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Thread: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

  1. #1
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    Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    I was wondering why there are so few Masters Swimmers under 40. I've visited multiple swim clubs and noticed very few swimmers under 40.

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmnchng View Post
    I was wondering why there are so few Masters Swimmers under 40. I've visited multiple swim clubs and noticed very few swimmers under 40.
    They're busy at home with small children

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    Very Active Member srcoyote's Avatar
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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    The club that practices at the pool at which I train solo seems to be at least 1/3 under 40. That said, I have also noted the ages of the better performing open water swimmers trends older. At 47, I find myself often besting the times of all of the 20 and 30-somethings, but struggling to place in brackets over 40. My theory is that former age groupers leave swimming, and if they do come back it isn't until they are older, and it is on their terms. I left swimming (though I played some water polo and did some minimal pure swimming exercise only) after high school and didn't come back until I was 35.

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    "They're busy at home with small children"

    Never thought of it, but so true. I am < 40 (getting there pretty soon though), and I didn't think about swimming until I decided I was done having kids. Also, I only had time for masters swimming once they were able to sleep through the night.

    "
    That said, I have also noted the ages of the better performing open water swimmers trends older."

    Also something I've noticed. In my masters team, the ones < 40 that does open water swims will do < 2k, and all of them are also triathletes. The ones that do longer distances are actually > 50

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    I am one of the few.I am 38 and start swimming on Masters events around 30...At Germany my age group is very strong and there are some former Champions and Olympian like Stev Theloke..but you are right, there are more Mastersswimmers in the the age group 40, 45 and 50...I think one the reason is, if people retire around 25 or even 30 very few continue swimming at Masters.

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    Very Active Member arthur's Avatar
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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    There are a a few clubs where I live that are probably 50% under 40. My club practices 9 to 10pm which is good for a parent as I can put my daughter to bed at 8:30 and then go swim.

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    Very Active Member m2tall2's Avatar
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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    KIDS!!!

    They're up at 6 and have to go to bed by 7 or 8. Until they get to they get to be much more self sufficient, leaving the house before or after work for an adult activity is next to impossible even in two parent households. By the time the kids are in bed and one parent can be free, all the pools are closed.

    I just added a mid-morning workout group (9:30-10:30 AM) to my team to counteract this. I specifically planned it during hours the child-watch program is open. This allows parents of non-school aged children, who are home with them, a chance to get out and swim.

    Interestingly, it seems to be collecting another demographic I wasn't expecting: Undergrad & Graduate Students who happen to have that block free from classes. We're not "right next to" any campus, although the 5 college area is within 20-30 minutes, depending on the school, and there's a community college about 10 minutes away.

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    You're right! I was part of a competition last week (my first one as master), and I realized that most of the swimmers where over 40!

    In my case, it's difficult to find people from my age (25-30) because lot of them are still studying. At least, that is what I think.

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    I'm 28 and just started back up in the water beginning of September, so I think I can speak firsthand to this.

    Seconded (or thirded, or fourthed) on the kids thing. I am not there yet so that's not one I can talk about firsthand.

    But also, lot of folks that swam for years and years through college may just need a break, or some of them might just be done with the sport completely. I know several on my college team that were practically counting down the days until their last conference or nationals - sad that you'd dedicate so much of your time to something you didn't like to do, but that's the reality for some people. I was as gung ho about the sport as anyone through college, but I surprised myself after my senior year with how ready I was for a break and a change of pace for a bit.

    For people that never swam competitively at all, swimming is a sport with a big learning curve. It's hard to learn to move in the water naturally - to move with the water instead of fighting it. It might be stereotypical to say, but younger people are typically less willing to expose themselves to that kind of vulnerability, especially in a public forum like a Masters team.
    400 IMer in another life.

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    Quote Originally Posted by arthur View Post
    My club practices 9 to 10pm
    This is pretty cool and it seems like there would be more practices held at this time. It seems like the vast majority of masters workouts are either early in the morning or late afternoon--when most people are getting off work.

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    I workout with a masters team at noon on Tue & Thu, so of course it's mostly retirees that are available midday. There are also sessions at 5:30 AM and 7:00 PM where I assume the younger folks are.

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    I agree that scheduling constraints of young families are a big factor keeping the 30 somethings away. The combination of inconvenient practice times for both Masters and open lap swim as well as the commuting time to the only indoor pool in town made swimming impractical for years. Other forms of exercise were much more convenient. We do see a decent number of single 20 somethings at our pool. The other factor I have noticed is that a number of middle aged people take up or resume swimming as they age due to joint issues and injuries that interfere with running.

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    Because swimming is one of the few really ideal activities for people as they age. And more people as they get older want to stay fit, so even if you weren't a swimmer in high school or college you might discover it's a way to maintain health and fitness without impacting your joints. It's also an ideal exercise for folks with arthritis, which creeps up on you with age.

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    Quote Originally Posted by JPEnge View Post
    But also, lot of folks that swam for years and years through college may just need a break, ... sad that you'd dedicate so much of your time to something you didn't like to do...
    Being a swimmer and a student was my self identity for many, many years. Once senior year of college rolled around, the light at the end of the tunnel meant that everything was about to change. Student became professional, and frankly, I was completely burned out from swimming. After several years, I tried hitting a lap swim here and there, but just couldn't get into a routine as my children were small, and my sleep schedule wasn't conducive to early morning or even late evening workouts. After 17 years out of the competitive pool, I got the itch to return, and my kids and home life were at a stage that I could commit to a swim schedule.

    I would venture to say that my situation is fairly common and that is why you don't see too many folks under 35 in Masters.

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    The first answer to this question seems to often be the kids thing. As someone in that age bracket, I don't find this to be the case at all. In my experience, there are a variety of factors that vary by region, but the underlying thing is that as an organization, I don't believe USMS offers much for this age bracket.

    To start off, JPEnge hit the nail on the head. For many high school and college swimmers, they can't wait for swimming to be over. Its tough on the body and demanding coaches and rigorous schedules are also tough on the mind, and they just want a break. If 18-40 y/o are participating in athletic events, its typically triathlon and/or some sort of road race, and they don't need to swim with a USMS group to do that.

    For those former swimmers getting back in the water, many will continue to stay away from competitive events for years due years of bad experiences and/or fear of not being as fast as they were. This seems illogical to many of us, but there are plenty of swimmers who want NOTHING to do with a meet. Completely uninterested. So again, if all you are doing is working out in the water, you don't need USMS to do that.

    Finally, as folks this age are getting on their feet financially, there is a financial piece to this discussion. Parents are not supporting this habit any longer. There are costs to join a club/pool, join usms and pay for workouts. Throw in an event or two, new suit, goggles, equipment, and you can easily surpass $1000/yr (at least where I am located), not to mention transit/parking costs. Think of a kid who graduated yesterday with $100k in student loan debt. Even with a decent job, I'm pretty sure that finding a roof over their head and eating (probably a lot of ramen) will usurp swimming for 9 out of 10 former swimmers who will have to put swimming at the bottom of financial priorities. Plus lets not forget there are plenty of other new, fun non-swimming activities for kids fresh out of college (happy hour!).
    man up, buttercup!

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    I'm sure having young kids is part of it, but it should be an increasingly smaller part of it since fewer people are choosing to have kids. I think Muppet hit on some good points. There's burnout, there's financial issues, there's coping with work schedules. All these things play a part.

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    Very Active Member m2tall2's Avatar
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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    Financial issues are a big one, too. From 22-28, I couldn't afford to go to the pool to swim. I really wanted to swim but couldn't. Now, in my 30's, I can afford the lap swim, I can work my schedule around the kids but I still can't afford the master's team. So, I coach it. lol!

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    This thread got me thinking - are there equivalent organizations in other countries? (Yes, I admit it, I am a newbie about competitive swimming). I read BOWLING ALONE a decade or so ago. It's about how little time for civic engagement Americans have of late. It's showed up in every kind of volunteer project that I have been a part of. I think lots of it is the pressures that workers face here, to produce more and more, to work longer and longer days. Yes, I am sure college "loan" debt and family establishment come into play, but the real low level of true time "off" in the US must affect whether someone can choose how he or she spends that time.

    If there are masters swim organizations in other countries, do they experience similar membership trends? I guess that's my short-form question!
    Just enjoying swimming for fitness and relaxation, in Maryland


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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    Here's the thing... I'm 33 and I'd love to swim masters but the meets aren't any fun. No atmosphere. What's a most fun in swimming? Kids summer league dual tri and quad meets on a beautiful summer evening. I'd love to head to my local pool on a weekend evening or afternoon have something like a bar setup for spectators, a crowded deck and have the 2,3,4 or 5 (whatever) local masters clubs square off for team points and light bragging rights. Definitely a reduced event schedule, shorter meet, fewer individual events, more mixed relays. I spent a decade spending all day at regional and national meets watching heats tick by and its boring as heck. Sailing has weeknight races. Towns have summer night 5k race series. Cities have incredibly popular kickball, soccer, and softball leagues after work. Why not swimming? We know what works for local kids meets, why not add some fun and local camaraderie back into things?

    I'm new here so just my 2cents.

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    Re: Why are there very few Masters Swimmers under 40?

    I'm kind of on my own path with swimming right now because I started almost from scratch at age 17 and now, at 19, I'm the youngest Masters swimmer I've seen in my area so far who's actually going to practices and/or meets. In a way it's kind of nice because it motivates me to go out of my way and invite people or talk to people in my age group so I end up having a lot of fun with fellow close-to-twentysomethings. We aren't the majority and it's easy to feel really young and maybe out of your comfort zone at first.

    Both in and outside of the swimming community, people do not always consider how your body can still improve well into your years. I've always been surprised to see really good or passionate swimmers just stop "cold turkey" but at the same time I get it, because there's a lot of other things to do in life and some people might have never had, or have lost, their intrinsic motivation. Masters is really good for people who love swimming or fitness in and of itself and who would make sacrifices just to spend time training for personal improvement, but I've heard former competitive swimmers describe Masters as a "drastic" difference from varsity swimming and for that reason it may not offer the same social or tangential benefits that ex-varsity swimmers want from their time in the pool.

    I'm pretty happy to see there are still a good amount of younger people here, though. Even though it doesn't look like there are a lot of people my age in Masters from a glance, if you dig around in the online search you'll find a good amount of 18-24, or 25-30 aged people and some of them are even still swimming in college and are posting really impressive times. I really enjoy how I was able to find swimming competition here, which is a huge goal of mine, and I'm glad my age group is included in Masters, because otherwise it would be hard to find people to swim or compete against. There are a few varsity swimmers in my Masters age bracket that I've noticed online so I try to track their times and go to meets with them to have a rival/swimming role model.

    Plus what's nice with Masters is that even though not many people start young, if you do start young you have the opportunity to pursue swimming from the perspective of it being a lifelong sport instead of the perspective of it being an eight-year or four-year competition. That point is what has made a world of difference in my life.

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