View Full Version : Non-competition vision

October 5th, 2006, 11:15 AM
Picture that you have been suddenly transported to an alternative universe in which none of the swimmers enjoys competition. You find yourself the president of an organization sort of like USMS and have been put in charge of designing programs for swimmers who aren't at all interested in racing but who enjoy swimming and have a desire to improve. What do you think an organization like USMS would look like under such a scenario?

A couple of things have been suggested to me:

Think of swim clinics like TI offers but based on a largely volunteer basis like USMS is instead of having an entrepreneurial basis. Instead of going to meets to race swimmers would be going to clinics to learn, and yes, test their progress.

Consider the number of person-hours needed to organize a swim meet, just in terms of officials. A tremendous amount of effort is put into ensuring a "fair race" and that times swum at one meet can fairly be compared to times swum at another. If you were able to get the same number of people to volunteer the same number of hours and undergo the same level of training aimed in a more instructional vein what could you accomplish? It seems to me that you could organize really great clinics, that non-competitive swimmers would benefit from a lot more than swimming in a meet and perhaps still obtain a similar social experience.

Would it be possible to produce tools for evaluating swimmers progress that would be more informative than just time in a race? For example could one use stroke checklists to give more feedback on technique? Could you develop standardized evaluation tools that, for example, used inexpensive video equipment to do a detailed analysis of a swim, including all the stuff currently used for analysis of elite swimmers such as reaction time, distance under water, time to 15m, stroke count and turnover, turn time, etc..

I suspect that there is a lot of great stuff being done at larger more established clubs that have really good coaches that could be captured and documented and codified and used in the many clubs that are currently struggling to find a good coach in their area that they can afford.

What can you envision?

October 10th, 2006, 02:07 PM
Actually I believe the American Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/) sort of already does this, they are just not solely dedicated to the idea. I used to be a Red Cross WSI (water safety instructor, qualified to hand out lifesaving certificates), but I lost it because I did not keep it up (which can be done mostly by giving free swim lessons and clinics).

I’m all for the “information is free” theory that I first saw in Steven Levy’s book “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hackers:_Heroes_of_the_Computer_Revolution)”. In my quest for swim info (on the web) I’ve found that there is a substantial gap between beginner info and super advanced info. The super swimmer sites frequently have good stuff on them, but too often they are mixed in among mass quantities of super detailed and highly technical descriptions (that require frequent use of a dictionary).

I’ve long wished to see more sites with just basic useful info, and lately I think they have been emerging, so hopefully the gap will be filled. There are way more average swimmers out there who would benefit from more condensed and simpler technique info (as opposed to the few beginners and Olympic class swimmers), so you’d think there would be more sites targeting them.

It is hard for me to imagine a place where no one enjoys competition. I don’t consider myself to be all that competitive, but there is absolutely no substitute for standing up on the block in a meet, even if all my “competitors” are 10-20yrs older than I am. There are not may pool meets where I live now, which is probably just as well because I was getting burnt out on not having more “average” people to compete against in my age bracket

Affordability is another issue. I’m convinced that swimming is a “rich mans” sport. I go through great effort to ensure I have easy access to a pool year round, yet it does not escape me that I am typically driving the oldest and rattiest car in the lot at the pool.

What can I envision?

Maybe some sort of mentor program. I see folks at the pool all the time that I know could improve a lot with just a little bit of help. I used to volunteer advice, but now generally keep my mouth shut unless asked (there has been at least one thread on this topic here (http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?p=44562)).

October 10th, 2006, 04:04 PM
Some ideas:

- Do the same distance/time at a lower heart rate.
- Do the same distance/time with less breath
- Perform a longer push-off
- Increase the distance
- Encourage trial of stroke that swimmer thought inattractive

All of these has a common denominator which is ... time performance. Therefore the best measurement instrument is still a race.

October 11th, 2006, 10:10 AM
I find it very hard to comprehend why competitive swimmers can’t grasp the concept that there are other ways of measuring success and fitness than swimming a race. I find it even harder to understand in light of the fact that competitive swimmers frequently talk about, and are very proud of, their personal bests. A personal best has nothing to do with whether or not you placed in an event, it means that you challenged yourself, set a goal, and succeeded. Why must a swimmer who isn’t interested in competing be told that swimming a race is THE WAY to measure success/fitness and improvement? Isn’t it possible that fitness swimmers can set and meet PBs without competing? The “Competition Blinders” need to come off.

I like the idea of different levels of achievement. A USMS task force, made up of coaches and fitness swimmers, should develop the different levels. The last thing a fitness swimmer wants is a competitive swimmer telling him/her what he/she should be doing. The beginning levels should be low so even beginning swimmers will not be intimidated and to provide early success. The achievement criteria for successive levels should be increasingly more difficult to attain with emphasis on achieving PBs while working toward the criteria. The highest levels should require the swimmer to demonstrate superior skills in all four strokes.

As the swimmer progresses through the levels, there should be an emphasis on meeting a speed criteria because speed does measure fitness, and is an indication of good technique. However, these criteria should not be equivalent to qualifying times. Remember the emphasis is on FITNESS, not on fitness to compete. The difficult question the task force will have to address is “What time is a measure of good fitness?” A possible starting point for determining the time criteria might be Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper’s research. For example, one of several fitness criteria for a male 40 to 49 years old might be swimming an 800 free in 16 min, 30 sec.

Who would judge whether or not a swimmer met the criteria? His or her coach, of course. The coach will submit a form to USMS affirming that he/she has ‘tested’ the swimmer and that the swimmer met or exceeded the level criteria. The swimmer should also be required to pay a fee to USMS in order to be officially recognized at that level. This raises another question. What about members who are not affiliated with any team? There must be something in place so these swimmers will have as much access to the ‘fitness program and recognition’ as those who are members of a team. A possibility might be regional fitness meets, or, perhaps, testing should not be allowed at the team level, and all testing should be done at regional fitness meets.

Peter Cruise
October 11th, 2006, 12:51 PM
Good points, Lainey. Good to see a post by you.

October 11th, 2006, 01:47 PM
Thank you Peter

October 11th, 2006, 02:14 PM
The swimmer should also be required to pay a fee to USMS in order to be officially recognized at that level.

He or she could write a check, payable to USMS, like you did when you joined.

October 11th, 2006, 02:43 PM
Gull, this is not a thread about why or why not a swimmer who doesn't have access to a club should join USMS. It is a thread about what USMS could do to encourage fitness swimmers. I guess what you are trying to say is that my opinion doesn't count because I'm not a member. Unfortunately, USMS administration doesn't agree with you because if they did these forums would be for members only.


October 11th, 2006, 04:56 PM
As the swimmer progresses through the levels, there should be an emphasis on meeting a speed criteria because speed does measure fitness, and is an indication of good technique. However, these criteria should not be equivalent to qualifying times. Remember the emphasis is on FITNESS, not on fitness to compete. The difficult question the task force will have to address is “What time is a measure of good fitness?” A possible starting point for determining the time criteria might be Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper’s research. For example, one of several fitness criteria for a male 40 to 49 years old might be swimming an 800 free in 16 min, 30 sec.


The problem I see with this suggestion is that swimming is so technique driven that swimming x distance in y time bears no relation to overall fitness. I know plenty of tri-types who are as fit as can be, but who struggle just to get through an 800 because their stroke mechanics stink. I also see a lot of fat, out of shape former swimmers who can bust out a reasonably decent 800 when called upon to do so by simply relying on once-learned, never-forgotten tricks and techniques.

October 11th, 2006, 06:39 PM
That shouldn't be the only criteria, just a possible one. A checklist on technique as Lindsay suggests could be another one. A committee made up of fitness swimmers would define the goals of fitness swimming and from those goals the criteria would be developed.


October 11th, 2006, 07:25 PM
The last thing a fitness swimmer wants is a competitive swimmer telling him/her what he/she should be doing.

I wish rather than continuing to state what are completely untrue statements about USMS and their swimmers that you would just once, just one single time, visit a large USMS team and participate in a workout. All you have to do is visit. I assure you that your views, fueled by ignorance, would change.

A fitness meet? That's what's called a swim meet. There are USMS swim meets all the time. You should attend one. They are very fun for all levels of swimmer, ALL LEVELS.

October 11th, 2006, 07:40 PM
same thing goes for you Geek, this isn't a thread about who/what/why of clubs. If you can contribute something constructive to this discussion please do I would love to hear it.

You prove my point about why the committee should only be made up of coaches and fitness swimmer... you can not see beyond competition as a measure of fitness. Think differently, take off the competition blinders.

My vision of what a fitness meet for not competitive swimmers would be very similar to a swim meet. Except, instead of events, tere would be time trials to determine if the swimmer met time criteria.. there would be stroke judges who would determine if the swimmer met the techinical criteria set by the fitness committee. Just as competitive swimmer pay registration fees and event fees, so would the fitness swimmers.


October 11th, 2006, 08:31 PM
When you decide to attend a single USMS workout or meet I will give your opinions some credibility. Until that point, your musings are based on a total lack of knowledge about USMS. I swim with non competers 3 days a week, many in my lane. Your vision of them is insulting to their abilities and drive.

October 11th, 2006, 08:55 PM
yet another reason why I wouldn't want someone like you to be on the taskforce to set criteria for fitness swimmers. You can't see beyond the boundaries of USMS Clubs.


October 11th, 2006, 08:56 PM
Okay, Geek, come up with another vision for promoting and recognizing fitness swimmers. Keep in mind we are talking about fitness swimmers who do not want to compete.


The Fortress
October 11th, 2006, 08:58 PM

I admire your desire to be fit. That's what is ultimately important. But I would estimate that about 75% of my team doesn't compete or very rarely competes when strong armed by the coaches. Some are just fitness freaks, some want to stay young, some want to burn calories, some want to prep for triathlons (I stay away from those people -- they're obsessed with distance freestyle and always think they should lead a lane no matter what). I find that going to a practice, as opposed to swimming by myself, usually makes me go longer and harder. And my teammates won't hesitate to point out my many stroke defects. But I also know people who train entirely alone. But it could get lonely. Don't let Aquageek scare you away from this thread or any other!! I left a note for you on another, but Peter Cruise told me the Geek chased you away....


October 11th, 2006, 09:58 PM
Thank You Leslie. Yes it is true I was made to feel very unwelcome by several USMS members, not just Geek. If you've read my postings you will probably realize Geek, Gull, et al, don't scare me.

What Geek doesn't seem to be able to understand is that I don't think that USMS Club members are evil or that USMS Clubs are bad organizations. I also don't doubt that a USMS swim meet is a lot of fun. What I have said though is that USMS doesn't offer a swimmer like myself, in a town where there is no club and who doesn't want to compete, an incentive for joining, and I am not interested in going to a swim meet, whether it is to compete or to socialize. Now, if there was something in place like what is being discussed in this thread, that might lure me to join.

I'm still interested in hearing Geek's plan for including a swimmer like myself. Remember Geek, I have no club to swim with, I have no coach, I don't want to compete or socialize at swim meets. What I do want to do is improve my swimming and fitness. Design a USMS program for swimmers like myself.


October 11th, 2006, 10:02 PM
If one looks at the world of running it is interesting to note that the bulk of adult participants are as interested in endurance as in speed. There are far more people interested in doing a 5km road race than in doing 100m or 200m sprints on a track. And many of those people move on to 10km runs and beyond rather than focusing on going faster and faster at the 5km distance.

In my own experience with running I found that after a point getting faster at the 5km distance seemed to be as much a matter of tolerating pain as anything else, so I found it more enjoyable to go for longer runs at a more comfortable pace. As far as I know the health and fitness benefits of a medium paced 10km run are as good or better than those of a faster 5km run.

A couple of years ago I did an 8km open water swim and that was as challenging and rewarding as anything I have done in the pool. Hmm, completing my first 200 fly was another high point. In neither case was I particularly fixated on my time or with "racing" anyone.

Another example of testing your fitness outside of racing is swimming for distance in a given time, e.g. how far can you go in 30m or an hour.

The Fortress
October 11th, 2006, 11:20 PM

Perhaps because of my swimming background in youth, I have not been able to convert to distance swimming. I still like to race short distances fast. (The theoretical idea of a 200 fly is appealing, but my youth times would depress me.) But running... Yes, I am addicted to running. LSD (long slow distance) running to be precise. If I could, I'd run a 10K every day for fun, with my ipod, but alas, my loose swimming ankles can't take it. So I run every other day. But I love it. Even though I know it's not good for my swimming (George) and I know it tires me out later for swim practice. Lindsay, shouldn't you be asleep by now if you're going to that early morning practice? Now, me I'm not getting up until 7:30 if my children are nice.

October 12th, 2006, 08:21 AM
I'm still interested in hearing Geek's plan for including a swimmer like myself.

I think because you are not a member and haven't taken any time to understand USMS, you are missing all that is done for swimmers exactly like you. I will list a few below.

First, our magazine, love it or hate it, is quite diverse in it's presentation of all levels of swimming in USMS. There is usually a big color spread of stroke technique and/or dryland exercises. Of course, since you won't become a member, you don't see this. For goodness sakes, they put noodlers on the cover a few months back. There are articles on nutrition, human interest stories and product reviews. I would hazard a guess that less than 50% is devoted to competition, probably much less than 50%.

Next, take 5 minutes to look at the USMS web site. Have you ever done that? You will note a ton of info for non competitive swimmers. There are workouts for all levels. Or, take a FREE workout and modify it to your abilities. My favorite part is the places to swim section which has come in handy many times when I travel. There is a whole section on health and fitness.

Third, if you want a vision of USMS for swimmers like you, why won't you even bother visiting a team, just once in your life? You'd immediately realize that most swimmers don't compete. So, why are they there, FITNESS. And, they pay their dues, btw.

Lastly, you state you have no interest in meets or the social aspect. I can't help you with the social thing, swimmers like to socialize. But, you earlier stated you wanted a fitness meet with stroke judges. It's hard to follow you when you contradict yourself so often. Every USMS meet I have attended has stroke judges.

I didn't compete for my first 5 years in USMS. That made me a fitness swimmer. The technique work, coaching, friendships were what kept me around.

Today at our team workout, we had two new members. How many people asked if they competed? Zero. How many people welcomed them? All.

Apologies for the length of this. I'm just sick of the continued assault on Master's swimming from a person with absolutely no involvement in the sport and no knowledge as to what it offers.

October 12th, 2006, 09:13 AM
Geek, all you did was list what is already available. I may be wrong, but the purpose of this thread was to come up with NEW IDEAS, a non-competitive vision. Since you didn't provide any new or creative ideas I must assume you don't have any. Or, that you feel there isn't any need for new ideas.

You must not be reading the entire thread. I suggested a time standard as one criteria. Others have suggested that technique might be another criteria. I included the idea of a stroke judge, who should probably be called a 'technique judge,' as a means of demonstrating how two ideas could be merged.

In 'think tank' situations ideas are not criticise, they are merely put out on the table. If the idea(s) have potential it is elaborated and expanded on. If not it is discarded. Now, do you have a NEW idea to contribute to this thread, or not?

October 12th, 2006, 10:19 AM
Is there really much difference between a fitness swimmer and a meet swimmer?

A Fitness swimmers and a Meet swimmers can swim the same workouts - distance work, stroke work, speed work, etc. The two swim in the same pool - sometimes even in the same lane. Chances are one loves the sport the same as the other. Just a meet swimmer swims meets - which are essentially an extra workout if you really think about it.

I concurr with several folks that a lot of their teams are at least 50% Fitness swimmers - in fact in my locale, we have had ~15-20 new teams registered with USMS in the last couple of years, and I have yet to see a team representative for 60% of them at a meet. Also, the LMSCs in our region (we have 3 in the area) host several 1000/1650 or 800/1500 meets throughout the year - essentially "fitness meets."

At the end of the day, whether you want to train for a meet/tri or just to get in shape, any swimmer knows - you just jump in a pool and swim because you love it!:wave:

Leonard Jansen
October 12th, 2006, 10:27 AM
Elaine -
Here are some random ideas for the fitness-based swimmer:
1) A benchmark can be set - this would either be a given time for a distance, a total yardage for a set time, or total yardage for a longer period of time (e.g. month/season/year.). Once the benchmark is set, then for every x percent of improvement or user-defined improvement, the swimmer would receive a certificate attesting to the fact. Obviously, this is an "on your honor" system and the certificates could be made available off the USMS website as a pdf file to be filled out by the participant. Minimal cost/administration/fuss.
2) On-line workout/benchmark tracking database. Available to any USMS member (sorry, but this probably has a cost associated with it) to keep his/her training log, goal tracking etc. Maybe some snazzy graphics, etc. Benchmark achievement automatically sent (if person allows) to a new forum, the purpose of which is to announce same. Also, it would be possible to have this trigger the user receiving an above-mentioned certificate(s). No idea if something like this is available commercially. If it would have to be developed by USMS, it's probably too involved/expensive.
3) Achievements (again, on your honor) result in a small discount on USMS merchanise (or a sponsor) - not enough to make it unprofitable for the sponsor, and hopefully the increased volume would result in greater volume discounts for the providers.
4) Arrange for discounts through USMS for a fitness member to get a discount at one of the diet services (Weight watchers, etc...)
5) Arrange for a discount at one of the fitness clubs (Curves, Gold's Gym, etc...)
6) Certificate if you compete in your first meet, regardless of time, place, etc.
7) Larger rewards if your name is "S. Elaine" and you tell me what the "S." stands for, since I am still curious.


October 12th, 2006, 10:39 AM
Geek, all you did was list what is already available. I may be wrong, but the purpose of this thread was to come up with NEW IDEAS, a non-competitive vision.

The continued problem with your years' long argument is that you are clammoring for new ideas yet have never taken a single moment to learn about what USMS already offers, most of which is suited very well to the fitness swimmer.

To date, perhaps a dozen people have told you that USMS is composed primarily of fitness swimmers. Just because you don't take the time to learn or participate does not mean that USMS is neglecting fitness swimmers.

What is preventing you from starting a USMS team in your town that you can mold as you see fit? Nothing. You have told us time and again you don't want to compete, you don't want to be coached, you don't want to leave your tiny hamlet, you don't want to learn about USMS. Seems all you care to do is complain about something you don't care to learn more about. If you'd like, private message me your address and I'll send you the USMS Swimmer Mag when it comes out.

Take a minute, look at the website, visit a team, you might just realize we have most of what you already want. Better yet, visit our team and see it in action. Alternatively, continue being uneducated, the choice is yours.

October 12th, 2006, 11:38 AM
Your memory fails you Geek. I have attempted to start a team and coaching is ONE of the things I want.

You still haven't offered any new innovative ideas. That is what this thread is about. All you are doing is attacking me for offering some.

October 12th, 2006, 11:41 AM
Leonard, The idea of an online journal to keep track of yardage, benchmarks, etc is great. Thank you! Good idea.


October 12th, 2006, 11:58 AM
Masters Swimming Canada has a new website, MyMSC.ca (http://mymsc.ca) where swimmers can enter the metres swum each workout and be recognized with certificates and swim caps and such as they reach various distance milestones in a program called the Million Metre Challenge (http://mymsc.ca/Million.jsp). It will summarize your monthly totals and you can look at a calendar view with a graphical representation of your daily training. It has been quite popular, over a thousand people having participated. The site also allows you to record your running and cycling workouts, and you can record your times in all the events, official or unofficial. On the competitive side you can look up all your meet results and see how you rank nationally or by province, and it will automatically list any national records you hold and provincial records for some provinces. The plan is to add a lot more functionality for tracking training and improvement (time for 1km, "golf scores", etc.).

October 12th, 2006, 12:56 PM
Geek, Lainey has never joined USMS because she does not believe the organization has anything to offer her as a fitness swimmer (aside from this discussion forum, apparently, which is of course supported by our dues). So it's safe to assume that the services you listed (as well as others you did not) are of no interest to her. Are there things USMS could do to improve itself as an organization? Sure. But the concept of improvement implies that there is something of value to improve upon.

October 12th, 2006, 01:10 PM
The one problem I see with this honor system of recording your distances, times, etc, is NOT with the honesty of members, but with the weight the certificate carries. In my opinion, a recognition based on "testing" is far more impressive, than one in which the individual does his or her own thing, submits results and then a piece of paper is issued.


October 12th, 2006, 02:17 PM
I guess I am a so called " fitness " swimmer because I have not been in a swim meet in 30 years. That may change soon. I think USMS has a TON to offer fitness swimmers. Try one of the postal events to see how you stack up against others. I swim totally alone ( Like I am the only one in the pool alone ) 6x a week 3-3500yds at a time, and have gained lots of stroke knowledge, encouraging words and workout advice since joining USMS 2 years ago.I would not have gotten this otherwise.Thanks USMS.
If you want to track your yardage try the Presidents fitness challenge that was recommended to me on this forum,you can even check your progress against others. I consider ALL swimmers fitness swimmers, some are just faster than others.