Masters or "Go It Alone"?

jkormanikjkormanik Boise, IdahoMember
edited July 2014 in Beginner Questions
I'm finally getting back into swimmingl after a longer-than-I-ever-thought break (2 years or so). I do not come from a swimming background and I'm a relatively recent on-set swimmer (2007). I began swimming for triathlon, and have completed 3 ironman distance races. My focus has evolved to almost exclusively swim (recurrent running injuries). I've swum the Governor's Island Swim, a 5 k swim and a 10 k swim in the past. I've checked out the beginner's threads and done a general search of the forum. There are many, many good pointers and, for those, I am thankful. I know pool swimming is essential to becoming a better marathon swimmer.

My question is this: for pool swimming, do most of the group do organized Masters' swims or swim your own programs? USMS (I'm a member) has, what I think, is a very good open water training workout section with specific workouts building throughout the year.

I realize some Masters workouts would be beneficial as there's a coach on deck to provide feedback on stroke technique. There's also the "obligation factor" of swimming with a group.

In any event, thanks in advance for all thoughts/opinions.

Swim on...


  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member
    @jkormanik see my comments from another thread here . Seems like you're already considering the "obligation" benefit of masters swimming, but I think there's more to it. I've done many seasons with masters and many without. I get in WAY more miles (2X?) with masters. And I'm faster on long swims when I'm doing masters. Could be the extra training, could be the speed work. I don't know. Obviously, you'll need both, and everyone is different, but since you're inviting opinions, I'll give mine: join the local club and add solo LSD work as needed...

    "Lights go out and I can't be saved
    Tides that I tried to swim against
    Have brought be down upon my knees
    Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

  • jkormanikjkormanik Boise, IdahoMember
    Thanks, SMS. I had red your comments previously and they helped me make the decision. I'll give masters a try and let you know how it turns out.
  • gregorywannabegregorywannabe Senior Member
    edited July 2014
    I do both jkormanik, i.e. some of my own solo sessions and some with my Masters teammates. With a master session I'll do extra, either before/after or both.

    It's a fun social way to get in more swimming and be forced to do other strokes, drills, and intervals I wouldn't normally do solo (if you call 400IM LCM fun! ;) )

    Plus an on deck coach can help with technique issues if asked, and it's always useful watching and training with better swimmers.

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited July 2014
    jkormanik wrote:
    My question is this: for pool swimming, do most of the group do organized Masters' swims or swim your own programs?
    Which is more likely to get you to the pool every day and add another jelly bean to the jelly bean jar?

    It's human nature to find increased motivation in the presence of others. So if you're like most people, you may find you get better workout, more consistently, with a Masters squad compared to solo sessions.

    At the same time, most Masters programs aren't designed for marathon swimmers. Most likely, as @Spacemanspiff says, you'll need to supplement any organized pool workouts with some solo long-slow-distance, preferably in open water.
  • marlinmarlin Member
    Obviously it comes down to personal preferences and what you're looking for.
    I used to swim, years ago, with an organized, coached, Masters type of group.
    I did benefit from it (bi-lateral breathing among others things) and enjoyed the camaraderie. I also met partners for open water swim workouts, independent of the organized sessions.
    Now though, I prefer to swim independently. I'm self-motivated as far as swimming, and prefer to design my own workouts. The exception is for open water workouts where I seek out a group or swim "buddy".
    If it works with your schedule, and you are not determined to train independently, I don't really see any downside.
  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member
    I like to do some of both. Swimming with others helps me get in speed work at a faster pace than I would do by myself. Swimming alone allows me to focus on my specific pace and race strategies.

    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • jkormanikjkormanik Boise, IdahoMember
    Thank you all for your input! I've decided, for now, to swim with a masters group 2-3 days a week and swim 2 days a week on my own.

    My first masters was this past Monday and...wouldn't you know it...IM Monday! I struggled and only swam 2450 in the hour. Instead of feeling down, I was proud of the accomplishment (not having swum IM ever). In order to "get my yards in...I swam open water in the evening. I got around 1.3 miles of OW done.

    Which begs an additional question...who does "split" workouts? I know from my triathlon days so long as the exercises are within, say, 12 hours, the physiological effect is the same as had the exercise been done in a single session.
  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member
    Oh no, IM MONDAY! LOL! While I've done IMs, I don't regularly train for them. Ouch! But seriously, doing the other strokes is good for you. It takes peer pressure from someone else to actually make me do something other than free and back.

    I do doubles (split) sometimes.

    If I have a short (1-2 mile) OWS race in the morning, I like to go to the pool later and get in an interval workout. When I don't have a race on the weekend, I'll go to the pool for a workout in the AM, then go down to the harbor in the PM to swim with our little OW club, when the tide is up to a reasonable level.

    I work at a pool and sometimes I don't have enough available time or pool space to get it all in at once, so I might swim twice there.

    Swimming twice can be a good way to move your daily yardage up without undue suffering. 2x4000s is initially easier than tackling 8000 after work some evening. Once you've done a longer distance in 2 workouts, it seems much more do-able all at once.

    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • I also do doubles 4x/wk and it is interesting to hear from others how this benefits training. I too work at a pool so swimming every day and twice for some is just part of the day. Everyone thinks I'm a nutter.;)
  • jkormanikjkormanik Boise, IdahoMember
    After 2 sessions at "masters," I asked my lane-mate and friend why I didn't see anyone being "coached up." She indicated she's been trying to get coaching on the pool deck for the last 15 years...the current "coaches" are merely scribes who are there to put the workout on the board and, I suppose, answer any questions... Not what I had in mind...although my lane-mate is providing me feedback.
  • SydneDSydneD Senior Member
    I do both. And love my team. Our coaches are the men's and women's coaches at UMASS Amherst and they are both fantastic. Without them, I would truly not be swimming as I do now.
    That said, because I am the only distance swimmer in the group, sometimes the workouts have different goals than my highly specific needs. When I'm "in season", I sometimes cut back on my team practices so I can focus more on distance days.
  • There are arguments for and against swimming with a team. If you do, you'll have the support of teammates and will often have greater motivation to make it to each practice knowing that you won't be going it alone.

    The downside is that, as you yourself have experienced, coaches will not often have the time or inclination to provide vital instruction on swimming technique, nor will they be providing practices that are geared towards your specific needs.

    I actually just posted an article about the importance of stroke analysis for swimmers, whether they are on a team or swimming solo. Maybe it will be of help to you!

    Julia Galan

  • jonnySjonnyS Shanghai, ChinaMember
    I swim with a buddy 2 times a week and solo sessions 3 times a week, just to do my own thing. as seems to be common here, he isn't into the distance I want to swim. But I am surely stronger for the challenge of keeping up with the buddy swimmer.
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