What's it all about?
What is Masters swimming?
Masters swimming is an organized program of swimming for adults. Members participate in a variety of ways ranging from lap swimming to international competition.
Who are the members?
Anyone 18 years old or over can join Masters swimming. United States Masters Swimming (USMS) is the governing body and has over 36,000 members, a few of whom are in their 90's. USMS, in turn, is affiliated with FINA, the international organizing body.
The group makeup varies with the season. Some people choose to compete in pool or open water events, some are fitness swimmers of varying levels of dedication, and 10% have no idea why they are there but have a good time anyway. Ability levels range from people who compete at the national level to those who are happy just swimming a few laps without stopping. Most members fall somewhere in between.
Where is Masters swimming located?
Everywhere! Locally, we practice at the San Carlos Community and Florida Gulf Coast University pools in south Lee County, but there are over 450 local Masters swim clubs throughout the United States.
Do I have to compete?
No, you don't. It's totally up to you. Reasons for becoming a Masters swimmer are as varied as the swimmers themselves; health, fitness, camaraderie, fun, the thrill of competition, and travel are some possibilities. The majority of Masters swimmers choose not to compete in swimming meets on a regular basis. However, going to a competition does provides motivation to work harder in practices.
Why would I want to join a group when I can swim on my own?
There are many advantages to being part of a practice group. Finding a training partner, a group of swimmers, or a club to be affiliated with greatly enhances your swimming experience. And the social activities at and after practices and especially at meets make all of the workouts worth the effort, even if you're not heavily into competition. There are many more benefits. Among them are
Is it healthy to exercise that hard as you get older?
The thrill of competition can produce some anxiety in the form of "butterflies," but study after study has proven that regular exercise can significantly contribute to your health. And swimming has continually been identified as the best way to exercise. Stress reduction, weight control, cardiovascular fitness, reduced cholesterol, muscle tone, and endurance are all positively influenced by exercise.
It is recommended, however, that you have a physician's approval before starting. Even if you are not interested in swimming competitively, the workouts will become more physically demanding as your skills improve.
How much time will it require?
That again is up to you. You can put as much time and effort into swimming as you want, or as little. If you can't attend every practice, you're better off if you can space those days out instead of doing three in a row and taking four in a row off. The regularity of the exercise is as important as the actual exercise. Focus on quality rather than quantity; a longer "mindless yardage" practice is not as beneficial as a shorter, high quality workout.
Still undecided? Read an interesting article on misconceptions about Masters swimming.