Embracing Swammerhood: 7 Ways Masters Differs From Age Group

Ah, the wonderful life of a U.S. Masters swimmer. Getting up at 4:30am to get a workout in before your actual day job may not be for everyone, but swimming competitively as an adult does carry certain advantages from the age group swimming you may remember. Here are 7 ways Masters swimming differs from age group swimming. Can you think of any more?

#1 – Swimmers WANT to be at practice

As a deviation from your childhood swim team, adult swimmers are at practice because they want to be there. No parent is pressuring them, no coach is keeping a strict attendance log and you’re not going to get dirty looks from your lanemates the next time you grace them with your presence.

For the most part, Masters swimmers are in the water because they want to keep up fitness, perhaps still compete, or simply spend time with friends they may not otherwise see.

#2 – You can tell your coach what you REALLY think about a workout

Most Masters teams are on a more peer-type basis with their coach, where joking, laughing and story-telling is woven into the workout of the day. As such, when a coach throws up a particularly sinister-looking set, swammers in the water aren’t shy about voicing their varied opinions. “This set sucks”, or “You’re killing us” are a couple of phrases that come to mind when things get rough. And, being adults, we get away with telling it like it is.

#3 – NO naps for the wicked

No, most Masters swimmers don’t pull a double with both morning and afternoon practice, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still deserving of the glorious post-practice nap. However, little things like making a living, raising a family and maintaining a household get in the way of even the tiniest power nap we’re tempted to take on our lunch breaks. Thus, we’re left in a perpetual sleep deficit most of the time, but it’s not enough to keep us away from our passion.

#4 – You WANT to age up

Typically age group swimmers are looking ahead to their next age bracket bump-up with dread, knowing they’ll be on the bottom-end of an older and, most times, stronger and more experienced set of competitors. That’s typically not the case with Masters, however, as being the youngest in an age group means you’re most likely the fastest. The older we get, the more we age in dog-year-type terms, with every age bump up a reminder that we will inevitably slow down. Entering a bracket means you’ve got the least amount of aging process under your belt.

#5 – A NEW definition of Swim Mom

When you’re being carted around to swim meets and double daily practices, your mom becomes the team’s ‘swim mom’ and her vehicle the ‘swim taxi’. The definition of the term ‘swim mom’ actually morphs into an entirely new definition for Masters swimmers, as most of us are parents, but we are the actual swimmers. My son is a big footballer who never took to swimming aside from being water safe. I coach and swim Masters, though, so I’m definitely still a swim mom, but in this case I’m a mom who swims.

#6 – You have OPT OUT powers

As a Masters coach, my daily Retta-ism directed at the swammers looking up at me from the lanes is, “You must do everything I write on the board….unless you don’t want to.” As an adult swimmer, you’re just that…an adult. You have the option of putting fins on….you have the option of adding 5 seconds to your cycle….generally, you have the option of varying a workout to suit your personal needs. Um, that’s not exactly the case when you’re younger.

#7 – Your former self was a SUPER HERO

With busy lives involving work and family, Masters swimmers are thankful for any amount of time they’re able to train, whether it’s 3 days a week or 6. When I think back to some of the sets we did in age group swimming, I shake my head when I remember how, at the time, I didn’t think what now seems virtually impossible was all that bad. “How did I do that?,” I sometimes ask myself now that my entire workout isn’t more than maybe half of a childhood practice.

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2 years ago

8) After meets, you go to lunch with your teammates and drink beer.
9) At travel trips (Nationals, Zones), you can share your hotel room with a member of the opposite sex. Often, that person is your SO, and you don’t need to sneak past the coaches in the hallway to visit.

2 years ago

You also have the chance to do things that you might not have been able to do as a kid: go to Nationals, place in the top 10 at Nationals, earn a top 10 time in the country, be an All-American (earn a #1 time in the country), maybe even set a world record in your age group. For some of us, these are our glory days.

Reply to  Chooch
2 years ago

True but some of them went to senior nationals or the Olympics. I know in my age group one women was on the Belgium Olympic team.

Reply to  anonymous
2 years ago

True enough. We have a gold medalist from the 1952 Helsinki Olympics on my team.

Reply to  Chooch
2 years ago

There’s a woman who lies about swimming in the 1960 Rome Olympics on a team I was on. She even has he rings tattoos on her back. Two of those, since the first one was covered by her tech sit, and she go another so people could see it. She DID NOT swim at the olympics.

Swim mom
Reply to  Chooch
2 years ago

Very inspiring! Thank you!

2 years ago

Best phrase I learned from the masters swimmers who used to train with our age group team was “Master Prerogative”. I have lived that phrase ever since I transitioned to masters.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Robbert
2 years ago

Along with “These are your new Best Times” and “We don’t get older, we just age up.”

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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