Swimming and the Aging Process


So you are taking a year every year?  Well, everybody does and the process of aging is well known, thoroughly studied by the medical field and is something you cannot deny.  I am sure you all have heard that expression, “It is not fun to get old!!”  Indeed, it is not fun but let’s focus on the positive.

Through the aging process, you will slowly and progressively lose some strength, size and endurance of your muscle, but numerous studies show that “sitting around accelerates muscle loss”.  Stay active!

Your bone density will decrease.  What about regularly performing weight-bearing exercise such as walking and lifting weight to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.  In this case, you do not need to do heavy lifting.  Please note that swimming is not a weight-bearing exercise.  It will help for building muscle but not to strengthen your bones.  In other words, do cross train.

As you age, you will also lose some flexibility, tone and cushion of all your joints (knees, hips, shoulders, etc…).  Keep working on your flexibility thru yoga and stretching.  In swimming, pay attention to your technique.  Most of the shoulder problems and/or other joint problems in swimming were initially rooted in a movement performed not quite in alignment and repeated again and again (such as in freestyle, crossing over or entering with your thumbs first).  A few lessons with an experienced swim coach might cost you less than years of pain and physical therapy.

Your lung capacity and function drop off with time.  Swimming is one of the best sports to increase your lung function and aerobic capacity.  The required breathing control and pattern is the best teacher.  Regular swimmers have lung capacity way above people their age.

Older people take longer to recover from stress.  After exertion, such as exercise, more time passes before your body returns to its resting heart rate and blood pressure.  This is a fact you cannot ignore.  Listen to your body.  Take a little more rest between sets if needed.  Take a day off, cross train, enjoy.

What else is it to take from that gloomy prospect?

Mostly the loss does relate to your 100% potential.  I do not know any Masters swimmers who are at their maximum potential, which would mean you constantly have the perfect balance of training, technique, rest and nutrition.  If you do, get a life!  You are way too focused on swimming or triathlon.  The psychological effect of aging will definitively hit the top performers first.  They are closer to their potential both physically and technically and in general have a stronger competitive spirit.  In that case, make sure you reset your mind and time every five years as you move up age groups.  Look forward to your next age group and forget about your past performances.  Admire swimmers like William Lamb or David Radcliff who are amazing in their age group.

For all the other swimmers and triathletes (especially if you are relatively new to the sport) there is a lot of room for improvement whatever your age, mostly by increasing your fitness level and by improving your technique. The more you are fit, the more you will fight off and slow down the aging process.

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