I have been swimming since I was about ten years old which, compared to most, is relatively late. It started by an almost drowning incident at the age of seven in a backyard small private pool. If it were not for the quick thinking and action of my friend’s mom, I would not be here today.
So the first lesson I learned is EVERYBODY NEEDS TO LEARN HOW TO SWIM, JUST FOR SAFETY. Whatever your age, learn how to swim. US Master Swimming has a program called Adult Learn to Swim, and I am sure your local pool is offering extensive swim lessons programs, certainly for children, but very often also intended for adults. Teach your kids how to be safe around water at a young age, help your adult friends, including the older generations, find the resources to be safe.
After learning how to swim, which I can tell you was not easy for me, especially putting my head underwater, I quickly joined a local swim team. The second lesson I learned is PROGRESSION IN SWIMMING IS SLOW AND CHALLENGING. As in many sports, mastering the technical aspects is a lifelong process, but is the key to improvement. The pros are constantly working on their strokes and experimenting with their technique to push the limit of their efficiency in the water. Everybody should do the same.
Being in a swim team might sometimes be intimidating and frustrating. Some of your teammates who are doing the same workouts days after days might be so much faster. The third lesson I learned is SWIMMING IS AN INDIVIDUAL SPORT. Although we swim together and are friends, we are only competing against ourselves. Measure where you are now and improve upon it. If you have done your best time or increased your distance or learned a new stroke or how to do a flip turn, you are progressing and improving. Set small goals based on your current level. You cannot control what the swimmer in the other lane is doing and it does not matter. I have lost a lot of races where I was so happy because it was my best performance, and I have won a lot of races with subpar swims.
Once you become a competitive swimmer, the workouts become tough, long and often boring. The expectations are high. The fourth lesson I learned as a teen competitive swimmer is YOU NEED GRIT, MENTAL TOUGHNESS, STRONG MOTIVATION AND BIG ORGANIZATION AND TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS. Those skills will be invaluable to you later in life, but as a teen you do not perceive them that way. At that time, your teammates and your friends are your best support groups.
After a long break, getting married and having my own family, I returned to swimming for the sheer pleasure of being in the water, and discovered Masters Swimming. The fifth lesson I learned is MASTER SWIMMERS ARE JUST SWIMMING FOR PLEASURE AND THE GOOD FEELING IT GIVES THEM. The community of Master Swimming is incredibly supportive, without the focus being on performance. Whatever your level, you are accepted in the group. Most of us are successful professionals ready to help each other. Performing at a particular swim meet is no more the major focus. Family and friends are more important. We just want to be happy, healthy, and fit. Aging, a health issue, an injury will slowly put a toll on our performances, but we must accept it and listen to our body.
Keep on swimming and enjoy the Masters Swimming community.