.
Camaraderie and Family
The variety of swimmers you can find on USMS clubs always amazes me. On my club, the youngest swimmer is 19 and the oldest 85. We have former college swimmers, people who started swimming in their 60s, triathletes, and many former high school and age-group swimmers. There’s a group that goes out to breakfast after practice, a group of women who meet weekly and mountain bike, and numerous small groups that meet during the summer months for open water swimming. We’ve been there for baby showers, funerals, and just to help out when someone needs it. When you’re at a team practice suffering through a hard set, it’s amazing the bonds you build with people you only get to talk to for 10 to 15 seconds between repeats. Your teammates encourage you, motivate you, and have your back in the pool. Your swimmer friends very often turn into your best friends.
USMS clubs have some of the finest coaches to ever stand on deck. But a coach on deck does more than just write a workout and deliver it to swimmers. There’s nothing better to improve your technique than a knowledgeable coach’s eyes on you while you’re swimming. USMS coaches spend time learning new techniques so they can give you specific drills to improve your strokes. They push you beyond your comfort zone and help you train for whatever goals are. Many coaches are also swimmers and working in other fields, so they understand the need to balance your swimming with your life. They get it when you have to work late, your back aches, or life is tough and you’re just there for the camaraderie and not so much the workout. Your coach can become one of your biggest cheerleaders both in and out of the pool.
Anyone can watch YouTube videos and get new ideas or training tips. But to put them into practice is a lot harder. A USMS coach has the training and experience to know not only what’s effective, but what will work best for you as an individual. You might want to swim butterfly like Michael Phelps, and you could watch a video and try to emulate him, but limitations on strength, flexibility and anatomy are things your coach will take into consideration and tweak your stroke to be as Phelps-like as possible while making it realistic for you.
Swimming with a club comes with a little more accountability than swimming by yourself. If you skip your solo morning workout, there aren’t any lanemates to text or call and give you some friendly harassment for missing practice. If you haven’t been to the pool for a week at lap swim, there won’t be a coach who checks in with you to see how you’re doing. Swimming is something you can do on your own, but having a coach and teammates will help keep you coming to the pool on a regular basis and help you achieve your fitness goals so you can fully enjoy the mental, emotional, social, and physical benefits of swimming.
If you swim by yourself, I bet you often use the same workouts over and over and fall back on your favorite stroke most of the time. When you swim with a club, you don’t always get to pick the stroke or workout intensity. Workouts designed by a USMS coach will include a variety of strokes and different types of training. The variety is better for your body and your swimming. Swimming different strokes helps you learn more about how your body moves through the water, engages many different muscles, and can help prevent overuse injuries.
There’s nothing like having a group of people working together to make it to the end of a challenging workout. Your teammates will encourage you to do your best, which is sometimes even better than you thought you could do, and you’ll do the same thing for them. It’s very difficult to a push yourself when you swim on your own.
Whether you like to compete at meets or just compete against your time on the clock, there’s no place like a team environment. Some teams make swim meets an important part of their culture and training goals. If you’re a meet swimmer, you’ll have friends to train with and hang out with at the meet. If you’re a competitive person, racing in practice against the teammate in the lane next to you makes the set a lot more fun and improves your swimming in the best way.
Finding a Club
Use USMS’s Club Finder tool to find clubs in your area. Reach out to the coach or club contact and find out about their team culture, goals, and what a regular practice looks like. Try it out several times—don’t go just once. It takes time to develop a relationship with both teammates and a coach. Don’t be afraid to speak up in practice. Ask questions if you don’t understand something or you need to modify an assigned set to accommodate any physical limitations. There might be several clubs in your area, so find the one that’s best for your personality and swimming goals. But most of all, make new friends and have fun.
Are you ready to take the next step in your swimming journey? Try a free workout with a Masters club this July as part of our Try Masters Swimming campaign.
All you need to do is fill out our trial membership form, find a participating club in your area, and pick a workout time to swim with the club. Come experience for yourself the amazing emotional, mental, and physical health benefits tens of thousands of adults just like you across the country are already enjoying.
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