View Full Version : Always Fast or a late bloomer?

October 1st, 2006, 07:27 PM
This is something I have been wondering about for a while. To the swimmers that are REALLY Fast, like top 10 national times...were you always fast or did it come later in life? If it came later, how did you get so fast, was it great coaching or just working hard on your own. I was thinking about this because many people are born fast runners ( I am not one of them )I was wondering if swimming is sort of the same. Thanks

The Fortress
October 1st, 2006, 08:26 PM
Don't despair. You can be a late bloomer. Like many sports, for some, swimming comes effortlessly. But talent cannot replace hard work and good coaching entirely. I was pretty fast when I was young, but was only ranked as a young age grouper and was not in the Top 10 as I grew older and through college. I was competitive, had a nice career, but wasn't going to the Olympics. I stopped swimming for 25 years after burnout and family and what not and just went back 14 months ago. Because I had always stayed in reasonable shape during my life, I'm now in the Top 10 in lots of events as a 45 year old. But I think it really helped me to have a great coach the first 10 months or so who straightened out all the kinks in my strokes. I'm a real believer in proper technique and drilling. It's especially helped my butterfly and freestyle, which was very old school. Once you have an efficient technique, you can ramp up the yardage a bit, although overtraining isn't really necessary unless you want to do lots of long, open water events. I only train about 10-15,000 yards a week max. I train some on my own and some with a team, but I really think it helps to join a masters team and have people motivate you in practice. Strenghtening the old core helps too. There are a couple other people on my team who didn't swim in college that have logged some Top 10 times. Good luck! Leslie

October 1st, 2006, 08:38 PM
I'm a late bloomer. I swam in HS and college but was a slow grinder. Always envied those who seemed effortlessly fast, but could never understand how they did.
That puzzle is what sent me into coaching. 34 years later I'm still coaching, still learning the answers and using my own experience as the test tube for what I teach others. I've seen my greatest improvement since I turned 50 and this year, at 55, equaled the times I did as an 18 y.o. college freshman during the scy (pool races) season.
During open water season I won two USMS Long Distance championships and broke two USMS Long Distance records. If someone had predicted that as a possibility 35 years ago -- or even five years ago -- I wouldn't have believed them.
Since my physical capacities are nowhere near those I enjoyed 35 years ago -- and since my training volume is 40% lower - the only possible explanation for my late blooming success is technique.

Here's a brief excerpt from an article "Who wants to be a genius?" published in the Jan 11th 2001 edition of The Economist:

THOMAS EDISON's famous formula for genius was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Modern-day students of geniuses and prodigies, though, argue over the relative contributions of more tangible factors-of genetics, physiology, hours spent in training. Most of us have always believed that geniuses have special genes. Almost nobody takes the opposite stance: that prodigy performance, in any field, lies within the grasp of anyone who cares to try hard enough.

Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State University, falls into the minority camp. Given 10 years of deliberate practice, Dr Ericsson says, anyone should be able to attain prodigy-level performance in his discipline of choice.

October 2nd, 2006, 05:03 PM
Thanks for the replies. Since I don't have a coach and I swim alone and actually enjoy it, I am pretty self motivated swimming 5-6x a week 3-3500 yds. at a time usually long ( 500 yds.) intervals, what are some good videos or other methods of getting better. I am not really slow but nowhere near as fast as I would like. Thanks again, Paul

The Fortress
October 2nd, 2006, 09:05 PM
Wow! If you're swimming that much on your own, you are very self-motivated. About the most I can do on my own is 3,000 before boredom starts to set in. One thing I like about swimming on a team (which I only do 2-3 times per week) is that you swim against fast people and it makes you faster. So if you want to get faster, that might help. Also, it's tough to get fast doing just 500 intervals. That's an awful lot of what I call LSD (long slow distance) training. That's valuable to do, but you have to mix in some shorter distances too (10 x 100 or 12 x 150 with a 50 easy after each 3). There are tons of workouts you can get on line or in the swimming magazines. You can go on Terry's total immersion website and even watch live video clips of his drills for specific strokes. Technique is just as important as hard training. Not everyone has a great feel for the water. I didn't at first. My strength was my best asset. But I've really worked on my strokes, and it's helped. Good luck. And get your self entered in a meet! There are lots of distance meets. That will really motivate you. Leslie

October 3rd, 2006, 12:33 PM
Thanks for the encouraging words Leslie, much appreciated.

Allen Stark
October 3rd, 2006, 05:00 PM
I started competitive swimming at 14,which age groupers consider pretty late,and have been swimming in meets ever since. Even though I swam in college I was at best a middling swimmer then. I did my fastest times in my early 30s. I'm slower now than I was then(I'm 57) but the trick is to get slower slowly.

October 3rd, 2006, 05:26 PM
I began swimming with my HS team from 10th to 12th grade, but failed to qualify for the league championship. I swam "ugly" in college and by training longer and harder than anyone else improved to 5:12 500 and 18:02 1650 in my 2nd year, but then suffered overtraining symptoms both of the next two years and could manage only 5:17 and 18:24 as a senior. Those frustrations led me into coaching.

Resumed swimming at 38 and improved steadily for the next three years, peaking with times of 5:27 and 18:53 at age 41. Reduced my volume and intensity over the next 12 years, due to work and family pressures, but continued to improve my technique incrementally. Times declined gradually to about 6:15 and 21:30.

Set ambitious goals and trained for them over the last two years -- though as I've written I've spent about 10 months of that period recovering from surgery or injury (not swim related). Still I improved to 5:41 and 19:52 last May and have set my sights on matching my best Masters time, from when I was 41, next May at age 56.

I think the most exciting area of future discovery in sports performance will be in how the serious senior/Masters athlete can reduce or arrest age-related declines. At the moment, I'm more interested in what we can learn from world champions in the 45-75 age brackets than in what we can learn from those in the 15-25 age brackets.

October 3rd, 2006, 05:38 PM
I agree with you Terry, it is amazing what some of these " older" athletes are doing, in all sports, I spent the last 15 years as a masters rower and there were some very fast rowers over 50 and 60. The reason for my original post was to see if anyone out there became faster as they got older. It appears that it can be done, I swam till I was 18 then became a lap swimmer doing 1800 yd swims in the 26-27 minute range for the next 30 years. Now I want to see how fast I can get and to be faster in my 50's than my 20's. This Forum has been a Great source of information and inspiration for someone without team mates to bounce things off. Thanks.