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Thread: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

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    Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    Lots of folks on this board are pretty experienced competitive swimmers (and you're awesome), but I'm wondering how many of us are in it just for fun/fitness. Is Masters really about competition, or is there room for the fitness swimmer, too?

    Of course, I'm looking to get better, improve my stroke and kick and get a little faster. But only because it ups the fitness quotient. I didn't get into swimming to compete, but because my hereditary arthritis started kicking in and I figured it was a safe, effective way to exercise and drop those pounds my doctor's been hounding me about.

    Who out there is a non-competitor, how many times a week to you swim, and do you count laps, time, or just do whatever feels good?

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    USMS Membership Director Jayhawk's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    Out of 59,660 registered 2014 members, 14,727 (25%) of them competed in a swim meet in 2014.

    The majority of USMS members do not compete in swim meets; many members just like to maintain a high level of fitness and to enjoy the camaraderie that comes from participating in organized workouts.

    Anna Lea Matysek
    USMS Membership Director

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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    From my reading of the boards and the types of articles posted here the 75% who don't compete don't talk about their fitness goals or routines much.

    Maybe they're all in the pool.

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    Very Active Member Muppet's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    I love Anna Lea's stat. Keep in mind that these two "types" of swimmers can be one in the same: A competitor would be swimming for speed and perhaps a challenge of some sort. In order to do that, they need to be fit! The fitness world and competitive world should be better joined.
    Quote Originally Posted by DeniseMW View Post
    From my reading of the boards and the types of articles posted here the 75% who don't compete don't talk about their fitness goals or routines much.
    Interesting observation. The conclusions I would draw from this? The competitors have a strong desire to: set goals; solicit peer feedback; obtain technical knowledge; try new things; and interact with others. All in the name of becoming a better (in terms of both technique AND speed) swimmer - and to help others to the same.

    A paradigm for ANY swimmer to consider, but most specifically a fitness swimmer: a race (meet or ow swim) should never be about the time or place you finish... its an opportunity to learn about yourself. Its a barometer against which you can measure progress towards a goal. That goal that may not always be about numbers on a stopwatch - but more often things like breathing patterns, body position, kick strength/cadence, stroke counts, turn quickness, high elbows, etc.
    man up, buttercup!

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    Very Active Member gobears's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    Although I usually swim a couple of meets a year, I primarily swim for fitness and fun rather than competition. I enjoy the daily challenges in practice much more than I do racing in meets. I think there are a lot of us out there who just really love that chlorine and endorphin fix...

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    Very Active Member Swimosaur's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    Quote Originally Posted by DeniseMW View Post
    ... how many of us are in it just for fun/fitness. Is Masters really about competition, or is there room for the fitness swimmer, too?
    For me, going to meets and competing *is* the fun, so to me, the title of the thread, "Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition", implies an either/or distinction that isn't there for me. The competition is the fun. It's what keeps me motivated. When I compete I get to travel, visit different places, meet old and new friends, and enjoy a more active & interesting life. What's not fun about that? Ok, maybe spending money ...

    That said, different strokes for different folks, right? In my experience, even most people who swim with organized masters teams never enter a meet, or do so only rarely. I once swam with a 40-something ex-NCAA Division I guy who popped off a Top 10 time in a 400 IM in the middle of practice. Could he be bothered to go to a meet? Heck no. In the same practice there were all kinds of other non-competitive swimmers, of all speeds. They were all there for fun & fitness.

    Some people are motivated by GTD, or marathon open water swims, or just the ritual of swimming every day. It's all good. At the end, it's all about fun & fitness, wherever you find it.

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    Very Active Member ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    +1 on Swimosaur's post! We both competed on the same team at World's and Nationals last month , and it was a blast!

    I feel exactly the same way as Swimosaur (even down to the
    ). It's $ well spent, though, because I (almost) always return from a meet feeling like , even when I don't swim well.
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    I guess competition to me means putting pressure on myself to reach a certain standard. I used to train karate and our sensei insisted that we compete in the club's twice a year tournaments, and I hated it. Maybe I'm just not a competitive person, or I haven't found anything at which I'm good enough and secure in knowing I won't embarrass myself.

    Elaine K and Swimosaur, to you the competition is fun. But you're both light years ahead of me in ability.

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    Very Active Member aztimm's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    I agree with all of the posts so far, and thanks to Jayhawk for posting those stats again! She's posted them before, and I don't think they've changed much since I've been on the USMS forums.

    While I really don't care for most meets (there are a few exceptions), I do like the whole open water experience. You go, swim, then you're done. I recently swam a 5k and spent less than half the time at the event venue than I do for most swim meets (and got in much more actual swimming )
    Personally, I just don't like much of the waiting around that can happen at a large meet (unless you happen to be waiting with good company).

    If I had to take a guess, I'd guess that 10% of so of the swimmers on my team compete regularly, or at least 1 meet per year in each of SCY, LCM, and SCY. My team has some former college swimmers (I think one gal went to a US Olympic trials), and other swimmers who are just happy to get in the water and swim.
    Many on my team do an occasional meet (maybe one per year), especially if it is a, "team invite," type meet. Typically small and fun. I've seen some masters swimmers in their 80s go off blocks for the first time in their lives--quite a site to see--as well as others who broke USMS and/or world records, all in the same meet.
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    Very Active Member ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    Quote Originally Posted by DeniseMW View Post
    I guess competition to me means putting pressure on myself to reach a certain standard. I used to train karate and our sensei insisted that we compete in the club's twice a year tournaments, and I hated it. Maybe I'm just not a competitive person, or I haven't found anything at which I'm good enough and secure in knowing I won't embarrass myself.

    Elaine K and Swimosaur, to you the competition is fun. But you're both light years ahead of me in ability.

    Ability is irrelevant if your goal is to go to meets and just have fun. There are some people on our team (Swimosaur is my witness on this!) who are horrible swimmers; however, they show up at all the meets to just enjoy the experience and have fun with their friends.

    There is no reason to put pressure on yourself to reach a certain standard. Heck, I am lousy at 200 butterfly; it's my worst event! I have been "racing" it at all the meets I have competed in over the past couple of years, though, because I have set personal goals to improve in that event. I don't care that I come in last place, because I am not trying to beat anybody else. I'm just trying to improve.

    On the 13th, I will be competing in my first Ironman Pentathlon. In a short one-day meet, I will be "racing" 400 IM AND 200 of each stroke. 200 fly is my last event, and my goal is to just complete it legally. My time will probably be 30 seconds slower than usual; but, I don't care what it is. I just want the satisfaction of knowing I can successfully complete this self challenge.

    Denise, I'm not trying to talk you into or out of competing at meets; but, I hope you will consider it some time. You saw what Nationals was like when you met me there on Sunday. It was a BLAST for those of us who participated in the experience!

    You don't have to be a great swimmer to participate in a meet-- even Nationals! I didn't make qualifying times this year, so I just swam three events, including 200 fly and 400 IM. I had so much fun at that meet, and I am VERY glad I participated.

    Perhaps you can try a small local meet in your area or a Senior Games meet which usually draws swimmers at a lower level of ability (compared to USMS meets). Just see if you can go with the goal of meeting other swimmers and just having fun. Don't put any pressure on yourself!

    Edit: Denise, if this makes you feel any better, I just figured out where I ranked in my age group for my various events in long course. These were my worst: 200 fly- 97%, 100 fly- 93%, 400 IM- 91%.
    Last edited by ElaineK; September 5th, 2014 at 06:57 PM.
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    I'm definitely in it for fitness and fun and I think USMS places too much emphasis on competition, which I suspect dampens the enthusiasm of a lot of people for the organization in general (including myself).

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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    sftom, I think that's because a lot of the USMS folks are good swimmers, even if the don't post great times at the meets. Most of the swimmers I've met have been at it for a long time, and started when they were kids, whereas I started as an adult. They're pretty fearless, I'm not.

    To give USMS credit, from what I'm seeing in replies to this post, pretty much everybody is in competition with themselves. What I don't see are articles in the magazine or online geared toward the fitness swimmer. I'd like some articles on nutrition advice, some easy drills to build up stamina, alternative exercises that improve stamina in the pool, and so forth. Maybe there have been but I haven't seen them since I've been a member.

    ElaineK, I saw you do the butterfly and you may not be the fastest, but you are excellent. You have impressive strength and skill. I will be rooting for you on October 13th. You go, girl.

    Trying a local meet isn't a bad idea. But I have to get to the point where I'm not gasping for breath at the end of each lap.

    I still don't like to share a lane with a bunch of other people. I'm still not accustomed to being tossed around and slammed into the ropes or have someone whack me with with their backstroke. I'm going to go to a master's swim near me. The coach said I can have my own lane.

    I didn't mean for this thread to sound like I'm down on competition, because I'm not. I really enjoyed meeting ElaineK and Swimosaur at the Nationals. Watching the event was truly inspiring, and I could tell that everyone was having a great time.

    I was just hoping some of the non-competitors would weigh in here with their workouts, how often they swim, whether they set any goals, and whether they have been able to lose weight and keep it off.
    Last edited by DeniseMW; September 12th, 2014 at 12:47 PM.

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    Very Active Member FindingMyInnerFish's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    I'm a very slow swimmer, but I still enjoy meets when I can get to them--also open water swims, which if you find those where swimmers have a wide range of ability, you don't have to worry too much about whether you're fast enough. I finish typically at the back of the pack in these races, but I still enjoy them as a way to connect with other swimmers, test myself, and get a chance to swim in places that normally might not be open for swimming. I'm a runner who added swimming to my routine b/c it gave me another avenue to explore and also allows me to work out harder and recover sooner--and see life from a different perspective!

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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    So FindingMyInnerFish, do you still run, and does it help with your swimming endurance?

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    Very Active Member Bill Sive's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    Denise,

    Swimming is what you make it.

    If you want to swim for fitness then do it. If you want to compete then do that. One team that I workout with has only three members who enter swim meets once in a while out of a total of 42 team members. One team member only does Nationals and not regular swim meets. Others only do open water swimming.

    There is one city not too far from where I live which once per year puts on a Community Swim Meet. Not sanctioned by USMS or USAS. Just get in swim, do you best and receive a ribbon if, in your age group you place 1-3. In this swim meet that I received my first ribbon for swimming. I was excited. On the other hand some USMS put me down for participating in this event. I say hooey to those persons who told me that.

    I too started swimming later in life (5 years ago). I kept it up. Worked off some extra poundage and stay fit. You can do the same.

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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    Hi Denise. I started swimming in July. Just two months ago. I started by myself and later worked up enough courage to go to our fitness club's adult swim practice (not a USMS group, so I'm unattached). I love swimming so much now. When I started I could barely swim 100 free, at any speed, without choking in water and gasping for breath. Now I can easily swim a 1000 free, slowly. I'm getting fit and my clothes fit better! But, like some others have said, it is the competition that motivates me. I travelled 3 hours to go to my first meet last month. I entered five events, placed dead last (out of everyone, not just my age group) in three events and beat two people (again, out of the entire field) in my other two events. But I had a blast. I met a great friend who I can't wait to see again at the next meet, and most importantly, I have official times! I was proud when they popped up on the USMS site, despite how slow they are. Now, I have a tangible goal to try to reach. Times to beat. Btw, that was my first meet ever. I never swam as a kid.

    But it motivates me and makes me work harder in my workouts because I want to improve and beating my times would mean my hard work paid off!

    I'm also not trying to convince you to compete if you don't want to, but you had made a comment about the ability of a couple other people being so much higher than yours, but I'm here as proof that those of us who stink (in comparison) still enjoy meets, too.

    Whatever you decide, I'm glad you participate in these forums! I often feel I'm out of my league on here, but everyone has been really nice and helpful.


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    USMS Membership Director Jayhawk's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    Quote Originally Posted by DeniseMW View Post
    To give USMS credit, from what I'm seeing in replies to this post, pretty much everybody is in competition with themselves. What I don't see are articles in the magazine or online geared toward the fitness swimmer. I'd like some articles on nutrition advice, some easy drills to build up stamina, alternative exercises that improve stamina in the pool, and so forth. Maybe there have been but I haven't seen them since I've been a member.
    The Sep/Oct issue of SWIMMER magazine is in the mail. It is already posted online so you can take a sneak peek if you have set up your MyUSMS account.

    On Page 38 is an article titled "Swimming to Lose," with the subtitle "Swimming and a Healthy Diet Can Add Up to Weight Loss."

    Turn to Page 25 for a technique feature, "Get Hip With Your Hips," about the role that hip rotation plays in the freestyle stroke. It is accompanied by an EXCELLENT three-minute technique video, which can be viewed here:



    [ If you haven't set up your MyUSMS account, follow the instructions on Pages 8-9 of this illustrated document:
    http://www.usms.org/admin/lmschb/usm...orums_acct.pdf ]

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    Very Active Member ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    Quote Originally Posted by DeniseMW View Post
    To give USMS credit, from what I'm seeing in replies to this post, pretty much everybody is in competition with themselves. What I don't see are articles in the magazine or online geared toward the fitness swimmer. I'd like some articles on nutrition advice, some easy drills to build up stamina, alternative exercises that improve stamina in the pool, and so forth. Maybe there have been but I haven't seen them since I've been a member.

    I have seen a lot of good nutrition advice and drills in Swimmer Magazine. Check out the back issues online. I did that when I joined and read all sorts of great articles.

    ElaineK, I saw you do the butterfly and you may not be the fastest, but you are excellent. You have impressive strength and skill. I will be routing for you on October 13th. You go, girl.

    Thanks, Denise!


    I didn't mean for this thread to sound like I'm down on competition, because I'm not. I really enjoyed meeting ElaineK and Swimosaur at the Nationals. Watching the event was truly inspiring, and I could tell that everyone was having a great time.

    I was just hoping some of the non-competitors would weigh in here with their workouts, how often they swim, whether they set any goals, and whether they have been able to lose weight and keep it off.

    Denise, I didn't swim as a kid except on the high school swim team where our "coach" was a P.E. teacher who didn't know how to swim or didn't know anything about swimming. I learned breaststroke by watching the only other breaststroker on our team. We shared a lane, and I followed (and watched) her.

    I didn't get back into swimming until I joined USMS in 2010.
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    Very Active Member Bill Sive's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    Hi Anna Lee.

    Regarding "Swimming to Lose" - mark me down for 65 lbs lighter since I started USMS. I am maintaining the reduction in weight too! I did that without any type of program. Just consistent swimming and better eating habits.

    I have something to send to the Fitness Committee in December too. They'll just have to wait until then.

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    Very Active Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming for Fitness/Fun Not Competition

    Quote Originally Posted by DeniseMW View Post
    I was just hoping some of the non-competitors would weigh in here with their workouts.
    Have you seen the workout forum geared to new swimmers?

    forums.usms.org/forumdisplay.php?96-Basic-Training-for-the-New-Swimmer-by-Wendy-Neely
    These opinions are mine mine mine and not USMS'.

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