12 Reasons Why Masters Swimmers Are So Happy

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Butterfly. 

I was at our local U.S. Masters swim meet this weekend. Since I cannot swim with my torn ACL, I volunteered to time for a short bit with my friend visiting from Seattle. When I walked on deck I immediately saw two grown kids, who were former swimmers with my children on the club team. They were happy to see me, and I was excited to see them and sat with their parents. It was almost as if we were at an age group meet together again to watch our kids swim. I worked my way over to my Piranha teammates, who were warming up, talked with our coach and my other swim friends. I loved seeing all my friends on deck. I truly miss being a part of the team and swimming. Although meets make me so nervous when I’m competing, I was more than okay not to dive off the blocks. Then again, I’ve been nervous at every meet where I watched my kids swim, too, but more so when I’m the competitor.

 

While I was at the Masters meet, I noticed how different it was from age group meets. The main thing I noticed was that everyone is happy. Yes, there are a few nervous swimmers. I know I am fraught with anxiety at meets before I swim. But, generally, the atmosphere is very laid back and upbeat. A friend explained it like this: “It’s more of a party atmosphere of a community of swimmers rather than the nervous energy found on deck at age group meets.”

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Me diving off the blocks at my first meet.

Here are 12 ways Masters meets are different than age group meets:

 

ONE
Everyone at the meet, whether it’s swimmers, coaches, or family, really want to be there. Or, they wouldn’t be there.

TWO
There are no parents yelling at swimmers who miss an event or add time.

THREE
The only person who will argue with an official after a DQ is a swimmer.

FOUR
There doesn’t seem to be that hectic feeling trying to find heats and lanes.

FIVE
Everybody is friendly and although some swimmers may be a little nervous, mostly they’re chatting with other swimmers, laughing and joking.

SIX
Swimmers feel like they’ve won if they make it off the blocks and complete their event close to the time they swam the year before.

SEVEN
Getting out of the deep end without a ladder can feel like a major accomplishment in itself.

EIGHT
You will not see a single crazy parent—anywhere.

NINE
There’s no pressure for junior national cuts or college scholarships.

TEN
Nobody is getting nervous watching you swim.

ELEVEN
Every swimmer gets out of the water with a smile on their face. You won’t see any tears.

TWELVE
Masters swimmers are happy when they age up, because they feel it’s an advantage to be the youngest in their age group.

 

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My daughter at a meet where she got her first Jrs cut.

If you’re a swimmer or compete in another sport as an adult, how do you find it different from youth sports?

Get out of Your Comfort Zone and off the Blocks

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Do you ever look back at what you were doing a year ago? Or a few years ago? This blog allows me to review a snapshot of what I was feeling and doing during any month since 2015. Two years ago this week, I made a huge commitment that was totally out of my comfort zone. If I wasn’t injured today, I’d be swimming in my third meet next weekend. Here’s what I wrote in late January 2016:

I started swimming in April last year with US Masters, with my kids’ team Piranhas. It was my New Year’s Resolution to take the big plunge in 2015. I am embarrassed to admit that it took me until April to start on my New Year’s Resolution.

Eventually, I jumped in and I think it’s one of the best things I did for myself in 2015. You can read about my first days of Masters, here.

I equate joining US Masters to how I believe swimming was one of the single best things my kids did growing up. To a non-swimming family, this may sound crazy. But, there are so many benefits to swimming that changed my kids’ lives. Read more, here.

Biggest example—swimming changed my son’s health. He was, as his favorite coach termed, “A Secret Garden Child.” He suffered from asthma and chronic illness and swimming doubled his lung capacity. His asthma doctor became a big advocate for him to swim.

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My daughter diving in her senior year of high school at Super JOs, East LA.

I can go on and on about what a great thing swimming has been for my kids. I write about it regularly on SwimSwam and my blog. Here are links to a few of my stories.

So, what am I doing this year to push myself and what’s my New Year Resolution? One thing I’d like to do and I’m not 100 percent successful with is to get up an hour earlier each morning. I’m getting better, but it sure didn’t start off well. I have noticed, though, that I’m more productive with an hour earlier start.

The other big thing I’m doing to push myself out of my comfort zone is I signed up for my first swim meet. YIKES! I said it. I signed up for a Masters meet hosted by Piranhas. I’m scared to death. But, actually not as frightened as I was my first day in the pool last April.

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Piranhas on the blocks.

I practiced going off the blocks twice and it wasn’t pretty. When I was a kid, I learned to dive with a flat, almost belly flop “racing dive.” Old habits are hard to change. I’ve decided it might be best if I push off from the wall at the meet. But then my 83-year-old dad said, “I’m not going to come and watch you race if you push off the wall!” I’m not sure if he’s kidding or not!

In any case, I’ll let you know how it goes. If I show up or chicken out. If I dive off the blocks.

 

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My daughter with her first swim instructor.

 

What have you done to get yourself out of your comfort zone and get off the blocks?

 

A Healthy Update On My Progress

 

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Our gorgeous Palm Springs pool has reopened after replastering.

This week was fun and busy. I had lunch with a couple great friends on different days. I am so thrilled that our friendships continue through the years and different stages of our lives. They’re both inspiring women who are smart and kind. Next, I got the results of my MRI, saw the doctor and started Physical Therapy. I will work on strengthening and improving my range of motion for several weeks and go back to the doctor to schedule reconstructive surgery on my ACL. The good news is it can wait until I go to my daughter’s last home meet and PAC 12 championships. I wouldn’t want to miss them for anything! Not even for a fixed leg.

Earlier this school year, my husband and I flew to Salt Lake City to visit our daughter and watch her swim. On the flight home, things didn’t go as planned and we had to get off the plane and wait for another one, due to technical difficulties. While we waited on and off the plane, we were seated with two young women who looked like athletes—tall and fit. We got to talking and they were a former swimmer and softball player who are physical therapists and own their own business in our area called Dynamic Therapy.  We enjoyed their company and bonded over swimming and college athletics. Now, I’m visiting their office as a patient. It turns out the swimmer has been part of our team’s Masters program and I’m working on convincing her to get back into the pool.

My physical therapist said I can get in the pool—but not to swim. She suggested walking and exercise. I won’t have to wear the uncomfortable leg brace and the lack of gravity should make it easier for me to move. My only concern is how do I get in and out of the pool? The walking in water sounds like a great idea, but how do I start and how do I leave? Yes, there is the required handicapped lift, but do I want to use it? No, I don’t. I’ll see how that one goes when I get my courage up to jump in.

I also have a list of seven exercises that I’m supposed to do several times a day. I did three of them, which are done standing, but I have this fear of the ones where I am supposed to be sitting on a mat. What happens if I can’t get up? It’s not the actual exercises that are the problem, it’s my mobility in getting down and off the ground, just like in and out of the pool. Funny problems, if you think about it.

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I’m missing my morning walks but should be able to return to this view soon.

 

In any case, things are shaping up and I’m feeling better getting on track to recovery.

 

Role Reversal: From Swim Mom to Swimmer

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US Master Spring Nationals, 2017 at Riverside City College.

Is it easier to watch your kids compete? Or, swim yourself? I found out the answer at the US Masters Spring Nationals in Riverside, CA this past weekend.

It was the second time I’ve competed in a swim meet in my entire life. I was nervous, anxious and wondered repeatedly, why on Earth did I sign up for the meet? Who do I think I am that I can dive in with Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian?

The answer from one of my fellow masters swimmers was “You’re not racing either of them!” True. I’m not in their age group, nor do I share their gender. But, still. Who do I think I am to swim at a meet with 2,026 swimmers and some of them Olympic champions? I am in my 50s, new to swimming—and slow.

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Me and two of my masters swim buddies.

While riding in the back seat to the meet, with my husband and daughter up front, I looked back at car rides to meets with my kids with a smile. The mornings were filled with anticipation as I wondered what the day ahead would bring. I wasn’t nervous at all then. I hoped for a successful, fun day and a happy car ride home.

But, when they were behind the blocks for their first event, I’d get a tight feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d wring my hands and hope for a good race. I was a nervous wreck until their first race was over. Then I sighed with relief that yes, they actually could swim and I relaxed for the rest of the day.

Then this past weekend at the pool, it was my turn to be the swimmer. I had a pit in my stomach. It was all up to me to get to the blocks in time for my race. I had my daughter at my side. She helped me with my cap, sprayed on sunscreen and held my towel. She said she’d been looking forward to this day. I wanted to make her proud.

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My daughter in the 8-and-unders, when she swam 25’s.

She walked me to the warm-up pool and I stood there. She told me to get in and warm up. Each lane had seven or eight swimmers—real swimmers—not wannabes like me. They wore fast suits, flipped fast and hard. How could I get in with those sharks?

“Mawm, get in!” she said.

“How? They’re so fast.”

“Get in there, then,” she said pointing to the lane marked 65 and over.

I do have some pride, so for the first three-hundred swim part of my warm up, I jumped into the mosh pit and repeatedly felt my foot pulled, got flipped turned on and stressed out on how I was going to make it through warm up. For my kick and drill sets, I did move over to the 65-and-over lane. After all, it was empty and I’m really, really slow when it comes to kicking and drills.

It dawned on me that the race would be okay. I would have my own lane. If I could survive warm up, I could make it through my races in one piece.

My daughter was at the end of my lane cheering for me along with my husband, coach and teammates. After my races, she told me how proud she was of me.

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Role reversal: my daughter sitting in the stands reading a good book.

Sometimes it’s a good to switch roles with our kids. My daughter said after Masters Nationals, that she never wants to be a swim parent. After all, it was a long hot day, with two swims, hours and hours apart. But, in spite of that, she was a darn good one. She was encouraging, positive and her presence made me feel calm. I knew I had her unconditional love, no matter how I swam. She acted like a perfect swim mom. I could learn a few things from her.

My 50-breast with husband and daughter cheering me on. 

How Does Belief Translate Into Results?

 

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Palm Springs Aquatic Center, home of the Piranha Swim Team.

A friend of mine talked about a desire to get faster in swimming. I want to improve, too, although we’re at different levels. We’ve been friends since our college-aged daughters were in kindergarten together. We’ve been through all phases of parenting together—from academic, swim parenting through volunteering with our daughters in NCL. Now we’re sharing the experience of Masters swimming with the Piranha Swim Team.

Honestly, I’m one of the slowest swimmers in our Masters group. My friend, Linda, is much stronger and faster. Her goal is a “national time.” She knows what time she needs, how much time she has to drop—and she’s talked to our coach Jeff Conwell about what she needs to do.

We both swim three times per week. She was told by our coach that she needs to swim five days a week to make her goal. My goal is skill specific. I want to be able to flip turn rather than stop at each wall and take a big breath. I realized I needed to do this after my last meet and I tried “flip-turning” two days before the meet. That was a big mistake. If I plan to swim in a meet, I cannot hit my head on the bottom of the pool during a race, nor should I get water up my nose. Without practicing flip turns consistently, those two scenarios are more than likely!

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At my first meet with my good friend, Linda.

I was talking to a former coach of my kids, Tim Hill from the Sharks Swim Team in TX, and he sent me several links to an incredible website that’s useful for parents and kids about sports training and life in general called Train Ugly.

This link from that website really struck a chord with Linda and me and our goal setting.

It comes down to this. We need to start with the belief that we can improve and reach our goals. That will come down to action, such as Linda going to more practices weekly, and me adding flip turns in my workouts, plus working with the coach to improve my turns. The action will eventually turn into results.

That sounds simple, correct? It looks like a foolproof plan for success.

BELIEF — ACTION — RESULTS

The catch is in our beliefs. We’ve talked about the little voice in our heads that in her case says, “That’s way too much time to drop. I can’t do it.” My voice says, “Why do I even care? What difference does it make if I swim open turns or flip turns?” We both have self-defeating words bouncing through our brains.

Linda said, “We get comfortable with where we’re at. We get to a certain number of yards and if we don’t push to improve we really stop growing.”

That’s one reason why I want to improve. I look back at when I started Masters a year and a half ago and I have improved a lot! Yes, I’m proud of that but it would be easy to stay stagnant where I am now. After the swim meet and struggling with flip turns, I thought, “Whew! I’m done with those. I don’t need to bother anymore with being uncomfortable and getting water up my nose.” But, then I went to practice and thought, why would I give up on a skill I’m learning?

According to the Train Ugly website, it’s a difference in our mindsets. Do we have a fixed mindset or an open mindset?

“People with a growth mindset believe that they are in control of their abilities, that they can learn, grow, and improve their skills. With this belief, they’re more likely to put in the action (working hard, taking feedback, overcoming challenges – all the stuff that helps them get good at things). Action leads to results and the results confirm the belief – the cycle continues upward. This is WHY people with a growth mindset learn, grow, and achieve more over time.

People with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities, intelligence, skills are set. This makes them less likely to put in the action (do any of the work that actually helps them improve). When they don’t put in the work, they don’t get the results. This confirms their beliefs and the cycle spirals downward.”–TrainUgly.com

You can replace our swimming experience with any aspect of your life, from parenting, relationships to any activity such as swimming. Ask yourself, is the little voice in your head helping you improve? Or, has it already decided you don’t need to try, or you’re not worthy?

I’m going for getting out of my box and continuing to grow. I have goals in many areas of my life and I’m going for it. How about you?

 

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That’s me going off the blocks…

 

Round Two: Why Parents Need to Compete, Too

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Our beautiful Palm Springs pool.

This past weekend, I was at my second swim meet where I was the swimmer. I made the plunge once before—a year ago at the Palm Springs Piranhas hosted meet. I worried all week as the date of the meet approached. What had I done to myself? Why did I sign up for the meet?

Here is a partial list of things I worried and stressed about:

ONE

Standing on the blocks. It’s scary up there.

TWO

Diving off the blocks. I was afraid my goggles would fall off and I’d lose my contacts.

THREE

Doing a flip turn. In practice, I stick with slow open turns. While practicing flip turns the day before the meet, I got water up my nose and hit my head on the bottom of the pool.

FOUR

Breathing. I worried that halfway through my 50 free I’d start to panic and revert to breath-holding.16387450_10155016389794612_6785187209915237532_n

Then, I realized that last year I couldn’t get out of the pool and I had to swim to the ladder. This year, I didn’t have to worry about that. I can now get out of the deep end. That thought made me realize all the things that I had done to prepare for the meet and what was under my control:

ONE

I had gone to practice consistently for an entire year.

TWO

I had improved my diet to make sure I was properly fueled.

THREE

I stayed hydrated.

FOUR

I worked on dives and flip turns with Coach Jeff and felt more confident.

FIVE

I started a stretching regime that included warming up my shoulders.

SIX

I was one year stronger and better at swimming than at my first meet.

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Here I am with a few of my Piranha Masters friends.

 

I was mentally prepared. I was physically ready. I know I’ve made huge progress. Maybe at the next meet, I won’t get so worked up.

My only regret is that I didn’t start swimming when my kids were young. I’ve learned so much from swimming masters about how hard they work, how great their technique is and how hard it is to swim fast. I took it all for granted. I would have had a different perspective on swim meets and practice if only I had begun swimming years ago. I would have shared this bit of wisdom my favorite ref, Paul, told me at the meet, “Relax and have fun. It’s only a swim meet!”

Why do you think swim parents should compete? What makes you nervous before swim meets?

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Me and Linda. Two swim moms and swimmers.

P.S. One of my most favorite things this weekend was to see and talk with three “kids” who swam with my children on Piranhas at my Masters meet. They are all grown-up and continuing with the sport they love.

Photos courtesy of Piranha Swim Team.

 

Is October too late to start your New Year’s Resolutions?

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When I arrived on deck for my first am practice. This is the “before” pic.

One of  my New Year’s resolutions was to try morning swim practices instead of my usual noon masters. The past couple years, I haven’t had to get out of bed before dawn to get my kids to the pool. When they got their driver’s licenses, they sure didn’t want or need me to go with them–and who am I to argue about leaving the house at 4:50 a.m.? Next, came college and no driving to practice for me! I don’t sleep in past 6 or 7 am, but I have to say it’s really comfortable in my cozy bed.

Why did I want to give up a few extra hours of sleep? That’s been my struggle all these months since New Year’s. Sleep has won out to swimming for exactly nine months. But, I know deep in my heart that we need to be continually trying new things, pushing ourselves, and trying to be better, otherwise we’ll get bored and stagnant. Morning practice, I thought, would shake things up and get me out of my comfort zone some more and change the structure of my days.

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The sky changes during practice.

My adventure with swimming (not my kids swimming, but me swimming) began two years ago, when my New Year’s Resolution was to get out of my comfort zone and swim masters with my kids’ club team. It took me until April 2015, that I finally jumped in and swam a few days a week at noon. I was a weak swimmer, not having mastered the art of breathing during freestyle. I soon discovered there’s only so far you can swim with breath holding. But, throughout the months I’ve gotten better. My yardage has increased from 500 to 2,500 per practice and I swam in my first meet.

Finally, three weeks ago–a few months later than the New Year I admit–I showed up to morning practice. Who knew it would be a good feeling to get up in the dark and drive to the pool again. It’s strangely nostalgic, but instead of taking a trip to Starbucks and reading news on my phone, like when I used to take my kids, I’m diving in. There’s a sense of righteousness and virtue in getting your workout done by 7 a.m. It’s amazing to start practice in the pitch dark and slowly watch the sky glow and the sun rise.

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Good morning, my workout is done and it feels good!

 

Now, I’m struggling with how to stay awake after practice. I think I may have it licked with a trip to Starbucks—after practice! I think my body will get used to it, and I won’t be so tired. But, as one of my fellow swim parents/swimmers said, “Not going to happen. Coach will add yards and shorten intervals. You’ll always be tired!”

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This photo is taken from the same spot as the first pic. This is the “after” photo.