You might have participated in a Try-Masters-Swimming week, your first triathlon, open water or a pool meet. It was fun and challenging but now what? How do I keep the motivation to continue swimming after the hype of the event has waned down, if the hours of the Masters swim team do not fit my schedule or is too far away?
First and foremost, reflect on your experience. Was it challenging because you didn’t have any technique, because you were out of shape, because you were too nervous, because you had a traumatic experience around the other swimmers, because you simply didn’t like to be in water? Was it fun because the other participants were very welcoming, because you did better than you expected, because you liked the relays, because of the tips and workouts you received, because of the social aspect of swimming within a group? Whatever your experience has been, learn from it and adjust your attitude and goals accordingly.
OK, technique was the problem. This is the easiest but also the most challenging aspect to react to. All good Masters swimming programs should address technique in all four strokes, and every public or private pool has a swimming program and generally offers swim lessons at all levels. Both our USMS website as well as our Oregon Masters newsletter, Aqua Master, offer some tips thru their coach’s columns. As fitness chair, I have addressed the basics of each stroke in a few different Aqua Master articles: free (Nov-Dec, 2017), Backstroke (March, 2018), Butterfly (Aug, 2018) and Breaststroke (March, 2019). A change in technique does require a lot of practice. Work thru progression and focus on one thing at a time. The first area of focus for a novice swimmer should be the position on top of the water, to avoid as much drag as possible, and to be in the correct position to have an efficient arm movement. The major culprits of a bad position on top of the water are a combination of weak or inefficient kicks (small and quick), the lifting of the head to breathe (head in a neutral position), not keeping at least one hand in front for balance (front quadrant swimming), and not tightening the core to stay in alignment. Once you are able to stay on top of the water without too much effort, it is time to progress to the efficiency of the movement. Mostly think forward, extend your arms towards the front to avoid side movements and to keep your balance; think early vertical forearms to catch water as soon as possible (keep the elbows up), apply pressure and bring your arms quickly back to the front to keep the momentum going. Anytime you feel you are not progressing, take another lesson, or ask for a tip from your coach or another experienced swimmer, and practice, practice, practice. Improvement in technique is the most rewarding experience and the best motivator.
Ok, you were out of shape. A swimmer will always remain a swimmer. You are still swimming better than 99% of the population but you are just out of shape. You are now a Masters swimmer, so you do not need to swim those twice daily grueling practices. Swim what is comfortable for you to fit in your weekly schedule, but practice smartly to avoid injuries. Swimming is a lifelong sport and you are in it for your health. During your lifetime, you will have peak training, when you are working out for a specific event or goals, but you will also have time where you will just swim for fitness, enjoyment and to keep your most precious gift: health.
Ok, this was a real traumatic experience. Maybe swimming in an organized swimming event is not for you. Just keep swimming for fitness and/or find another physical activity but stay active, it is too important for your quality of life.
Ok, you really enjoyed the event and it was fun, but it is not convenient for you to join a swim team due to your schedule, the location of the pool, the hours of the practice. Wait, USMS and Oregon Masters Swimming has a lot to offer. Once you are a member of USMS, you have access to their website, which offers a lot of tips and online workouts, so you are never out of ideas. Most of Oregon Masters Swimming’s workout groups accept drop-in swimmers. In many pools, informal swimming groups have formed and get together at different times. Some swim teams are spread-out all-over Oregon and Southwest Washington, therefore, communicate thru email, and only get together for special swimming events where you will feel part of the group and make new friends. Some other groups email workouts to be done on your own. Whatever your need, Oregon Masters Swimming is one of the most active local groups of USMS and we are there for you.