Why I Swim With a Masters Group

I’ve said it before and it was said last night by local coach Matt Trost at the SB Tri Club monthly meeting, if you want to become a faster swimmer you need to swim with the faster swimmers. I believe that in most cases this means swimming with a Masters Swim group.usms_logo

Improving your swim stroke requires consistency and structure, strong points of all Masters programs. At the local 50m pool here in the Santa Barbara harbor, Los Banos Del Mar, the weekly Masters workouts, led by Coach John Abrami for the SB Swim Club, generally follow this pattern:

  • Monday, longer distance, sets at lane base (LB) and LB plus, basically long steady distance
  • Tuesday & Thursday, Individual Medley (IM) nights, focus on the non-freestyle strokes
  • Wednesday, middle distance sets at LB and LB minus, working on anaerobic threshold, a.k.a. Challenge Wednesday
  • Friday, shorter and faster sets, sprint work, a.k.a. Fast Friday

Anyone familiar with a periodized training program will see the three pillars of our weekly workouts in this schedule: Long Steady Distance (LSD), intervals, and speed work. If you have the time in your schedule and can fit in three days of swimming each week to go along with your other biking and running workouts, this makes it easy to get in the training that will help you advance your swimming and maintain a very high level of fitness.  Let me give you an example of this week’s Monday set to talk about:

Warm Up 600m – 200 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull
Main Set 1000m
– 1×100 LB+30
– 2×100 LB+20
– 3×100 LB+10
– 4×100 LB
– Masters minute rest
– 1×100 LB+5
– 1×200 LB+5 (+5 sec./100m)
– 1×300 LB+5
– 1×400 LB+5
– Masters minute rest
– 2×50 @ LB+5 (1/2 100m LB +5 sec)
– 4×50 @ LB+5
– 6×50 @ LB+10
– 8×50 @ LB+15
– Masters minute rest
Cool Down 100-200m easy swim

This was kind of a long set and not every lane could finish it all in the 1-1.25 hours. But I ask you, those of you that didn’t grow up as age group swimmers and aren’t currently racing triathlons as pros or elites, is this a set that you would normally do by yourself? Anyone? Yeah, I bet I can count on one hand the number of triathletes that would do anything near this kind of distance and intensity, on basically an “easy” night, with regard to the pace of the sets. Notice everything was on lane base plus, so more time than we normally get to complete the set, with breaks in between.

For anyone that normally swims with this Masters group, we all just ground out the meters and went home hungry and tired, but with the knowledge that we just swam two miles. If you’re racing longer distance triathlons or really want to improve your Olympic distance swim times, I think doing sets like this at least once a week at a minimum should be on your schedule.

As far as the frequency of swims (or bikes, or runs…) in a week, we’ve pretty much established that you need to be doing a sport three times a week to show continual improvement or to maintain your highest level of fitness.

Twice a week workouts in a sport allow you to maintain a pretty high level of fitness, but it will slip back a little if you don’t get in a third workout once in a while. If you’re just learning how to swim or still working on your stroke, twice a week means you’re barely hanging on to any improvement you’ve made, kind of always frustrated and possibly already plateaued.

Working out once a week in each sport, well each time if feels like you have to work to do what you think you should be doing, no or very little progress ever made. This is another reason for swimming with a Masters Group; they offer variety and the frequency of workouts that you need to improve.

The bottom line is this, if you’re at all interested in improving your swim, having someone help you with your stroke, or are just bored with doing the same ole, same ole sets in the pool by yourself, I recommend you check out http://www.usms.org/ to find a local group and head on down there and join the fun. This could be the key to improving your swim stroke and finding those 3-5 minutes you’ve been looking to drop on your swim time this year.

See you in the pool!

One thought on “Why I Swim With a Masters Group

  1. I swam with a few groups and yes, you’re right, it does really help to improve speed!! It’s awesome to swim with others and to feel everyone pushing you and each other!!

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