Masters Swimming: The Good, The Bad, and The Stupid

I will not be talking about my ankle/foot issues. I am being sanguine about it all. And, if that doesn’t work, I’ll probably do what I did last time: Ask the doctor if – besides the pain – there’s any reason not to run on it?

Since running is sort of iffy and I’m trying to “make things fun anyway,” the other day I got back in the pool for the first time since September. I went to Masters. Like many things in life, my feelings about Masters Swimming are mixed. (If you don’t know what Masters is it’s the shorthand name for going to a scheduled practice at a scheduled pool at a scheduled time with a coach and other swimmers and doing a pre-planned workout. Many of the people go to swim meets and compete — like any team in any sport — but there’s also usually some triathletes and people learning to swim.)

What is good about Masters Swimming:

  • People to swim with, since swimming is as boring/meditative as laying in silence for an hour and staring at a black line.
  • Generally, coaches who know stuff about swimming and can tell you that you look like a plastic bag dragging in the water.
  • A scheduled practice with a planned workout. No thinking = no having to pump yourself up.

What is bad about Masters Swimming:

  • It is stunning how grown adults are incapable of mastering the basic math necessary to follow and remember a swim set — nearly all of which go in a pattern.
  • I don’t really care about learning how to swim butterfly with better technique.
  • For that matter, why are we swimming for a couple minutes and stopping all the time. Do we run that way?
  • And for reasons that may forever remain a mystery to me, Masters — no matter where in the country you’re swimming — fosters the same sort of idiotic competition reminiscent of group bike rides. It’s the type where everyone tries to prove how good they are by cutting short their turns in order to keep up or pushing off the wall too close to the person ahead of them so they can maximize the draft or ignoring the coach and swearing they can do the easy 100s on a 1:10. FYI, you’re not fooling anyone.

It should be noted I actually like my Masters group a lot and it’s one of the better ones out there, but I think the main thing I dislike about Masters, in general, is it’s just not as much fun as everyone keeps promising it will be. When I started on the Cal Triathlon team my junior year of college, I hadn’t been on a swim team in six years. Yet, I headed to swim practice every Monday night at 8 p.m. (and Thursdays and Sundays). We had eight lanes from fastest to slowest and a coach and practice was hard and sometimes stupid — but it was also fun. You genuinely were friends with most of the people there. And, even if you weren’t, you could mock them if they lacked the basic math skills to understand the set or give them shit if they insisted on trying to “beat” everyone.” And, we’d gossip in the locker room and plan parties hanging onto the lane lines and get dinner on our way home after.

Come on, don’t we look like fun (and yes, all these pictures are from parties; it’s not like we took photos at practice — we were busy practicing!):

At the Christmas party. Yes, my hair was dyed brown/red/auburn in college. I'm thinking about going back to it.
At the Christmas party. Yes, my hair was dyed brown/red/auburn in college. I’m thinking about going back to it.
Justin and I all dressed up and doing something totally normal for a team party. At which I am clearly making a totally non-alcoholic smoothie.
Justin and I all dressed up and doing something totally normal for a team party. At which I am clearly making a totally non-alcoholic smoothie.

Everyone keeps swearing to me Masters is fun too. But, it’s a different sort of a fun. It’s more of the ‘Hard swim today.’ ‘Yep, lovely weather we’re having though’ ‘Oh, how are the kids?’ ‘Fantastic, just fantastic.’ variety.

One time, at a weekend morning Masters practice back when I was swimming weekend morning practices, we were doing a kicking set, which means you can talk and talk and talk. And Nate was there, so we were gossiping about teammates and bitching about upcoming races and laughing about what we were going to do that weekend. The woman in the lane with us was so taken aback by our loud, quick talking and laughing that she asked: Are you guys married or brother-sister? Which is, obviously, a really stupid thing to ask because there’s just no way you’re going to come out on top of a question like that as the asker. But, also, it was stupid because apparently that was just a little too much fun for Masters. Whoa. Tone it down.

Let’s not lose focus of what we’re really here for: proving our manhood. I’m sure that’ll go well.

Do you like Masters swimming?

11 thoughts on “Masters Swimming: The Good, The Bad, and The Stupid

  1. I was curious if you ever considered changing the layout of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

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