Although we swim the same strokes and distances as ‘normal’ swimmers, masters swimming is very different in many ways to the Olympic sport. The differences are not technical (apart from one or two slight differences in the rules), but relate to the challenges that masters swimmers face in terms of lifestyle, ability to train and, of course, the ageing process.
While many masters swimmers are just as motivated as younger swimmers, indeed sometimes more so (we don’t mess about in training for a start), these motivations are tempered by parameters that we have to work within
1. Dealing with the frustration of not being able to do what I want to do. In our heads we’re still 18, and want to be able to swim like it! The mind is willing but the flesh is weaker, partly due to ageing and partly because we just can’t train as often as we’d like…
2. Managing competing commitments. We can’t train so much because we have to work, we often have families, and by the time our commitments are reduced again by retirement or kids growing up, we don’t recover so well from training sessions. Our partners don’t understand why we want to spend ‘so much time’ swimming, while we don’t think we’re doing enough!
3. Managing the effects of ageing. Not only do we recover less quickly after hard sessions, but at some point we all start to get slower through age. The upside is that it doesn’t seem to happen quite as early or as dramatically as we might have imaged as 18 year olds. However, we have to keep resetting our expectations and performance goals or we will be very, very frustrated!
4. As a result of less training, confidence can be an issue. We know that we’re not as well prepared to race as we’d usually like to be. It’s the week before Nationals and you have to go out of town on business. It’s really important to accept these sorts of things, to be flexible and bring what’s ‘in our locker’ on the day, rather than aiming for perfect conditions.
5. Finding the self-discipline to train (hard). When I was 15 my dad used to get me up to go training. Nobody makes us do it now! It’s not just getting there, it may be the self-discipline to train on your own, perhaps to miss out of a good night out or – relating back to point 2 – dealing with the fact (and guilt) that you’re not spending that time with your significant others.
I’m sure that there are other challenges that masters swimmers face, but these seem to be common ones. Perhaps you have your won that you’d like to share? Please leave a comment if you do!