A Master Stroke
With two Masters Swimming Programs in Severna Park, its time to take the plunge.
Almost eight years ago, after fracturing my tibia, I was forced to give up running and biking for six months. As an alternative, my doctor suggested I take up swimming. Reluctantly, I did and was surprised to find I enjoyed it.
At first it was the challenge of learning a new sport and just being able to complete a workout. But as I continued it became about perfecting my stroke and improving my times.
Unfortunately, when I first started swimming I was on my own to make these improvements. I bought books and DVDs. I scoured the internet. I watched the faster swimmers at my local pool but it was really guess work and when something proved too hard, I would just give up and do it the way I was comfortable doing it.
Because of this I have developed bad habits. I only breath on one side. I have absolutely no kick and I know only one stroke. These are things I want to fix. Fortunately, I have moved to Severna Park and have two Masters Swimming Programs within a couple of miles of my house.
In addition to the well established program at the Severna Park Community Center, Severna Park Racquetball and Fitness Club has recently added a Masters program. Each program is part of the United States Masters Swimming organization and is available to swimmers 18 years of age and older.
Each program offers coaching and daily workouts. Instead of swimming the same laps over and over again, the Masters workouts vary each day, sometimes working on speed, sometimes working on endurance, and always working to improve a swimmer’s form.
“Masters” swimming refers to the age of the swimmer, not the ability. Swimmers in a Masters program range from the recreational swimmer who is looking to improve enough to be able to swim laps on a weekly basis to the competitive swimmer who uses the weekly Masters workouts as an opportunity to fine tune their form and increase their speed for competition.
Though both coaches, David Wendkos at SPRFC and Nancy Brown at SPY, encourage their swimmers to join in the competition as a way to help measure their progress, it is not required. The Masters program is designed as a way to help a swimmer develop but also as a way to encourage continued participation in the sport.
When I was first forced to the pool, I dreaded my workouts. I dreaded the time I had to spend alone learning a new sport and the frustration that always followed. With a Masters Swimming Program, a swimmer not only has a certified swimming coach, she also has the company of other swimmers.
Knowing that another swimmer is waiting at the pool, wondering where you are is a great motivator for getting out the door on days when you might be likely to skip a workout. But more than motivation, for many of the swimmers, the Masters Program offers adults the opportunity to be part of a team, to be a part of something bigger and to connect with adults with similar interests.
Swimming is a great way to get fit. Whether you use it as a way to cross train or as your only form of fitness, the physical and mental benefits of swimming are unmistakable. It builds endurance, strength and cardiovascular fitness.
But what I enjoy most about swimming is the opportunity it affords me to let go mentally. With running and cycling, I spend my time mulling over ideas for new stories, working through problems from my daily life and generally letting the wheels of my mind spin.
With swimming, I have to let go of all of that. When I am doing a hard swim workout, all I can think about is the number of strokes between breathes and the number of laps before I need to switch to a different stroke or do another set. Swimming is more freeing for my mind than my other sports and that alone makes it worth the effort.