Everything You Wanted to Know About Masters Swimming

Learning how to swim efficiently is the biggest challenge for many aspiring triathletes.
Miss part one of this story?

How do I find a local Masters program?
Begin with the USMS website to find the Masters team nearest you, and contact a team representative to find out the appropriate workout schedule.

Even better, check with local bike and running shops to see if there's a local triathlon club you can hook up with, since most tri clubs usually frequent a specific Masters program that understands the needs of beginning triathletes.

What should I do at the first workout?
On your first day, check with the coach about registering with USMS and ask to find out which workout lane is appropriate for you. Always stay on the right side of the lane (circle swim); always pass on the left.

How do you read the pace clock?
An interval clock has a minute and second hand. The clock is marked off in five-second intervals from 0 to 60 seconds.

The easiest way to learn to use a clock during a workout is with an example:

    ?Let's say the coach gives you a set of 20 x 50 freestyle on one-minute and tells you to leave on the top of the clock. So, you start your first 50 on the top of the clock (when the second hand is on the 60) and you finish on the 45.

    ?That 50 took you 45 seconds to swim, and now you have 15 seconds rest before you have to start No. 2.

    ?With any interval on an even minute (i.e., 1, 2, 3 ... 10 minutes) you will always leave at the same time you started. So, on the above set, you would always start the next 50 on the top of the clock.

Is it OK to alter the prescribed workout or cut it short?
Let the coach and your teammates in the lane know if you plan to alter the set for any reason. Always be courteous to your teammates. As far as cutting the entire workout short, feel free to get out whenever you feel it is necessary.

Can I use fins or other speed-enhancement devices to keep up?
This should be left up to the coach. Personally, I feel that if equipment is being steadily used to keep up in a lane, the person needs to move into a slower lane.

However, using accessories such as fins toward the end of a particularly hard workout when your stroke is beginning to deteriorate may help you maintain proper stroke technique. But try not to make this an everyday habit.

How do I go about building skills such as flip-turns and other strokes?
This is a benefit of working out with a Masters team. The coach should provide this instruction as a part of the workout. However, a one-on-one with most coaches is available and, depending on the amount of time it takes, may not cost you anything beyond your Masters fee.

How long will it take to graduate from being a rookie in the program?
If you are a beginner and you're getting proper technical instruction along with good conditioning work, it should take approximately one to four months before you feel like a regular member of the gang.

Now get out there, make some friends and improve your swimming!


Bill Weaver is a former U.S. National Swim Team member and NCAA All-American at Ohio State University. He coaches swimming in Carlsbad, California.

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