Here is a list of Frequently Asked Questions, and their enlightening answers, on Columbia Gorge Masters Swimming. Be sure to read below!
This picture is referred to in the above FAQ’s, showing Coach Paul and Bill, (Keeper of the Records and FAQ Man) showing the rest of us how it is really done in Hood River.
Do I need an invitation?
This is it. Just show up.
How good a swimmer should I be, really? Do I need prior swim team experience?
Most of our swimmers do not have a competitive background. We welcome swimmers of all abilities, and expect only that you can swim 50 meters (two lengths of the pool) of freestyle (front crawl) comfortably, while breathing to the side.
You start at 6 am? How long do you swim?
We get there at 6 and start by pulling the pool covers and setting lane lines. The overachieving/suck-up/coach’s pet types can get in by about 6:10, although most of us are still working on taking on our minimum daily allowance of caffeine and exercising our jaws at that point. The workout starts at 6:20 and ends around 7:30.
An hour ten? Are you nuts? I can’t swim that long!
You will be surprised at how fast the time goes by. The coach will break the workout down into sets, with short breaks in between. We start with a warm-up, usually with some kick, some swim, and some pulling; then do a pre-set to get ready to swim hard. The main set follows, then we cool down and get out.
So how many laps do you usually do?
Workouts generally run between 2,500 – 3,500 meters. At 25 meters per length, that’s 100 – 140 lengths, or 50 – 70 laps.
OK, now I know I can’t swim with you. I can’t swim that far!
Show up and give it a try. Start by doing whatever you’re comfortable with, and gradually increase it. You’ll be amazed at how soon you’re making the whole workout.
When I try and lap swim that long, I get bored bored bored. Isn’t swimming a little like watching paint dry, albeit a wee bit more physically demanding?
You’re reading this, so you must have some interest. We know you didn’t come here for the humor. Swimming with the team is quite a bit different than swimming on your own. Most folks don’t do regular sets on intervals when swimming on their own, and sets really help the time and meters roll by. And most people find the camaraderie of swimming with lane-mates to be highly motivational.
I see you have 5 practices a week. Does everyone really swim 5 days?
You can come as often or as little as you like. Most people average 2 – 4 days.
Does everyone do the same workout?
With distance and time interval adjustments to allow for different speeds, yes.
So what does a normal workout look like?
A recent Monday workout looked like this in the fastest lanes:
200 kick | Warm-up
200 pull |
8 x 50 reverse IM order (free, breast, back, fly)| Pre-set
3 x 200 IM on lane interval/100 free recovery on interval|
4x 100 IM on lane interval/200 free recovery on interval | Main set
4 x 100 IM on lane interval |
200 cool down
That was 3,700 meters, with 600 m warm-up, a 400 m pre-set, a 2,500 m main set, and 200 cool down. The coach adjusted the interval and repeats for each lane or group of lanes, so that the total meters varied depending on where you were in the pool. But every lane did some variation of this workout.
Ha, tricked you! I can’t do butterfly, and my knees hurt on breaststroke. Sorry, can’t swim with you.
Many of our swimmers can’t do one stroke or another, either because they are still learning it or for physiological reasons. Your coach can help you adapt the set to what you can do. But quite a few of our swimmers have learned new strokes through the masters workouts.
I’m too slow. I’ll hold people up.
No, you’re not, and no, you won’t. We truly have swimmers of all abilities, and there is a place for you.
I never learned to flip turn.
No problem. Do open turns. If you like, get some pointers on turns from the coaches and other swimmers and start integrating them into your workout.
How do you organize swimmers of different abilities?
The pool has 10 lanes. The coach groups swimmers of similar speed and ability in the same or adjacent lanes.
How many people are swimming at the same time?
We have had as many as 37 recently. We usually see between 18 – 30 people.
Doesn’t that get awfully crowded? How do you keep from running into one another?
We circle swim counter-clockwise, and leave 5 – 10 seconds behind the swimmer in front of you. Many people find the draft off the person in front of them helps, and you don’t have to keep count if you’re not leading the lane!
So what’s this interval stuff, and how do I know what mine is?
Almost all sets are done on an interval using our digital pace clock. For example, if you’re doing 5 x 100 on the 1:45, you will leave on the :00, the :45, the :30, the :15, and the :00. Your coach will place you in a lane or group of lanes with swimmers of about the same ability, and your lane will all do the same interval.
I’m pretty sure I’m too young/old to swim with you.
Masters is for ages 18 to as old as human beings can be. Our oldest team member is 80, and we regularly have a high school kid swim with us. You will find someone close to your age at a workout.
Are the workouts coached?
All workouts are coached. Our coaches are very involved and hands-on. You can expect your coach to give you each set and offer feedback on technique.
How much gear do I need? My triathlete friend has a swim bag with all kinds of crap in it. I’m cheap.
You need a swimsuit. A good pair of leak-proof goggles are helpful. We use fins almost every day, but there are a bin of loaners at the pool, along with pull buoys and kick boards.
Yeah, about that swimsuit thing. Do I really have to wear a Speedo? Sure, back in the day I was somethin’, but now no one wants to see that stuff . . .
No, you don’t. You can swim in whatever you’re comfortable with. Many of the guys wear knee length jammers. Most ladies wear one piece tanks, although there are now some workout appropriate two piece suits available.
Do I have to pay all year long? I like to hibernate in the winter.
Nope, no high falutin’ golf/tennis club mentality here. You will be charged a monthly fee only for the months you choose to swim - that's it! You just need to tell us BEFORE the first of the month that you are not going to swim, so we can take you off of billing for that month.
I keep reading about masters swim meets in the paper. Do old people really compete, and like dive off the blocks and everything? Do I have to compete?
No, you do not have to compete, although many of the folks on our team do. Masters competitions are generally laid-back, fun affairs, but you will be amazed at how fast some of those “old” swimmers are!
OK, I’m thinking about it. But what’s in it for me?
Uh, health? Fitness? Weight loss? Beating back the relentless march of time and the inexorable decline in your physical well-being that accompanies it? Fun? Re-setting your body clock to be awake and semi-functional when most thinking people are still snugly asleep in their warm beds? (OK, forget about that one) Camaraderie? Hanging with fat guys in Speedos? The pleasant feeling of well-being that accompanies a good early morning endorphin buzz? Foolishly chasing precious tenths of seconds in a desperate attempt to recapture lost glories from a misspent youth?
All these things – and more – are available to the even somewhat dedicated Masters swimmer.
So I’m thinking a good time for me to start might be ___________ [at least several months from now] because _______________________________ [fill in lame excuses here]?
The best time to start is tomorrow morning (unless, of course, you are reading this on a Friday or Saturday, in which case you are hereby granted either a two day or one day, as the case may be, reprieve). Just show up and give it a go.
Here’s a link from USA Swimming on how swimming is a total body workout. Read it here.
For information on registering for Columbia Gorge Masters, click here.