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Aging Gracefully with USMS (May-June 2010)

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There’s always a lot of talk about age in Masters swimming. We don’t look our age—and some would argue, don’t act it—we age well, we age up, we age group. And then there are the adages: “Age is just a number,” “The older we get, the faster we were,” and “We don’t have to get faster, just older.”

There’s a certain je ne sais quoi to the adult swimmer, something the nonswimmer can’t quite define. Most hit the pool deck in their swimsuits with confidence, no matter their shape, size, or age. Sort of like learning that it’s OK to send your food back in a restaurant—something many don’t feel comfortable doing until their 40s—we have a wee bit of entitlement as we stroll around at meets discussing our races with our teammates and competitors. After all, we have worked hard, in life and at practice, and we made all the necessary family arrangements back home. When we get to the meet, it is time to have fun.

And we’re good at it—just ask the 592 swimmers, aged 18 to 91, who participated in the YMCA Masters National Championship on April 15-18 in Ft. Lauderdale. First-timers at the meet were amazed—remarking that everyone just looked so happy: big smiles, lots of cheering and laughing. There were throngs of noisy swimmers at the turn end shouting encouragement to their teammates, getting their splits, counting their laps—no matter what age. A nonswimmer friend, who noticed the complete lack of attention paid to age in this regard, remarked that Masters swimmers must have the best-kept secret in athletics.

The secret is getting out.

In the January-February issue of SWIMMER, Jim Thornton wrote about staying happy, and how aging Masters swimmers, on average, appear to be happier than nonswimmers. In this May-June issue, lifelong swimmer and noted author Dr. Phillip Whitten explores research into the physical side of aging swimmers. Again, Masters swimmers appear to come out on top—living longer, not surprisingly, than sedentary people and, something that did surprise researchers, longer than walkers and runners. Although the research is fairly new, it has sparked curiosity in the research community dedicated to aging and will undoubtedly be further explored.

While we let the experts figure it out, we’ll continue to have fun; it’s how we roll.

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Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:55 AM by Editor

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