During the registration process, we received some feedback from a new member who describes him or herself as a very heavy-set person. He or she felt intimidated to join the Masters group at the pool because they did not feel he/she will ever be able to follow even the slowest swimmer.
First I really want to acknowledge the problem. It is indeed very intimidating to first get into a swim suit on a pool deck next to some very fit Masters swimmers. Kudo to you for having taken the first step. All Masters swim team members are very welcoming and supporting but often some logistic and pool space constraints will get in the way. If you live in a big metropolitan area, we do have a few larger swim teams who can offer way more pool time and space. Those may not be available at your local pool.
What is the solution?
First, remember the magic of water: once in water, you are losing a lot of gravity and you are floating, the heavier you are, the more you are floating. What a nice feeling! Freedom of movement. I remember when I was a lifeguard, we often had some very heavy-set persons coming in wheelchairs to the pool for the water aerobics class, my job was to move them from the wheelchair to the lift. Not an easy task, they could not take one step. They were confined all day in their wheelchair, but once in the water, they could move and do the aerobics class. Isn’t that magic? So worst case scenario, the pool is your only option of exercises and should be your first step. It will keep you moving, it will massage your body, it will improve your aerobic capacity and regulate your breathing. Why do you think doctors and coaches often recommend to their injured athletes to go to the pool in order not to lose their fitness level?
Now the step-by-step approach again.
- The first step might be an aerobics water class, it is social, you will have a supporting instructor and a lot of other welcoming people of all ages, shapes and forms with whom you might better relate. After the class, try to swim just a few laps.
- The second step might be to go to your local pool for public lap swimming time, try to go on a regular basis at the same time. You will notice, people are creatures of habits and you will often meet the same people. Find somebody who is swimming at about your level and you will have your first lap partner and probably a new friend.
- Now you might be ready to do the last step and join a Masters swim team.
I can tell you if you have fully followed the process, you are probably a few pounds lighter, more fit and those master swimmers are looking way less intimidating. They are now your friends. Don’t be discouraged, the process is a long one, it can take a few months to a few years. Some will find their love in water aerobics or independent lap swimming and will never join the team, it is OK as long as you stay with it and enjoy that new fitness.