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Thread: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

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    How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Hello Fellow Swimmers,

    About two months ago I joined my local Masters swim team. I found it challenging and rewarding. However, recently I have
    been finding it difficult to attend sessions because of the tediousness and repetition involved. My yardage increased dramatically in the first 4 to 6 weeks of practice. I went from swimming less that 500 yards about twice a week for a couple of months to swimming just over 3600 yards per practice.

    I'd be interested in hearing any advice on how to stick with swimming for the long term.

    Thank you in advance for any help/suggestions.

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    Very Active Member waves101's Avatar
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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    I've been swimming masters for nearly 20 years now and here's what I found. If its getting to the pool that's the problem, get a workout partner/friend. That way you tell yourself so and so is waiting for me and I don't want to let them down. If it's the workout itself, there's no shame in adjusting it to your needs (interval, length, stroke, etc). Remember, it's masters swimming, it has to be for you first and the friendships/comradery are the fringe benefits.

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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    I am one of those lazy bunch that hates to feel like I'm sweating. So I tend to stay away from any dry land sports. The only form of fitness that seems to work for me is swimming. That is the #1 reason why I keep swimming. Each day I skip swimming, I tend to be grumpy and lethargic throughout the day. Also, since I've started going to swim meets, I want to beat my personal best, that's reason #2 why I keep swimming. I think you just need to find a goal/reason as to why you want to continue swimming. If you are a triathlete, it could be to improve the swimming leg of your race. Or just it could be just pure fitness reasons.

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    Very Active Member flystorms's Avatar
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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Jacques - What did you find challenging and rewarding at first?

    Just some thoughts...
    Do you have a goal in mind of something that might be just out of reach? Do you have a meet or a race you can do to test yourself? Having a goal helps give each practice new meaning, whether it's working on speed or technique. If you can easily do a 100 on a 1:30, for example, work to get that down to a 1:25.

    Personally, each practice is an opportunity to make tweaks. I'll focus on one thing for about a month until it becomes ingrained, like this past 3ish weeks, I'm working hard at making turns faster. Before it was working on head position when I'm breathing. This is a sport where minor tweaks can make a difference and multiple tweaks will add up to improvements. You can never be perfect, but you can work to get close.
    "If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to meet it." - Jonathan Winters, actor and comedian

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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    "If it's the workout itself, there's no shame in adjusting it to your needs (interval, length, stroke, etc). Remember, it's masters swimming, it has to be for you first and the friendships/comradery are the fringe benefits".

    Thanks Waves. I think I do put pressure on myself and maybe taking some of that off will be helpful. I'll thinking about how a change or two may help me out.

    "Also, since I've started going to swim meets, I want to beat my personal best, that's reason #2 why I keep swimming".

    I'm looking forward to doing my first meet Assumargo, thanks. Maybe if I get that under-my-belt I can set some important goals.

    "Do you have a goal in mind of something that might be just out of reach? Do you have a meet or a race you can do to test yourself? Having a goal helps give each practice new meaning, whether it's working on speed or technique".

    Actually, Flystorms, I achieved a huge goal of mine withing the first 6 weeks! - to do 1 mile non-stop using flip-turns. That was a great feeling. I'll try to set up some more important goals. One is to be able to do a 400 IM. I need to learn strokes other than freestyle in order to do this.

    I'm pretty much a perfectionist so my mind is almost always on technique when I'm swimming - as least one aspect of technique anyway. Maybe if I put in writing what I would like to accomplish each month will be helpful. I'll be sure to try this. Thanks

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    Very Active Member pwb's Avatar
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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacques_Mayol View Post
    One is to be able to do a 400 IM.
    Good move. As I was reading through this thread, before I got to this comment, I was going to suggest training for the 400 IM as doing a good 400 IM requires you to vary your workouts, focusing on both endurance and speed, all four strokes, technique, kicking, etc.

    Also, if you are training with a Masters team and don't find the coach's workouts providing enough variety, consider doing some solo workouts where you do what you want to do. While I love Masters swimming and there are truly some awesome coaches out there in our community, I have found that some coaches can fall into a routine, not be creative enough to keep swimmers engaged. I have found the best way to avoid monotony is to train by myself most of the time as I can ensure my workouts have the kind of variety I need.

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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    "I have found that some coaches can fall into a routine, not be creative enough to keep swimmers engaged".

    Thanks pwb. I was kind of under the impression that coaches got their workouts from USMS. But we're in freestyle open water season so this might explain the emphasis on one stroke recently. I might run this by my coach to learn more.

    One thing I noticed, and I supposed this is related to the topic, is that there doesn't appear to be a strong emphasis on technique/drills in the masters. I say this because at a large regional swim meet (I was a spectator) I noticed that many of the swimmers, at all levels, had poor technique. A straight are pull, for example, seems to run rampant - both in the group I swim with and also at the regional swim meet.

    It's still early in the game for me but these are just some of my observations from the outset. I do know how important technique is, though, and want to be sure that I continue to develop it in my swimming.

    Thanks pwb. I didn't entertain the aspect of variety in swimming/drills when setting a 400IM as a goal. Thanks for pointing this out.

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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacques_Mayol View Post
    ...
    One thing I noticed, and I supposed this is related to the topic, is that there doesn't appear to be a strong emphasis on technique/drills in the masters. ...
    You just hit a hot button for me! and you can drop the qualifier "masters" too. For a sport that is so heavily technique based, I am astounded by the percentage of coaches that either ignore technique entirely, or give lip service to working on technique, but then take minimal action. Most coaches seem to think that their job is to write a workout on the white board, and perhaps occasionally yell at the swimmers to go faster. Really? I can buy a book of workouts of $10 if that's all I want. If I'm paying a coach I'm expecting a lot more. Just about any coach can write a workout that will get your HR up for an hour (or two or three) but those that will actually work with the swimmers to build better, faster strokes are very rare. ...and I agree, it sure looks like there is a lot of low-hanging fruit for many swimmers. I've even talked to some respected coaches about this. The response: The swimmers won't listen and won't try to fix their strokes anyway so what's the point in giving stroke instruction?

    The good news is that this is one of the things that makes swim training endlessly interesting, trying to eek every last ounce of speed out by improving strokes. Read books, watch YouTube videos, watch swim meets, then try to emulate the best swimmers. Video yourself, identify something you think should be improved, try to fix it. See if it your "fix" lowers your stroke count. See if it makes your top speed faster. See if it makes your pace-work faster at the same level of effort. Video yourself again. Did you accomplish what you set out to do? If no, try again. If yes, what's next to work on?

    Oh, and I second pwb, working on the 400 IM can be very absorbing (albeit quite uncomfortable at times.)
    Have fun!

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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Thanks Karl. It's interesting to hear about your experience on the subject. From what I've learned to date swimming has a lot to do with muscle memory and the way to train those muscles is to do prescribed drills (for each stroke). There's just so much going on, I find, when swimming that unless I have those muscles trained there's no way I'm going to be able to pull things off.

    I think I can understand some of what the coach you talked to was saying. In my experience there are swimmers out there that don't want to take the time to do drills and focus on technique. It's just not important to them. This must be very frustrating for coaches, though, that try to explain the importance of technique, only for it to fall on deaf ears.

    Thanks for the +1 on the 400IM. I'm going to put that on my calendar today. The first goal is to complete one and then I'll try to improve my time.

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    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Make that +2 on the 400 IM. What I love about training for the 400 IM is the variety, which helps reduce the possibility of repetitive stress injuries. Training for the 1650 (or open water distance races) does just the opposite. As much as I love the 1650 and open water, the quantity of freestyle training required is a killer on the shoulders.

    With the 400 IM, if my shoulders need a rest, I do IM kick sets and work more on my breaststroke. When my hip gets sore from too much breaststroke kick, I switch it up and train fly. Training all four strokes and doing kick and pull drills gives you plenty of options to rest over-worked areas and make things more enjoyable.
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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Thanks Elaine! I appreciate you sharing with me some of your thoughts and experience on the 400IM subject. Keeping my shoulders healthy is one of my priorities and it does sound like doing all 4 strokes on a regular basis is a way to achieve this.

    I have found myself just going along with the freestyle open water workouts which, I agree, puts tremendous use and strain on the shoulders. I'm curious, how do you attend Masters workouts during open water season but still train for 400IMs? Do you swim on your own during the summer or find a separate lane in the pool?

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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Quote Originally Posted by Karl_S View Post
    You just hit a hot button for me! and you can drop the qualifier "masters" too. For a sport that is so heavily technique based, I am astounded by the percentage of coaches that either ignore technique entirely, or give lip service to working on technique, but then take minimal action. Most coaches seem to think that their job is to write a workout on the white board, and perhaps occasionally yell at the swimmers to go faster. Really? I can buy a book of workouts of $10 if that's all I want. If I'm paying a coach I'm expecting a lot more. Just about any coach can write a workout that will get your HR up for an hour (or two or three) but those that will actually work with the swimmers to build better, faster strokes are very rare. ...and I agree, it sure looks like there is a lot of low-hanging fruit for many swimmers. I've even talked to some respected coaches about this. The response: The swimmers won't listen and won't try to fix their strokes anyway so what's the point in giving stroke instruction?

    The good news is that this is one of the things that makes swim training endlessly interesting, trying to eek every last ounce of speed out by improving strokes. Read books, watch YouTube videos, watch swim meets, then try to emulate the best swimmers. Video yourself, identify something you think should be improved, try to fix it. See if it your "fix" lowers your stroke count. See if it makes your top speed faster. See if it makes your pace-work faster at the same level of effort. Video yourself again. Did you accomplish what you set out to do? If no, try again. If yes, what's next to work on?

    Oh, and I second pwb, working on the 400 IM can be very absorbing (albeit quite uncomfortable at times.)
    Have fun!
    '
    I agree most coaches don't deal with it. But the fact is that stroke work once you are older is very individual. Personally I don't even see the point with the "pay 150.00 for the stroke clinic" model. It is a waste of money. The mentality that you can fix your stroke or technique in 2 hours prevails because there is $$$ in it.

    Stroke development takes a very long time... doing it right and in some cases a very specific progression. And if you have shoulder, neck, or back issues.. it takes alot more work, and even a more challenging progression.

    And right.. most lap swimmers won't listen, or they argue when you tell them that you need to fix x before you can fix y.. It is easier to work with people who are starting out because they listen.

    I work with people one on one with stroke development.. and I don't even charge for it.
    Swim Speed Secrets - STGRID

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    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacques_Mayol View Post
    Thanks Elaine! I appreciate you sharing with me some of your thoughts and experience on the 400IM subject. Keeping my shoulders healthy is one of my priorities and it does sound like doing all 4 strokes on a regular basis is a way to achieve this.

    I have found myself just going along with the freestyle open water workouts which, I agree, puts tremendous use and strain on the shoulders. I'm curious, how do you attend Masters workouts during open water season but still train for 400IMs? Do you swim on your own during the summer or find a separate lane in the pool?
    ​I always train on my own, because the nearest Masters team is located too far from where I live.
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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Quote Originally Posted by Karl_S View Post
    You just hit a hot button for me! and you can drop the qualifier "masters" too. For a sport that is so heavily technique based, I am astounded by the percentage of coaches that either ignore technique entirely, or give lip service to working on technique, but then take minimal action. Most coaches seem to think that their job is to write a workout on the white board, and perhaps occasionally yell at the swimmers to go faster. Really? I can buy a book of workouts of $10 if that's all I want. If I'm paying a coach I'm expecting a lot more. Just about any coach can write a workout that will get your HR up for an hour (or two or three) but those that will actually work with the swimmers to build better, faster strokes are very rare. ...and I agree, it sure looks like there is a lot of low-hanging fruit for many swimmers. I've even talked to some respected coaches about this. The response: The swimmers won't listen and won't try to fix their strokes anyway so what's the point in giving stroke instruction?

    The good news is that this is one of the things that makes swim training endlessly interesting, trying to eek every last ounce of speed out by improving strokes. Read books, watch YouTube videos, watch swim meets, then try to emulate the best swimmers. Video yourself, identify something you think should be improved, try to fix it. See if it your "fix" lowers your stroke count. See if it makes your top speed faster. See if it makes your pace-work faster at the same level of effort. Video yourself again. Did you accomplish what you set out to do? If no, try again. If yes, what's next to work on?

    Oh, and I second pwb, working on the 400 IM can be very absorbing (albeit quite uncomfortable at times.)
    Have fun!
    This is excellent advice! And I would add - for those individuals needing more guidance to get through the maze of advice on swimming out there - try to find a competent coach, whether through remote coaching or on-deck, who can help you on an individualized basis.

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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Thank you Elaine. This is good to know. I'll try to determine the best path for myself moving forward.

    That's interesting Airborne. It's funny because I've been swimming for quite awhile but ever since I learned the role that technique plays in swimming I have always been open to doing drills and making any changes that were necessary. I guess it takes a certain mindset.

    Thanks SwimSpire. That's what I actually do - find a coach to learn from one-on-one. It is very well worth it in the end.

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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Your stroke will change if you want to change it. Many swimmers on our team do the drills and then go back to their poor habits. Changing the workouts in very important to stop the routine from setting in. This is the coaches job on this matter.

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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    I agree with most of the advice already offered here, Jacques, so what follows may be a bit of rephrasing!

    1) Mood improvement. I think a lot of swimmers swim, in part, because of the beneficial effects to stress levels, energy, mood, etc. You might try keeping a diary for a couple weeks noting how you feel before and after practice and how you feel on days when you don't swim at all. I suspect you might see that one of the main benefits of swimming happens not at the exact time of practice but in the aftermath.

    2) Habitualize. I read someplace that to make something a habit, you need to do it 28 times! Not sure how they came up with this number, or if it's even true, but on the off chance it is, why not resolve to rethink things after you attended 28 practices? You say you've been swimming for around 2 months. Rough calculation: 2 months = ~ 9 weeks. Assuming you swim three times a week, you are pretty close to the magic number. Maybe try extending it for another 28 times!

    3) Camaraderie. I think one of the best aspects of masters is making friends with your teammates. You can't do this swimming solo, which I understand some folks must do (no teams near by.) But if you can strike up friendships any and all teammates, plus possibly little rivalries with swimmers about your same speed, I think you will find this to be powerfully reinforcing. Our team periodically goes out for pizza and beer after Friday practices. It's a good way to get to know your teammates better with their clothes on.

    4) The meet participation is, for many, another very powerful motivator. Once you establish your baseline times for different events, you will definitely be inspired to beat these times in the future, and working out hard and consistently at practice is the best way to achieve this.

    Good luck. I know everyone is different, but the more reasons you can give yourself to go, and the fewer reasons you give yourself to skip, the better the odds you'll become a lifer in this fantastic sport of ours!

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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Thank you Jim. It's very helpful to read your thoughts on the subject. My goals aren't set yet so I can see the benefit of participating in race events and getting a few into place.

    I do find the fitness aspect pretty amazing so I think if I focus on this too it can help me stick with the program. I just added Vinyasa yoga to my routine so hopefully this will aid in my swimming.

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    Very Active Member Redbird Alum's Avatar
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    Re: How to Stick with Masters Swimming - Addressing Monotony

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacques_Mayol View Post
    .... Maybe if I put in writing what I would like to accomplish each month will be helpful. I'll be sure to try this. Thanks
    Jacques -

    A lot of great advice already provided, but your quote above is really important. Write down, in advance, what you want to accomplish and bring it with you to practice. Share it with your coach, so they can keep an eye out for the change you are trying to make, and reinforce it with you during practices.

    As a solo swimmer, I have to write my practices out ahead of time, complete with drills, intervals, and goals. I have it at poolside, and keep records on my home computer of dates, sets, times, and how I am feeling.

    Journalling expectations and experiences will help keep you at it!
    Good luck!


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