If you’ve been thinking about training for a triathlon or you’re already sucked into this crazy sport, you may have experienced unease with swimming. I’m not talking about dreading the 3×1000 on your workout plan – – I’m thinking of all the unseen inconveniences of the gym or “Y” pool. I’ve been suffering this realm of uncertainty almost every swim workout for the past year.

First, there’s pool water conditions: Will it have too much chlorine? I’ve been down that road a couple times – had a sore and scratchy throat for a couple days as result. Will the heat be working? Yes, the heaters at two pools I use were broken at the same time! I debated going home, getting my wetsuit. Will the heat be enough to kill the devil? Little do most know (until you try it), swimming sets in a hot pool is uncomfortable and dangerous! Best to call it and use the rest of your time to do some skills and drills since exerting yourself in a hot pool isn’t worth the potential for medical problems. Will it even be OPEN? Unforeseen pool closings for “accidents” are also a possibility. You just never know what the day will bring – I question what kind of issue, new or old, I’ll encounter each time I set foot on the pool deck.

Photo of swimmers at a training session

Scheduling: Some Y or health club pools are only open to lap swimming certain hours, i.e. at 1-3PM when you’re at work (how convenient). Other times, you might be dodging the youth team swimmers on their afternoon workout. It also might be open at 4AM, which works well for former collegiate swimmers who are used to getting up that early (nope, not me). Even with all the issues with the water conditions, I’d rather trade the schedule problems if I knew the water would be good every time I show up.

Other “Swimmers”: I’m using quotes around swimmers because this term has come to mean water-walkers, aqua-joggers, hydro-boxers, float-on-your-back people, and I’ll-do-anything-but-put-my-face-in-the-water people. I’m not sure why actual swimming has become passé, but I seem to be the only “swimmer” that uses the gym pool for swimming. Maybe it’s because all the lap swimmers are going to Masters’ practices which leads me to the next topic.

Masters’ Swimming: Here’s the answer to most of your Y or gym pool problems! A. It’s generally a set schedule, so you can either work around and plan for it; B. Most of the pools that are used for Masters’ swimming are used by other competitive swimmers (collegiate or high school), so there’s a very good chance the temperature and chlorine levels are being monitored and adjusted regularly. In addition, Masters’ swimmers could very well be a much better group to train with, as there is potentially some fun, healthy competition, and camaraderie from swimming together. What’s also key with Masters’ swimming is typically it’s all levels, so if you’re new to swimming, they’re usually very welcoming and can assist you in learning correct technique and get you started the right way. I can’t say enough good things about Masters’ swimming, and I’ve had the chance to be part of two different Masters’ organizations. Each one is slightly different, so if you think this might benefit you, find one in your area and sit in on a practice or talk to one of the coaches. You can find lots of information about Masters’ swimming, including finding a team in your area.

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