The screech of that 4:45 a.m. alarm is rude. Very rude. But you comply, trying to forget about what awaits you at the pool. If it’s suitable for aggressive workout swimming, the water will feel chilly. Jumping in it is the second worst moment of the day. The moon is out, your teammates resemble a zombie horde, and if you’d stayed in bed dreaming, you’d still be gliding across a polished wooden floor with a tall, handsome stranger, kickin’ it with a fly Viennese waltz.
So what to do when you <gasp> no longer want to get out of bed before dawn and jump into a cold pool? Is taking a break an option?
Nonswimmers have no problem filing Masters Swimming Burnout under first-world problems. “Why would anyone want to get up that early anyway? Now you can ____________ (garden, join your homeowners association, take polka lessons),” they suggest helpfully.
But once you’ve invited swimming into your life, it’s hard to politely show it to the door like a distant relative, effuse about what fun you’ve had, and tell it you can’t wait to see it again next year.
Many swimmers demarcate their lives into BS (before swimming) and S (swimming). In this lifelong sport, I’ve yet to meet anyone who wants to consider the permanence of AS (after swimming), so that leaves BTS (between swimming).
So how does one behave in a BTS period? For starters, you might want to consider how you’ll be meeting the exercise need that your swimmer’s appetite demands. Super. That will be running and cycling, with a side dish of P90X and a giant slice of Zumba for dessert, please.
What about reducing the number of practices? Maybe if you swim three times per week, instead of five or six? If you’re a sprinter, no problem, you might even maintain your current 50 freestyle time for another season with that plan, although you will lose your spot on the B relay. If you’re a distance swimmer, your prospects are more dismal. You’ll enter the 800 free at nationals with good intentions and feel terrible the entire time, especially when you see the scoreboard.
Even with a reduced schedule, you’ll still want to stay in touch with your swimming friends, especially your lanemates. But is it proper etiquette to show up for the Saturday post-workout breakfast with dry hair? It happened once on our team a few years ago. We still speak of it only in hushed tones.
What is it about swimming that makes it so hard to have a BTS hiatus? Is it the feeling we get at that perfect moment, right about the 175-yard mark after first jumping in? The chill is ebbing and your skin and soul are crackling—you’re about to reach the nirvana of weightlessness, perfect technique, and that delicate balance between effortless gliding and the grind awaiting you when the warm-up ends. (If only you could fast-forward to breakfast at that point.)
But you stick it out, and as the practice is ending, the sun is rising, the ghoulish pallor of the zombie horde has magically transformed into a flushed, healthy glow and bright smiles, and that amazing sense of accomplishment and renewed vigor reminds you that you could have been sweating it out in a hot yoga studio or waiting for your turn on the leg press at the gym.
But you weren’t, because you’re a swimmer. And whether you’re in the thick of a BTS period or not, once a swimmer, always a swimmer. This lifelong sport sticks around like a houseguest that never leaves. And in all honesty, that’s just the way we want it, isn’t it?
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:33 AM by Editor
The second week of April was National Volunteer Week. Not only did this dovetail nicely with our “April Is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month” campaign, but National Volunteer Week has been around almost as long as USMS has. Established in 1974, the week serves to encourage people to get involved in their communities. Points of Light, the volunteer organization that has sponsored the week since its inception, has this on its website:
“National Volunteer Week is about taking action and encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change—discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to make a difference.”
There’s no doubt that our members have been a force for good in communities across the country. Local USMS volunteers work all year long to make Masters Swimming the best possible experience for their members. We’re grateful for the people in every club and workout group who make things happen on a daily basis for their fellow swimmers. And it works—we have the letters and emails to prove it.
But it doesn’t stop there. Our national-level volunteers build upon the hard work of the local volunteers and make it possible for USMS to accomplish great things. The Coaches Committee works tirelessly to train and support USMS coaches who are on deck every day changing lives. Many of the letters we receive are because a coach has had a significant impact on someone’s life.
The number of hours the Championship Committee dedicates to our national meets rivals their day jobs. The Sports Medicine and Science Committee provides valuable healthcare information at those meets, in addition to reviewing medical and science articles and topics throughout the year for all our publications. The Officials and Rules Committees are always deeply involved in our events—be sure to thank your meet officials when you see them on deck.
The Fitness Education Committee administers the USMS fitness events and searches for ways to connect with noncompetitive swimmers. The Open Water and Long Distance Committees oversee all things open water and our longer pool events. And probably the most relevant for National Volunteer Week, the Recognition and Awards Committee exists to celebrate and honor our USMS volunteers and recognize their service to our members. The History and Archives Committee collects information and images from all our events, so that the Masters Swimming journey is preserved for our future members.
It doesn’t stop there—running an organization this large also requires countless hours put in by the less visible, but critical, Audit, Compensation and Benefits, Finance, Governance, Investment, Legislation, LMSC Development, Policy, Records and Tabulation, and Registration Committees. Our Board of Directors and Executive Committee and Swimming Saves Lives Foundation are also all-volunteer, and their vision has helped bring USMS to new heights.
If you have the time, get involved at your local level—you’re needed there. And if you’d like to volunteer at the national level, you can find more information at usms.org/admin/content/volunteer
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:34 AM by Editor
My mother claimed that I learned to swim before I could walk. I was the first one in and the last one out of the pool in our backyard and the surf at Stinson Beach. I can’t ever remember not feeling completely comfortable and safe in my watery playground. Like many kids, I dreamed of being a mermaid or a dolphin, and I vowed to be the first gill transplant patient so I would never have to return to the surface and the big scary world of humans.
My story isn’t unique; many of our nearly 60,000 members learned to swim as young children: lessons at the Y, summers at the lake, surfing, swim team, or just a lifelong love of playing in the water and parents or geography that made it possible.
If you had the good fortune to enjoy opportunities to become safe, comfortable, and skilled in the water, you might never have considered what it would be like to learn right now, at your present age. Or what it would be like to know that if you fell in, you could become one of the 10 people who drown every day in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 37 percent of American adults can’t swim the length of a 25-yard pool. And of the 10 people who drown every day, eight of them are adults or young adults.
The Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, USMS’s charitable arm, wants to change these numbers. The foundation has declared the month of April Adult Learn-to- Swim Month, and has launched a nationwide campaign to promote the lifesaving benefits of swimming for adults. The governors of Indiana, Nebraska, and Washington have signed proclamations in support, and we’re working on getting more states onboard. You can learn more at usms.org/learntoswim.
Since 2012, the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation has provided more than $70,000 to programs that offer adult learn-to-swim lessons in their communities. Bill Meier, coach of the Simon’s Rock Pacemakers workout group of New England Masters, was teaching adults to swim even before his program became a Swimming Saves Lives partner. One of his favorite students is Chris Pompi of Adams, Mass.
Pompi, a father of three, was 38 years old when he went to Meier for swim lessons. “When I had kids, I realized that I needed to be able to swim in case anything ever happened to them in the water. And, I didn’t want to be a hypocrite—making them take lessons but not knowing how to swim myself.” Yet he kept his lessons a secret from his family until he was competent in the water.
“I just never learned as a kid,” Pompi says. He remembers hanging out at the Jersey Shore as a young adult, but not joining his friends in the water. “I stayed on the beach, soaking up the sun, and when we went out on a boat, I wore a lifejacket. All my friends and family could dive off the boat and have fun. I just watched in envy.”
Now Pompi, a civil engineer, enjoys swimming with his three children and is grateful for all Meier has done for his family. “I think the world of him, and so do my kids.”
The Swimming Saves Lives Foundation exists because of the generous donations from our members. There’s an opportunity to donate when you renew your USMS membership, or at anytime by visiting usms.org/giving. If you’re able to give, you can be part of the team that’s trying to change the truly big and scary numbers of adults drowning.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:37 AM by Editor
In April 2013, longtime SWIMMER contributor Elaine K. Howley joined the staff as our associate editor. It would take a lot more than this column to fully explain how important her work has been for the magazine, as well as our other publications: the STREAMLINES series and content on usms.org.
A list of the articles she’s written can be found at usms.org/people/EKH20. Her SWIMMER profiles of Marisa Churchill and Andrea Kremer both won first place in the annual Writer’s Digest writing competition, in the Magazine Feature Article category. A Triple Crown marathon and ice swimmer, Athleta-sponsored athlete and Chi blogger, and multitalented writer and editor, Elaine’s contributions have allowed us to take our publications to a new level.
We read our mail, we study social media interactions with our members and potential members, and we talk to swimmers—lots of swimmers—about content, trying to find common threads that can be spun into new features or columns.
One thing many of you ask for is more training and technique advice. We’re thrilled that Jim Thornton, Men’s Health feature writer and a frequent contributor to our discussion forums, will be penning a new column in the Training and Technique department called “Evidence-Based Swimming,” in which he takes a look at current trends and research in swimming science.
Another topic in high demand is nutrition information for swimmers of all abilities. Sports nutritionist Sunny Blende will be taking the reins of the “Mastering Nutrition” column in The Healthy Swimmer department. Sunny is a Masters swimmer and runner who understands the nutritional needs of our sport.
On the lighter side, we’ve added a new department in the front of the book titled “The Shallow End.” Here, Michael Gustafson, Tweeter Extraordinaire (@mikelgustafson), contributes a humor column, “The Hot Tub,” where he’ll write about the quirkier aspects of life as a swimmer in the 18-and-over crowd.
Also in "The Shallow End," you'll see a new comic strip, "Coach," by Ed Colley, cartoonist and official caricaturist of our "Volunteer Profile" column; the strip depicts life in the sometimes not-so-fast lane of coaching Masters swimmers. And, since we seem to have developed an infestation of talented Haiku writers within the readership, we’ll feature a swimming Haiku in “5–7–5,” which is not only the pattern of syllables in traditional Haiku, but is also a freestyle breathing pattern coaches use to torture swimmers of all ages.
The Letters department has been transformed into “Perspectives,” where we’ll have letter excerpts, social media quotes, and beautiful images from acclaimed swimming photographers, including Peter H. Bick, Mike Lewis, and others. We hope you enjoy the changes and, as always, we welcome your feedback.
All the best to you and your loved ones in 2014.
Knowledge, sometimes born from debate, is good for sports
I know next to nothing about sports other than swimming. I’m an anomaly in almost any crowd—my friends tease me for not knowing what a first down is or look aghast when I suggest that the stuff you endure at a live baseball game is manufactured to distract you from the low energy level (Hey! It’s time to stand up and sing now!).
Baseball, basketball, and football are so popular that many, many people know the rules of those games. Yes, there is controversy (betting, steroids, the NCAA, etc.), but the technical rules are generally understood (seemingly by everyone except me) and you can find lively, informed debate at watercoolers and in sports bars and broadcast booths around the country.
Swimming is pretty far behind the ball sports in terms of mainstream understanding, but intensive media coverage of the swimming events of the past two Olympics means your office mate—whose only previous definition of an IM was instant messaging in the 1990s—is now on a first-name basis with marquee swimmers: “Can’t wait to see Michael and Ryan go at it in the 400 IM!”
Not so much for open water, or more specifically, its lesser understood and gangly cousin, marathon swimming, which is currently experiencing growing pains thanks to the media coverage and subsequent controversy that surrounded Diana Nyad’s recent Cuba to Florida swim.
It didn’t take long for debate to brew around Nyad’s swim; within days of her staggering ashore in Florida, marathon swimming insiders began asking questions that touched off a lengthy, ongoing conversation about rules, transparency, and the very integrity of the sport. What bloomed online is a debate that most people don’t have any way of participating in because marathon swimming is not a watercooler topic in most places.
Still, most nonswimmers have heard of Nyad and her swim and comment frequently to us swimmers about it. It’s easy to see why her story has broad appeal: It touches on aging better, goal-setting, perseverance, and other inspirational themes that extend beyond the sport. And whether you know a lot or nothing about swimming, what she accomplished was impressive.
But marathon swimming is a sport with a rich history, traditions, and technical rules, just like other sports. The small but vocal group of experts—many of them accomplished marathon swimmers—who are asking questions about Nyad’s swim have the opportunity to educate journalists, so that journalists, in turn, can educate the public when they start asking questions around the watercooler: Are you allowed to touch the boat? What is the difference between a marathon swim and an exhibition swim? What is the difference between assisted and unassisted? When do we stand up and sing?
There will always be debate, and that’s a good thing, but knowledge is the key to informed debate. Let’s hope that Nyad’s swim and both its supporters and detractors bring a new level of understanding to a beautiful, sometimes brutal, sport that tests the limits of both physical and mental endurance in ways most people cannot imagine.
In this issue of SWIMMER, we’re excited to bring you profiles of two people who have been influential in helping us understand both marathon swimming and ball sports. Associate editor (and Triple Crown marathon swimmer) Elaine K. Howley writes about Michelle Macy’s amazing Ocean’s Seven feat in “Swimming Life” (Page 6) and frequent contributor Jim Harper writes about legendary sports journalist and Masters swimmer John Feinstein, who credits swimming with saving his life (Page 14). Reading his profile has made me want to read more about other sports. Feinstein is a gifted writer, and that’s something I can wrap my brain around, even if I don’t (yet) understand the seventh-inning stretch.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:36 AM by Editor
What is it with our propensity to classify everything? The desire to separate, organize, and name singles and groups of anything seems to be hardwired. I’m pretty sure the hunter-gatherers had collections of the things they hunted and gathered stored up in the Paleolithic version of the freezer-bag-and-Sharpie or the alphabetized spice rack. In the 1700s Carl Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy (the science of naming stuff), wasn’t satisfied with only one label, so every known living thing got two or three names.
Obviously, Linnaeus was onto something. Based on the highly unscientific data collector known as Facebook, the email we get, and the conversations we’ve had on deck, it’s not so easy to classify swimmers with only one name; many consider themselves fitness swimmers who compete or competitive swimmers who swim open water, etc. So why do we go back and forth over the labels, fitness swimmer and competitive swimmer?
It’s undoubtedly another human trait to resist labels when they are placed upon us, and often with good reason. Since the dawn of time, humans have had a hard time with the concept of moderation when it comes to labeling—not all have used their powers for good. It’s fine when labeling meant: “This plant will cure your headache; this one will make you bleed out your eyeballs.” But when labels are applied to people, it can bring out the worst in Homo sapiens.
Whatever type of swimmer you consider yourself, we’re all good. We just want to make sure we’re providing content and services that you find valuable. We’ve labeled this issue as the first “Fitness Issue” of SWIMMER. It is not strictly fitness articles—Pan-Ams was a competitive event and Rich Burns, featured in “From the Center Lanes” would probably not be considered a fitness swimmer by anyone. But it’s a way for us to hunt and gather content that appeals to those who swim for myriad reasons.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:38 AM by Editor
Each time Spring or Summer Nationals rolls around, I get excited about the people I’m going to meet. Just walking around on deck at a USMS national meet is a treat—seeing old friends and making new ones—and experiencing a great facility, friendly volunteers, and fast swimming. The media staff stays busy interviewing swimmers for the daily recap videos and, although we’re working hard, we’re having a great time.
This year in Indy was no exception. Olympic silver medalist Emily Silver joined us for commentary and, in a special project made possible by USMS partner SwimOutlet.com, Silver and the legendary gold medalist and relay anchor extraordinaire, Jason Lezak (yes, that Jason Lezak!), dropped in on the social for a SwimOutlet.com Gold Medal Delivery.
Silver and Lezak delivered some great SwimOutlet.com swag and made time for autograph signing and photos with Masters swimmers, who lined up for a chance to meet them. As part of the video project, an exhibition 200-yard mixed freestyle relay was planned. We needed two Masters swimmers to pair with the Olympians, and I remembered a story I’d read on SwimmingWorld.com about a young swimmer who was battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma but who planned to swim in Indy.
Esmerelda Perez, just 18, was a graduating high school senior facing an operation to remove tumors in her chest cavity. She’d been through months of chemo and radiation, and doctors had implanted a port in her chest to deliver treatments. Through it all, she wanted to keep swimming. Swimming is what makes her happy. She’ll be swimming at Carthage College in the fall, but her immediate goal was USMS Spring Nationals.
Perez’s quiet maturity and deep love of the sport was inspiring to us all (her 25-something split on the relay was pretty amazing as well). She was thrilled at the opportunity to participate with these swimming heroes, but it was pretty clear that the Olympians were honored to swim on her relay.
The relay lasted only a few moments, but created a lasting impression. Silver led off, followed by Jon Shope, a local meet volunteer and lifelong swimmer. Perez swam third and, of course, Lezak was the anchor. Don’t miss the video at swimoutlet.com/goldmedaldelivery.
The project turned out to be more meaningful than we ever could have imagined and it brought together the best elements of a USMS national meet: sponsor support, great swimming, amazing venues and volunteers, and inspirational stories. Gold really was delivered in Indy, by all who participated.
What does the word Masters in Masters Swimming mean to you?
Masters, in USMS parlance, merely signifies that you are an adult: age 18 or older.
Over the years, we’ve heard different reactions: “It’s only for fast swimmers.” “It’s for swimmers age 50 and above.” “It’s only for swimmers who want to compete.” “It’s only for those who have mastered the sport.” “It’s only for pool swimmers.” And my personal favorite, from a young age-grouper at our pool, “It’s for old Sharks.” As perpetually young-at-heart athletes, many of us believe age is relative, but the reactions from new, would-be, and nonmembers runs the gamut.
In the 1960s, when Dr. Ransom Arthur was promoting organized adult swimming for fitness, the word Masters was borrowed from Masters Track and Field and it stuck. Some of the age misconceptions about Masters swimming may stem from this—USA Masters Track and Field does have lower age limits of 30 and 40, depending on the type of event.
Even Masters Swimming, which started as a committee of the American Swimming Coaches Association, migrated to a committee of the Amateur Athletic Union, and later morphed into the USMS we know today, had an initial lower age limit of 25. This was dropped to 19 in 1986, and then to 18 in 2002.
Age limits aside, the M word has been a topic of discussion at USMS annual meetings. In 2007, a branding task force considered the idea of dropping it in favor of something perhaps more inviting. But with so much equity and tradition invested into U.S. Masters Swimming, it was decided after careful thought that we would maintain our heritage while repositioning our identity and promoting education and services that would encourage more adults to swim.
Masters Swimming is open to anyone age 18 and older, regardless of age and ability. Some Masters programs even have adult learn-to-swim programs for those who have never set foot in the water. Our charitable arm, the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation (usms.org/giving), provides grants to clubs who create such opportunities for adults in their communities.
Our Facebook page (facebook.com/USMastersSwimmingFanPage), is packed with links to mainstream media stories about Masters swimmers. This is an exciting development, and we urge you to pitch stories to your local media outlets—they’re always looking for good content and are usually happy to do a piece on your local program, your coach, or a teammate who has an interesting story. Be sure to send us the link when it’s published. Sharing these stories helps dispel misconceptions about the M word and helps us to encourage more adults to swim.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:39 AM by Editor
Variety, adventure, helping others, and inspiration. Mix well, repeat.
Each year my swimming friends and I combine an open water swim with some down time. In 2012, we chose the St. Croix Coral Reef Swim. Although our 5 miles was shortened to 2 miles after Tropical Storm Rafael blew through the racecourse, it was a great experience. The host resort, the Buccaneer, was a fantastic place for the race and the down time.
Future swims on our list include the Bermuda Round the Sound race and Race for the Conch Eco-SeaSwim in Turks and Caicos. We’ve even thrown some chillier swims up for discussion: This year’s 9+ Mile National Championship is in Vermont, and there’s chatter about putting together a relay for Lake Tahoe someday, or trying Alcatraz, the Tiburon Mile, La Jolla, Big Shoulders, or even one of the races in Alaska. The beauty is in the variety.
A variety of open water enthusiasts have contributed to our 2013 open water issue. Author and swimmer David McGlynn writes about swimming across Death’s Door in Lake Michigan. He makes the excellent point that many open water swims start with a group of people standing on a shoreline looking toward a distant shoreline with an adventurous eye.
It’s no doubt that a sense of adventure led USMS members Roberta St. Amour and Denise Stapley to audition for the 25th season of Survivor, set in the Philippines. Their stories are in “Swimming Life” on page 6. Also in Swimming Life, Patricia Sener and her Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers turn adversity into adventure as they recover from Superstorm Sandy, finding ways to help others in the process.
Helping others is a mantra in the marathon swimming world, and successful swimmers consider it a point of pride to extend a hand and pay it forward. Contributing writer Elaine K. Howley, an accomplished marathoner and Triple Crown swimmer herself, has always admired the pioneering women who preceded her. In “Splashback,” on page 48, she looks at the accomplishments of the legendary Florence Chadwick and how she inspired others.
Inspirational is often used to describe pro triathletes and USMS members Jarrod Shoemaker and Sara McLarty, both of whom are featured in this issue.
However you like your open water, enjoy it, protect it, and help others enjoy it. You don’t have to live near the coast or travel to an exotic locale, although it’s a great way to spend a vacation. There are many lakes and rivers in landlocked states that are plenty exciting to swim in. There’s something special about being in natural waters, and it’s even more special when you share the experience with the people in your life who matter.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:42 AM by Editor
As I write this, two very exciting things are happening at the USMS National Office. By the time you read this, they should both be up and running. (Since huge projects have a way of taking on lives of their own, I write with only a wee bit of trepidation.)
The first is that we’ve asked our publication partner, Anthem Media Group, to create a digital version of SWIMMER, one that can be read on your computer, tablet, or, if you have a hankering and really good eyes, your smartphone. The digital version is available to any current member, and can be accessed through your MyUSMS account. (If you haven’t set that up yet, visit usms. org/admin/lmschb/usms_create_forums_acct. pdf for step-by-step instructions). In addition, we’re busy digitizing previous issues of SWIMMER, so check the Archive tray on the left side of the screen and watch the library grow.
We’re not going all Newsweek on you, though; the paper edition will still be delivered to you unless you unsubscribe from it through your LMSC registrar.
The second project is a redesign of usms.org. If you haven’t visited in a while, you need to—we think you’ll love the new look and feel. Our website has always been a work beast, with many customized tools that have aided our volunteer leaders in digitizing, organizing, and presenting information for our members. It still does all that and more, only now it does it in a sleek and gorgeous new skin. We’re also sourcing new content and have created a video gallery, where you’ll find technique videos, product reviews, event recaps, and more.
As always, we welcome your feedback. For comments, questions, and suggestions about SWIMMER or the stories and articles on usms.org, you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the website redesign, email email@example.com.
Wishing you the very best in 2013.
While cleaning out a box of old files, I came across a manila folder—the darker, older kind with a metal, two-hole fastener at the upper right. Inside I found, meticulously handwritten on accounting ledger paper by my father, a complete record of my brief competitive swimming history—1973 to 1977.
What a difference a generation makes. My son just checks USA Swimming’s Deck Pass app on his iPhone if he wants to know his times. USMS members have digital options as well—we can log in to our MyUSMS accounts at usms.org, view our Swimmer Info pages, and there, like magic, are our times and more.
As staff writer Laura Jones conveys in her feature on event directors (“Take 5,” page 32), it takes dedicated volunteers to put on a good event—that has never changed. But knowing that meets of yesteryear were run with paper and pencil, and the results hand-printed or maybe typewritten, is hard to fathom. Most meet directors and volunteers I know would not want to go back to life before Hy-Tek.
In addition to helping events run more smoothly, technology can benefit us at practice. Heart-rate monitors keep you in the zone. You can wear a wristwatch that will keep track of your yardage. And I can’t be alone in my amazement that some of these devices even know what stroke you're swimming. We take a look at these and other gadgets in Swim Bag on page 38.
Open water swimming has its gadgets as well. You can affix a small GPS unit to your goggle strap and, when you get home to your computer, upload the data and see your swim: how far, how fast, what pace—even a map showing the zig-zags where you had sighting problems. (New contributor to SWIMMER, Kristin Bender, takes a look at the history of GPS in Splashback, page 48.)
As much as I love the incredible computing power, convenience, and flexibility offered by today’s technologies, I miss one thing: the starter’s pistol. Its clear and commanding report is way cooler than the sterile *bemph* we hear now.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:43 AM by Editor
Love it or hate it, social media has become a part of everyday life. Understanding its impact means more than deciphering those little symbols above the number keys that we never used very much before. #whatisahashtaganyway @MastersSwimming?!
For anyone born before 1990, the rapidity with which information flies around can be stunning. We now rely on smartphone apps for things we used to have to wait hours or days for: weather forecasts, news, sports scores, all available at the touch of a button. With apps such as Active’s Meet Mobile, how many of us get irritated when the splits of our last race aren’t posted by the time we get out of the warm-down pool? #behonest
As with any newfangled thing, many people who’ve been around longer than the technology will grumble. Others will try it and find creative ways to use it, discarding what they don’t like. The young’uns will just wonder what all the fuss is about. Some of them will never realize that in the old days, during a dining experience, people faced each other and exchanged information—often referred to as conversation—with those actually seated at the table. y r u lookn at ur napkin?
Did you follow the Olympics via Twitter and Facebook? Or did you wait until prime time, with the hope that none of your social media–crazy friends would let slip what they saw on their Twitter feeds or post spoilers on their Facebook timelines? NBC didn’t need social media to spoil results when it aired promos of interviews with gold-medalist Missy Franklin when it hadn’t yet aired the actual gold-medal race. #epicfail
As a 42-year-old organization that hopes to attract members of all ages, USMS is using these tools to encourage conversation and sharing. Ben Christoffel of Liquid Media manages USMS social media platforms: “Social media is not replacing traditional means of communication, but rather enhancing the way we communicate as a whole.”
USMS clubs are using social media to keep their swimmers engaged. Some coaches tweet pool closures or other last-minute practice changes. Having a Facebook page is nothing new, but using Facebook instead of a club website has become an attractive option for clubs that don’t have the funds or in-house expertise to build and maintain a traditional website.
With social media tools, says Christoffel, “Masters programs can communicate, encourage and inform by posting real-time updates and media-rich content to keep their members involved outside the pool.” Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:47 AM by Editor
When I started Masters swimming, I was training for a triathlon. My nonremarkable age-group swimming career ended somewhere around age 12 or 13, and I didn’t really see myself as a swimmer anymore, since I had pursued other sports after my early days at the pool.
So back to the pool I went. I found that I didn’t need to spend a lot of time learning an efficient freestyle—30 years had not erased the basics; swimming felt good and natural. I did a few triathlons, became a semidecent cyclist, but never amounted to much on the run. However, one thing became very clear: Training to be competent in three sports, done in rapid succession at varying distances, is exhausting.
What about the person who takes on this challenge with little or no swimming background? Many triathletes start from scratch in all three disciplines, but most agree that swimming is the toughest of the three. Swimmers who can’t remember not knowing how to swim efficiently don’t understand how this feels unless, perhaps, they’ve taken up French or the violin as a midlife crisis hobby.
Why is swimming so difficult? My guess is because it’s one of the few sports in which your brain has to first accept that you’re in a hostile environment—one in which failure to get to the surface to breathe means death—then you need to learn the rest of the sport: stroke technique, lane etiquette, how to use all those groovy plastic toys.
Of course, most of us don’t think we are going to die while we’re swimming laps, but a part of our brains undoubtedly remains on alert as a survival technique. This nifty capacity to automate the mechanics so we can enjoy ourselves and focus on efficiency and power is a noticeable difference between swimmers who started early and swimmers who are new to the sport.
In this issue, Jim Harper, who trained for and recently competed in his first triathlon, takes a lighthearted look at some of the differences between swimmers and our multisport brethren. He talks with some USMS coaches who have found innovative ways to ensure that triathletes in their programs are getting what they need to improve the swim leg of the tri.
We’ve heard the jokes and stereotypes, watched the xtranormal.com videos of “Swimmer Guy and Triathlon Girl,” we’ve reviewed Jef Mallet’s excellent treatise, “Trizophrenia” in SWIMMER. As long as we can all laugh at ourselves, our differences shouldn’t preclude a shared enjoyment of the water and mutual respect for our different abilities and goals. Let’s continue to welcome triathletes to our ranks in USMS.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:48 AM by Editor
Few things are as emotional as watching a swimmer look to the scoreboard after touching the wall in the race of a lifetime. The sheer tonnage of toil spanning years— the missed vacations, the freakishly scheduled adolescence, the pain—all add up to a single moment and, by the looks on their faces, these swimmers would do it all over again. That single moment seems to make all the sacrifices worth it.
These moments of glory are not limited to Olympians—you can see it in swimmers at B meets, developmental meets, high school championships, Masters meets—pretty much anywhere swimmers race. And depending on the circumstances, it may be one of many “races of a lifetime.” After all, the road is long—and advances in training, nutrition and sports science have extended the run for all of us.
But watching the elite athletes in our sport can be an out-of-body experience. Many of us know what it feels like to swim efficiently: We train hard, we compete, we cut back on beer and chocolate during our tapers. But seeing the elites swim (thanks to advances in underwater videography) can be like seeing the strokes for the first time. The words “grace,” “beauty” and “freakin’ fast” seem inadequate at best.
USMS counts a number of Olympians—from all over the world and from different sports—in its current and former membership rolls. (For a list, see usms. org/hist/oly.) And this year, more than a dozen USMS members have made Olympic Trials cuts and are eligible to compete in Omaha.
With more than 1800 swimmers vying for 52 spots, odds of an Olympic berth are long for everyone. As fans and members of the greater swimming community gather to cheer for their favorite swimmers, we're especially thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of those who've been part of the USMS family.
Three days later, some of us will jump into that same water in Omaha and reach for our own “Olympic” moments. Although most of us won’t ever share our moments with millions of television viewers, we get to share them with our teammates and loved ones, which makes all our sacrifices—dietary or otherwise—so worth it.
While gathering articles and information for our annual open water issue, I was struck by the sense of community in the world of open water swimming. As vast as the world’s waters are, the passionate group of swimmers who inhabit them seems like a small family.
Many open water swimmers, particularly marathon swimmers, know each other well. They share tips, exchange advice and accompany one another on long training swims. They reminisce over swims from the past and dream up great swims for the future. They are also competitive. In this issue, Elaine K. Howley, an experienced marathoner herself, looks at the how challenges are thrown down in “Farther, Faster, Colder, First.”
As in all families, the members don’t always agree on everything. This issue’s “Both Sides of the Lane Line” presents two views of the media’s role in the open water world. Both are well thought-out and both convey the passion these swimmers feel for their sport.
And whether arguing or agreeing, this open water family is always happy to share. When we needed some advice about what marathoners use to prevent chafing and protect their skin, several greatly respected swimmers shared their secrets. (See “What the Experts Do” in “Swim Bag.”)
Learning from those who have swum before is deeply ingrained in the family. It’s as though swimmers undergo a transformation once they’ve tackled cold water, jellyfish and fatigue. They’re grateful for help along the way, and want the cycle to continue. Laura Jones interviewed Craig Lenning about his North Channel swim for “Swimming Life,” and he repeats the mantra we’ve heard from so many of these amazing athletes: Pay it forward.
One family member who does that on a daily basis is Steven Munatones. He might seem like the godfather of this family, but he’s really more like the Kevin Bacon of open water swimming—only with one or two degrees of separation, rather than six—from everyone else. It’s become nigh impossible to research, reference, quote, edit or write anything about open water swimming without coming across one of his creations: the Daily News of Open Water Swimming, Openwaterpedia, Oceans Seven and many more.
Munatones penned two of the articles in this issue: the technique feature, "Open Water Feeding” and “Splashback” on how marathon swimming became an Olympic event. His new book, “Open Water Swimming,” is reviewed in “Swimming Life.” His passion for the sport and for recognizing the accomplishments of the rest of the family comes through in everything he does.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:49 AM by Editor
We have some exciting changes planned for SWIMMER this year, not the least of which is the newly redesigned magazine you are holding. Annie Sidesinger and the design team at Anthem Communications have done a fantastic job updating the look and feel of the publication. They’ll also be working with us to create a digital edition of SWIMMER in the near future.
But changing only the look would be like working on your high-elbow recovery without paying attention to your catch. So look for changes in Training and Technique and Swim Bag. Additionally, we’ll be introducing a nutrition column in The Healthy Swimmer starting in the March–April issue.
How do changes make it to the pages of SWIMMER? Well, I’d like to say it is all part of a precise, brilliant master plan, perfectly researched and executed, but that wouldn’t be accurate. Many changes are inspired by reader feedback. Sometimes we use the spaghetti method and whatever sticks, stays.
Sometimes the little suckers sneak into the pages and before you know it, they’ve multiplied. Two years ago New England Masters swimmer Ed Colley, whom I had never met, sent me a caricature of … me. He started rendering the USMS volunteers we profile in Inside USMS. This led to illustrations for feature articles (“Early Masters Swimmers,” March-April 2011, among others) and for The Healthy Swimmer. Colley (in a self-caricature below) started swimming Masters at the age of 73.
Inspiration for change comes from you. In the November-December issue, we published a word cloud based on your feelings about swimming. We received so many letters asking for reprints, we decided to use it for our annual poster and it is included in this issue.
I’m grateful for the gift of all the people who have inspired change in SWIMMER and look forward to another year of striving to be your favorite swimming publication on the planet.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:50 AM by Editor
Recently we posted a question on Facebook: “What adjective best describes swimming?” We received nearly 100 responses. Not all were adjectives and some posters couldn’t limit themselves to just one word.
Single words have a long history of summarizing our physical and emotional behavior. Stop. Love. Yield. Yes. No. Fire. (Insert your favorite curse word here.). We use single words to simplify—to reduce a complex series of events or a complicated emotional response into one neat and tidy package that gives us direction, inspires us, triggers action or simply lets anyone within hearing know just how painful smashing our shin into that coffee table was.
When describing something meaningful, our language offers a cornucopia of words—and there is no right or wrong. Some of the words our members use to describe swimming easily convey why they might get up before the chickens to get to the pool. Others clearly have a special meaning just for that person. “Exhilarating” was the most-used word.
The tag cloud (thank you, wordle.com) shows the responses we received. The larger the word, the more times it was found among the responses.
For the many experienced or lifelong swimmers in U.S. Masters Swimming, it can seem inconceivable that there are people who are terrified of getting into a swimming pool. What many of us take for granted—a safe, welcoming water world where one only has to pop up for air whenever the need arises—spells terror for some.
Plenty of pool swimmers are afraid to swim in open water, but that’s a little different. Being afraid of sharks can even seem logical (especially if you tuned in to “Shark Week” recently). Some swimmers just prefer clear water, where there is no question about what the bottom looks like or what icky things may be floating around or underfoot. These swimmers still have the ability to enjoy the water and keep themselves safe. Most properly educated swimmers have a healthy respect for the water, not a debilitating fear.
Nonswimmers with a deeply embedded fear of water have little or no chance of survival if they find themselves in the drink. Their panic will kill them, and possibly any would-be rescuers. They know this, so they avoid water, using tactics that are so subtle, they are often well into their adult lives before anyone notices that they have never been swimming. But they know the truth, and many of them carry guilt, shame and feelings of inadequacy.
Some of these people recognize the danger and their missed opportunities, so they ensure that their children learn to swim early and don’t suffer the same fate. Others pass their fears onto their children, creating another generation of risk and lost opportunities. In “Swimming Life,” we meet some USMS members who are making a difference in the lives of people who can’t swim. Melon Dash has spent her entire career teaching fearful adults how to swim. Taking up where traditional swimming lessons have failed, she specializes in the most terrified students. She runs her nonprofit with the goal of ending preventable drowning. Dash has touched more than 4,000 lives, giving these people the chance to enjoy and be safe in water.
Dash is not the only Masters swimmer who feels this way. In fall 2010, Coach Diane Bartlett and her team, Grand Strand Masters Swimming, focused their efforts in their community. Recognizing a need, they banded together for a week to offer free swim lessons to children and adults in their underserved South Carolina town. With a little help from a USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation grant, 26 adults and 94 children are well on their way to becoming competent swimmers.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:51 AM by Editor
In the May-June issue of SWIMMER I thanked the team of writers, editors and our new publishing partner for joining me in striving to bring you a top quality publication. You may have noticed that one name was conspicuously absent from that list, primarily because it would take an entire year of editorials to properly recognize him. I’ll do my best with one.
I first met Phil Whitten when a good friend and lanemate framed the cover of the September-October 2009 issue as a gift for me, celebrating my first issue with SWIMMER. A profile of Whitten had been long scheduled for that issue and after reading over all the features, I felt strongly that he should be on the cover. Having the noted author and former editor-in-chief of Swimming World, Swimming Technique and SWIM, the precursor of SWIMMER, shaking his finger at me with a sly smile was a little intimidating, so of course I hung it right over my desk.
My first face-to-face meeting with Whitten was later that month at the 2009 USMS convention in Chicago. My nervousness at meeting him soon disappeared as we chatted through lunch about future articles for SWIMMER. The warmly polite and unassuming man I dined with couldn’t possibly be the same lauded journalist and “voice for the sport” that turned the swimming world on end in 1994 in a multipronged assault on the Chinese national swim team after they showed up for World Championships bulked up on steroids. Using his media savvy and any platform he could scale, Whitten cried foul, initially a lone voice in a sea of apathy and nonbelief. Eventually, his allegations were proven and one of the benefits of his tenacity was the formation of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Whitten is also a hero in the college swimming world. During a time when men’s college swim teams were being cut down with scythes sharpened with a misinterpretation of Title IX, he wrote a manual titled, “How to Save Your College Swim Team,” and helped many teams avoid the knife. P.H. Mullen, the author of “Gold in the Water,” wrote extensively about Whitten’s accomplishments in a 2005 article for Swimming World, which is available at swimmingworldmagazine.com/interactive/PhilWhitten.pdf.
Editorial accomplishments and superhero status aside, Whitten writes a mean article. His knowledge, skill and dry humor make his pieces must-reads. In the past two years, he has contributed articles on a variety of subjects. In 2010, we were excited to publish new research from Dr. Stephen Blair on the mortality rate of swimmers compared to runners, walkers and sedentary males. Whitten was there to make sense of the research and present it succinctly.
Never one to shy away from controversial topics, he has written about aerobic and hypoxic training in Masters swimming, the Aquatic Ape Theory and legal doping. He is currently working on another doping article, still timely for anyone interested in sports, as we see athletes disgraced on a regular basis.
I am eager to see what he comes up with next.
Whitten’s wagging finger still hovers over my desk as a daily reminder that integrity, ethical journalism and compelling content are expected and should be delivered to the reader with each and every issue.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:52 AM by Editor
Many of you have let me know that you are enjoying the improvements to SWIMMER over the past year and a half. It makes my day to get that kind of feedback. For those of you who have sought me out on deck at a meet or written to me, I hope I have let you know how much your kind words mean to me. Two things I can’t properly convey in my responses are the pride and gratitude I have for the team that is making it all possible, so I wanted to take this opportunity to recognize my teammates.
Elaine K. Howley and Jim Harper, both of whom have articles in this issue, have written many of our feature articles. They have a way of viewing a story from an angle that almost anyone can relate to, and then writing it in an engaging style. They bring people’s stories to life in an honest and respectful way that reminds us we are all on one humongous swim team. Elaine is a Triple Crown marathon swimmer in Boston who loves coldwater swims. She works as a freelance writer and editor with experience in the business, financial and engineering worlds. Jim is a swimmer and swim coach in Miami and a freelance writer who also specializes in writing about the environment. Look for a feature from him later this year on environmental changes that are affecting our oceans and, consequently, open water swimming.
Susan Dawson-Cook is our travel expert and will be ferreting out the best places to visit when you travel to our national championship meets. She also often attends the meets as a competitor and contributes the wrap features afterward. Be sure to check out her piece on Summer Nationals in this issue. Susan, who hails from Tucson, is an experienced fitness professional who has recently released a fitness DVD and has written a romantic adventure novel.
Bill Edwards has been involved with SWIMMER for several years as managing editor for our previous publisher, Douglas Murphy Communications. He is now a freelance writer and editor, an English professor and a somewhat reluctant swimmer. He has an extensive journalism background and loves history—he will be researching and writing the Splashback department for us on a regular basis.
Last year we were lucky enough to find our staff writer, Laura Jones, when she pitched a story. She loves open water swimming, rescues pit bulls and was an attorney until she decided to give up business clothing. She has written for the Washington Post and numerous other publications. A personal trainer as well, she has written extensively about medicine and fitness. She researches and writes The Healthy Swimmer department and several columns in Training and Technique, including our brand new in 2011, The Dryland Difference. She is also working on a novel with a swimmer as the main character.
Meg Smath is a familiar name to many of you who are USMS volunteers. Meg has been proofing and copy-editing SWIMMER for many years, and her contribution is critical to its success. A Masters swimmer in Kentucky, Meg works as an editor for the Kentucky Geological Survey and is The Last Word on where that comma goes.
Packaging up all this great content into a beautiful, readable format is no small feat, and we are thrilled to be working with Anthem Media Group. The lead designer on their team is Annie Sidesinger, whose experience and degree in magazine design will be instrumental in taking SWIMMER to the next level graphically.