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Syd
August 13th, 2009, 11:20 AM
How many of you swim on your own and have had success stories? Masters PB's or better, perhaps? What difficulties do you face on your own?

I have often heard people give the advice to join a team, stating that the friendly competition is good motivation. Is it possible to be motivated enough whilst training by yourself and really excel?

gshaw
August 13th, 2009, 11:44 AM
I haven't swum on a team or had coached workouts since I began swimming Masters, five or six years ago. Usually they swim before dawn! And in my case there are no teams close by anyway so I go to the YMCAs. I have had some of my life time best swims (I quit competing after high school and one year of college).

I think in most cases it is a good idea to swim with a team and to have experienced swimmers who can give you ideas, share technique, etc. I have heard that some coaches can be very helpful. Finally, depending on your make up, for most it helps to have a group that "expects" you to show up and to help push you in workouts. I just happen to be kind of obsessive and a bit masochistic so I don't need group support to put myself in pain.

I think healthier souls probably do better swimming with a workout group.

The Fortress
August 13th, 2009, 11:53 AM
I haven't swum on a team or had coached workouts since I began swimming Masters, five or six years ago. Usually they swim before dawn! And in my case there are no teams close by anyway so I go to the YMCAs. I have had some of my life time best swims (I quit competing after high school and one year of college).

I think in most cases it is a good idea to swim with a team and to have experienced swimmers who can give you ideas, share technique, etc. I have heard that some coaches can be very helpful. Finally, depending on your make up, for most it helps to have a group that "expects" you to show up and to help push you in workouts. I just happen to be kind of obsessive and a bit masochistic so I don't need group support to put myself in pain.

I think healthier souls probably do better swimming with a workout group.

Same story for me, and I agree with what Greg has said. I've been training mostly solo and uncoached for 4+ years. Masters PBs and still seem to be improving.

I think it might be somewhat easier for sprinters to train alone. My biggest challenge is doing hard aerobic work solo. I don't do much of it, focusing on race pace work instead, but it's hard to do intense short rest stuff without a team. It's also, of course, hard to get feedback on technique training solo.

RobbieD
August 13th, 2009, 12:01 PM
You don't have to but it helps! It can be very hard to maintain your motivation and pace when you're in the pool by yourself. Sometimes I'm really good at it and sometimes I completely lack focus. However when I work with a group I'm almost always "on."

When I started swimming masters (after a 10 year break from the pool), I spent about a year working out totally by myself and I managed to drop time and get faster the whole time. I had set a major goal of catching up to my 100 fly time from high school and after probably about 7-8 months I did it. I think the main reason that I was able to progress rapidly and consistently is that I went to as many meets as I could to get a good reading of where I was at and what I was doing right and wrong in my swims. It was also fun and kept my motivation levels up.

After SCY Nationals in May I started to do 2 workouts a week with a group of masters. At first it was really hard to adjust to working out with people, and to keep up with them! But now I love it and I credit the time spent with my workout group for most of the big improvements I've had recently in some of my times. I've found it valuable to the point that I'm looking to replace my other workouts that I'm still doing solo with group or team workouts.

Either way I think you can be successful as long as you put the effort into it, but I can almost guarantee you'll get better faster if you workout with others.

Redbird Alum
August 13th, 2009, 12:02 PM
I swim alone, because of distance, lack of local groups, and work.

If there was a close team, I would definately make the jump for the same reasons Fort names above. Self-motivation is one thing... but having someone else to gasp with, and nod and go with in the midst of a tough set makes those sets more tolerable and manageable. You feel accountable to the group, in addition to yourself.

The other big plus is having someone to share ideas with, and to have available to critique your stroke.

orca1946
August 13th, 2009, 12:06 PM
20 years on my own & 12 with teams has made me MUCH better! I would never work myself as hard as I do with the team & lane mates that push me even harder ! It's more fun as well.

Lump
August 13th, 2009, 12:07 PM
I've been solo for the last year, but I'm at the point where I've plateaued and need a push. I can only go so hard and so far on my own and then I just don't have that extra to push me to go harder. I really miss the days of swimming club & college when you have a team and everyone suffers together. I'm getting ready to start up with my local masters team once my swim pass expires (since I'm paid up for 3 more weeks).

Plus, at the pool I swim at I'm not allowed to use the blocks to practice starts, etc.....need a "coach" on deck. Also, its kind of hard to do relays when you are solo!! :D

SLOmmafan
August 13th, 2009, 12:47 PM
My key is that I need a coach - someone standing on deck and in a sense forcing me to do every last year and set they have in mind. The only thing worse then me not motivated to swim is me with two or three swim buddies all not motivated to swim. Then we just end up floating around chatting until we are cold enough to jump in the spa!

Chlorine
August 13th, 2009, 01:26 PM
How experienced do you have to be join a team? What does ones fitness level have to be like? I just started swimming again 3 or so weeks ago, initially to lose some weight, but I have fallen in love with it. I know how to "swim" in the recreational, not exactly 100% proper technique sense, and am working hard at trying to get better, as I would like to enter some OW swims/friendly competitions one of these years. So in that sense, I think I would benefit from some coaching and teamwork (not unless someone has a better suggestion). I am in Canada though, so I am not sure how and if our Masters groups differ from the U.S ones.

Alexander Hughes
August 13th, 2009, 03:10 PM
How experienced do you have to be join a team? What does ones fitness level have to be like? I just started swimming again 3 or so weeks ago, initially to lose some weight, but I have fallen in love with it. I know how to "swim" in the recreational, not exactly 100% proper technique sense, and am working hard at trying to get better, as I would like to enter some OW swims/friendly competitions one of these years. So in that sense, I think I would benefit from some coaching and teamwork (not unless someone has a better suggestion). I am in Canada though, so I am not sure how and if our Masters groups differ from the U.S ones.

In high school to make Jr. Varsity you just had to show up. As long as you put in the time the coach helped you get where you needed to go.

From what I've seen, the same is true of all the masters programs. If you're able to swim 25y without stopping, and have a general idea of what freestyle looks like I don't see why they wouldn't take you in. At first it'll be frustrating seeing people do 3,000y sets with only 1 or 2 minutes total break, but you'll get to that point too after a couple months of showing up every day and putting your best effort in.

When I started high school swimming we did a 500y for time, it took me 10:58 to complete it. After 6 months of swimming with the team I had it down to a 6:45.32. You'll make remarkable progress if you just keep at it.

hofffam
August 13th, 2009, 03:19 PM
Technically I swim with a team. I am in the pool the same time as other Masters swimmers. However, 90+% of my workout is done on my own pace and different time than the other swimmers. Much of this is because I start 30 minutes later than the 6 a.m. crowd, and 30 minutes earlier than the 7 a.m. crowd. Since I am unwilling to get up even earlier, or get to work later, that's how it works out. And my "team" is loosely structure which means we can swim whenever.

Most of the time I use between half and three quarters of the planned workout.

I am 50, have been swimming for 4 years now and doing PBs.

Like Fortress - I have a hard time with aerobic sets. One - I don't like them anyways. Two - it is hard to swim them hard relying purely on my motivation (or lack of).

But I most like to have people to swim with on sprints - because it is more like racing.

aquageek
August 13th, 2009, 03:24 PM
I think you have to swim when your life, family, work, etc allow. When you have found that time that works for your swimming if there is a coached team available I tend to believe that you will benefit more from that versus flying solo.

Some people can also train solo very effectively. This is not the case with me in the least.

jessicafk11
August 13th, 2009, 08:26 PM
Much like some others here, I practice alone as I don't really have access to a team near me. If I did I would definitely join though as I question if I am truly able to push myself enough on my own.

frankiej
August 13th, 2009, 09:23 PM
I wish I had a coach to yell at me when I was doing something wrong.

Although I am motivated and obsessive with swimming, I only have myself to gauge my status. I can't see how I'm doing from the outside the water. Maybe someday. While I have friends that swim they aren't "experts" or "coaches", they just give little tips to help.

Chlorine
August 13th, 2009, 09:38 PM
In high school to make Jr. Varsity you just had to show up. As long as you put in the time the coach helped you get where you needed to go.

From what I've seen, the same is true of all the masters programs. If you're able to swim 25y without stopping, and have a general idea of what freestyle looks like I don't see why they wouldn't take you in. At first it'll be frustrating seeing people do 3,000y sets with only 1 or 2 minutes total break, but you'll get to that point too after a couple months of showing up every day and putting your best effort in.

When I started high school swimming we did a 500y for time, it took me 10:58 to complete it. After 6 months of swimming with the team I had it down to a 6:45.32. You'll make remarkable progress if you just keep at it.

Greatly appreciate the input. I think I am going to give myself a few months solo in the pool and then check out some local groups. It will be exciting to get some coach input and meet some new people!

Allen Stark
August 13th, 2009, 10:27 PM
I have been swimming Masters 35 years and have had less than 10 coached workouts during that time.If you are going to have success by your self you are going to have to learn coaching.You need to know about stroke mechanics,pace,aerobic threshold,lactic acid tolerance etc.It is also important to do regular video tape review and periodic stroke analysis by someone who knows what they are doing.

Alexander Hughes
August 13th, 2009, 11:54 PM
I have been swimming Masters 35 years and have had less than 10 coached workouts during that time.If you are going to have success by your self you are going to have to learn coaching.You need to know about stroke mechanics,pace,aerobic threshold,lactic acid tolerance etc.It is also important to do regular video tape review and periodic stroke analysis by someone who knows what they are doing.

These are all very good points. Swimming by yourself when you're first learning can be good to build your endurance but be warned: if you're learning bad habits or techniques it can be a pain to re-learn later.

I think everyone could benefit from having a coached workout, whether they design it themselves or not. The biggest benefit of having a coach is having an experienced set of eyes watching you and giving you feedback on what you're doing well, and what needs some work. Coaches also have access to information that might be difficult for an every day swimmer to find about many aspects of swimming.

Swimming is a physically demanding sport, but technique is what makes you go fast and do so efficiently. I see a lot of strong, slim guys in my college pool every day. Usually I'm able to kick laps around them, they don't realize so many things that I feel are basic principles of swimming. No matter how athletic and fit they are, if they can't get the technique down I'll beat them to the finish every time, and have energy left over. They may never finish...

While a coach is not essential to swimming, I wouldn't trade my first months of swimming with a coach and team for anything in the world. It was a very fun time, and I learned a lot that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Best of luck to you regardless of the route you go, just keep the enthusiasm up swimming is a wonderful activity.

Lui
August 14th, 2009, 07:03 AM
20 years on my own & 12 with teams has made me MUCH better! I would never work myself as hard as I do with the team & lane mates that push me even harder ! It's more fun as well.

I train alone because I used to train with a team so I basically train the same way I used to train with a team.
Having said that, I do tend to cut myself more slack that my coach did:D

Chlorine
August 14th, 2009, 09:39 AM
These are all very good points. Swimming by yourself when you're first learning can be good to build your endurance but be warned: if you're learning bad habits or techniques it can be a pain to re-learn later.

I think everyone could benefit from having a coached workout, whether they design it themselves or not. The biggest benefit of having a coach is having an experienced set of eyes watching you and giving you feedback on what you're doing well, and what needs some work. Coaches also have access to information that might be difficult for an every day swimmer to find about many aspects of swimming.

Swimming is a physically demanding sport, but technique is what makes you go fast and do so efficiently. I see a lot of strong, slim guys in my college pool every day. Usually I'm able to kick laps around them, they don't realize so many things that I feel are basic principles of swimming. No matter how athletic and fit they are, if they can't get the technique down I'll beat them to the finish every time, and have energy left over. They may never finish...

While a coach is not essential to swimming, I wouldn't trade my first months of swimming with a coach and team for anything in the world. It was a very fun time, and I learned a lot that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Best of luck to you regardless of the route you go, just keep the enthusiasm up swimming is a wonderful activity.

That's an interesting perspective indeed. I guess alot of beginners, like myself, get initially intimidated by the idea of a coach. Always comes across as something for professional competitors, rather than the average joe trying to improve. I still have to save up before I can afford joining a group, but you all make great points for getting some coaching and joining a team.

Allen Stark
August 14th, 2009, 11:27 AM
One of the coaches I get tips from is Dennis Baker,who is about as serious a competitor as they come,but as a coach he says his greatest joy is taking adults with no experience and helping them to love swimming.

Red60
August 14th, 2009, 12:00 PM
I swim with various buddies who are fitness swimmers and one or two who swim competitively. I have been to some Masters workouts, which are very good, but I'm not willing to be in the pool at 5:15. I do sprint stuff on my own.

I am certain that if I trained with a team I would go faster and see improvement. I'm stuck on a bit of a plateau, which is frustrating. And by now (three years back into swimming competitively after 27 away!) I am somewhat compulsive about swimming. But at least for the time being I am not willing to make that jump to coached workouts and a different kind of accountability.

Fact is I'm happy with the fitness benefits of what I do on my own. It's fun and it occupies just enough of my brain to ward off other forms of compulsiveness. Which, when I am honest with myself, is really all I need from it. The attempt to lower my times is just a ruse, to keep me engaged in the activity. But for some others, I think it may be the other way around.

tdrop
August 14th, 2009, 01:27 PM
I've enjoyed both training solo and training with a group. Training with a group is more fun for sure and it is easier because I don't think about stopping. You get caught up in the momentum of the group. You don't have to think up workouts either...which is a plus and a minus.

I also like training solo because I can tailor the workouts to my exact needs (or what I think I need anyway). This past season I trained twice with a group and once on my own. It worked out very well.

For the next couple of months I think I'm going to try to go it alone. I'm getting sick of getting up at 5am. That's the only reason though. I just don't like getting up that early. It makes my day so looong. But after I'm tired of swimming alone i'll have to start getting up early again.

Dolphin 2
August 14th, 2009, 01:45 PM
Actually, instead of swimming on a team, you might try swimming in the ocean during shark season and that would help you improve.

There's nothing like seeing that gray fin emerging from the water to increase motivation and improve speed. :bolt:

Yeah I know this comment was pretty tacky however the board's been pretty slow today, and I thought I'd lighten things up. :D

Dolphin 2

SwimGuyNo1
August 14th, 2009, 01:56 PM
I'm with tdrop on this. Great fun in a group but the solo sessions mean I can do just what I want. No drills!!!

dsyphers
August 16th, 2009, 10:40 PM
I came back to swimming after a 24 year break from master's swimming. I've been training for one year. My first 3-4 months I trained solo exclusively. Since then I do some workouts with a master's group, and some on my own -- about a 50-50 split between the 2. But even when working with the group I often modify the intervals to better match what I think I need at the moment. In the first week I started, I had a hard time completing 300 yards at 1:30 per 100. Now I easily do 3000+ yard workouts, five per week, with almost 20% of the yardage faster than 1:10 per 100. It is really only recently that I feel the group master's workouts, as designed, are a good match for where I am. They do, however, help you keep going when you're lacking motivation - peer pressure and all that.

I think you can do a lot on your own, especially when coming back to swimming, if you keep track of workouts, times, splits, etc. and can see how you're improving. I tend to obsess more than many on the data aspects, but I keep a spreadsheet with what I did with each workout and a lot of charts tracking my improvement. To get myself back in shape quickly, I made sure to distribute my efforts between distance work (500yd to 1000yd), intermediate distances (200 - 400), 100 yd. interval work, and 50 yd. interval work. I adjusted rest intervals to allow for recovery -- initially much longer than any workout group would do. By having a focus on improving benchmarks in each category, and having a different prime focus every workout, I could push myself more than I would be able to do by trying to stick with the group workout (where I would have had to forego much speed work because I needed so long to recover).

By working at a wide range of distances, and tracking my progress, it was easy to stay motivated, set new goals and get myself back to where I was around age 28 within a year. But I also find it easy to obsess on things like how I'm improving (just ask me about my 40 or so graphs of different ways to measure improvement). The only other thing I'd add is that it is important to know what good mechanics should feel like. If you don't, then you should try to get someone to coach you on that as you improve. In the first 4-6 months of my "comeback" I spent a fair fraction of the workout trying to keep the mechanics good with speed still a focus but secondary. It really helps in the long run. So one year later I'm at the point where the group workouts and time intervals are just about right for me, with occasional adjustments so I can push hard and let my pulse recover. But I still find I like the workouts I structure, and do on my own, to be some of my favorites.

Speedo
August 17th, 2009, 07:49 AM
Having a coach has been a help for me, at least, after being away from the sport for a while. As others have mentioned, there are numerous advantages to having a coach. I just wanted to point out that if the coach is not doing sets that you like/prefer to do, you can vary your effort within the set while doing the same yardage/intervals. Of course, you may want to ask the coach first, as he/she may have a strong feeling about doing the set a certain way (e.g recovery, hypoxic).

Case in point- one AM in April and getting close to the end of my season, I decided I'd incorporate some sprint work into a set of 300s. I didn't ask the coach before I added some extra rest so I could do some fast 100s within the 300s. The interval I did was not slower than the intervals for the slower lanes, but after the first few he came over and made it clear that I needed to do the set as aerobic/short-rest as prescribed, and for his trouble he 'suggested' a pull-bouy for the remaining 300s at a faster interval.

So, keep in mind that you can modify coached sets to suit your needs, but be sure to ask the coach first. Good luck.

Allen Stark
August 17th, 2009, 11:57 PM
It is my understanding that many Masters workouts are more interested conditioning than speed.So it may be that you need to workout at least some on your on to swim fast.

LukeM3
August 18th, 2009, 08:42 PM
Swimming with a team is much better because a decent coach will check your progress. If you improve, they're likely to move you into a faster lane. This means you'll have to maintain a greater tempo. You won't always get to go last in drills and you'll be motivated by not wanting to hold up the others in your lane. The only slight drawback that I saw was that with a bigger team it was difficult to get individual attention unless you asked--so I learned to ask. (-:

Not that I blaze through the water, but the fastest I swam is when I swam with the Masters.

ande
August 18th, 2009, 11:51 PM
I train with a Team and a changing group of guys and girls who share my lane
Sometimes I modify practices to fit my training plan, to taper or fit my life

It's difficult for me to do long hard sets on my own, but it is possible.

I stick by my recommendation of
Tip 265 Train harder, smarter, faster, further, more often, with a coach, with a team, in a convenient facility & at a convenient Time

Each person has to do what works best for them

ande

humanpunchingbag
August 19th, 2009, 12:57 AM
It's difficult for me to do long hard sets on my own, but it is possible.



This is a comment that I have seen repeated several places here. Correct me if I am completely wrong, but I assume that the individuals who make these comments are specifically referring to the long, short rest interval training sets that are typical of aerobic and endurance training. This would be compared high intensity race pace sets with substantial recovery time.

For myself, I find the long, short rest interval sets much easier to do on an individual basis. This is for several reasons:

1. I can build into the set. Start off at a pace time that I can make with moderate effort and just start peeling off time as I get into a rhythm. An example might be a set I did the other day: 5 x 100y at 1:20, drop 5 seconds to 5x100 at 1:15, then down to 5x100 at 1:10. That last set was touch and go and I had a distinct urge to upchuck after that last 100. Either way, by the time I was really rolling I was in the groove and unwilling to back down because I had set a goal for myself.

2. The short rest intervals tends to allow me to dominate the lane. Sounds horrible and selfish, but I find that if I take too much rest some well meaning and probably deserving soul decides that I must be finished my work-out and hops into the lane to do his 20 laps down the center of the lane with five seconds rest at each end. As much as other members of the public have every right to be in the lane, it destroys any chance of me doing my work-out (without destroying their work-out). I find that if you keep going at a short interval, the "intimidation factor" is just sufficient that only the brave and the serious swimmer comes into join me. My bad I guess.

3. Holy smoke can those long set, short-interval sessions gobble up the meterage. I like to get in at least 4000 meters per work-out and I only have 75 minutes to do it. You just cannot do too many race-pace sprint sets and get that distance covered.

4. Is it only me, or are those long rest, high-intensity race-pace sets horribly intimidating. I almost always end up exhausted, gasping and just about vomitting after a just a few race pace sets. I try stuff like 25/50/75/ 100 sprint sets trying to maintain my race-pace for 200 or 400 meters (depending on the day) and those sets just blow me out for days. I must be a complete wimp.

The last reason, my fear of race pace sets, is the best reason for me to train with a team at least once weekly; it forces me out of my safe envelope and into an evil place I would not likely go without a coach to push me.

sydned
August 19th, 2009, 10:30 PM
I credit my coaches with my ability to even be a Master's Swimmer. 6+ years ago, when they started this program, I was swimming for triathlon only, although loving the swim part most of all, after taking beginning swimming several years before that in graduate school. I credit my coaches, who also happen to coach two very winning UMASS AMHERST men's and women's swim teams, with my development as a swimmer. With the companionship of my teammates, and the critical eye my coaches have on my swimming, the video taping, and all the rest of it, I have worked my way up to completing my first 10-mile swim this summer. And it's all because they showed me how to be a swimmer. Granted, I have a long way to go, but I push myself and learn each time I am at one of the 3x per week practices that are on our team schedule.
We have had some pool closure issue this summer, and I sorely miss both the companionship, the motivation, and the education I get each time I swim with my team. I swim 2-3 x a week outside of team practice, mostly for distance, and it just ain't the same....

tdrop
August 19th, 2009, 10:48 PM
I find it hard to do anything alone that is really hard. It can be a long and difficult endurance workout or a short fast long rest set. They can both be physically and mentally difficult. I'll start with a great plan and then blow up before I finish.

So, now when I'm working out alone, I write workouts that are realistic for me. That way I finish and feel good after its over.

SolarEnergy
August 20th, 2009, 01:23 PM
I do not know about you guys in the US but here up North in Canada, I'd say that a certain number of Master Squads are coached by unskilled coaches (either young age group swimmers, outdated coaches etc).

Lots of talk, lots of poor advices, lots of doubtful sets.

But yet, for motivation factor I still like to share some workouts with these folks.

So I'd say the ideal (at least for me) is a combination of both. So solo work where I can really take the time to address my issues and really work on weaknesses etc (this is where most improvement takes place) and some Master Swimmers' sorts of bizarre sets with little bits of everything, but not enough focus on anything.

For the record, I like straight sets. Bring me several reps of 100, 200, 300, 50 where I can nail hard onto something. Sets with multiple of 25 where you leave the kick board the other end of the pool, then swim 75m then take back the board, with some talk (and freezing) all the time. Sprint sets with 10s or rest between each rep (that sucks big time), warming up by beginning with some pull buoy work (allergic to this). I find too many of these in MS Squads but as long as I have enough training time *by my own* its fine.

Ahelee Sue Osborn
August 20th, 2009, 01:36 PM
You don't have to but it helps! It can be very hard to maintain your motivation and pace when you're in the pool by yourself. Sometimes I'm really good at it and sometimes I completely lack focus. However when I work with a group I'm almost always "on."

Either way I think you can be successful as long as you put the effort into it, but I can almost guarantee you'll get better faster if you workout with others.

Rob - you also attend nearly every masters swim meet possible!
(see Rob's SPMA blog @ http://www.robaquatics.com)

This regular racing and the meeting up with swimmers/coaches gives you valuable feedback for your solo training.

RobbieD
August 20th, 2009, 08:40 PM
Yeah I guess showing up to half a million swim meets doesn't hurt :) I'm really lucky that I had people like you keeping an eye on me and helping me out where I needed it!

I could have never maintained the solo training so successfully if I wasn't out competing on regular basis. I needed to do it for a few reasons. 1. I needed to measure my progress 2. It kept me excited about swimming 3. It gave me a chance to socialize with other swimmers and get feedback on my races.