Jumping in at Masters Swim

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Our local YWCA has been offering Masters swim classes for a couple of years, but I've always been too intimidated to try it. I've gotten a little faster this summer, though, and have been doing plenty of intervals in the pool. They kicked me out of my lane a couple of weeks ago when I was doing my last long swim before Rev 3. As I was moving over to an empty lane, I started talking with one of the guys in the class, and he seemed really nice. The group was doing a workout that seemed manageable, and the "slow" lane had a woman I know that swims my pace. I decided that after Rev3, I'd sign up and come back.

Fast forward to this past Thursday when I figured I'd be recovered enough to join the group. I introduced myself to Beth, the instructor. I was really excited to get started until she wrote BREASTSTROKE on the white board. We started doing drills. Apparently I've been doing the whip kick wrong for twenty years. You know, since level 3 of swimming lessons...oops. I do this weird hybrid between a whip kick and a scissors kick that really doesn't belong in the presence of several former collegiate swimmers. Beth gave the others their drills to do. She gave me "modified" drills so I could get the basics down a little better. She had to stop me at the end of the lane several times to give me pointers. It was MORTIFYING! For me, feeling like I'm holding a group of people back is the worst, and that's exactly what I did for most of the class. After the drills, we did 9 x 75 IMs with different combinations of breast, back, free, and fly. Since I now know I can't do the breast with any sort of correct form and I can't do the fly for more than a few strokes, I had to alternate between back-free-back and free-back-free. I apologized to the guy in my lane several times, and repeatedly apologized to Beth. That sinking feeling of not being good enough to be there hung over my head the entire hour.

I'm not a swimmer by trade. I passed all of my swimming lessons when I was young and have always loved swimming for fun. I took to the distance pretty fast when I decided to train for my first tri in 2004. Steve and I taught ourselves Total Immersion in 2005. Since then, I have worked on improving my form and speed. I'm still not fast at all - around 2:00/100, but I'm comfortable in the water and generally enjoy it. I guess that's why I was so surprised to feel like a kindergartner in an algebra class on my first day. I talked to the instructor after class and asked her whether I was just in way over my head. She was very gracious and told me that she has swimmers of all different levels in her classes and that she's taught people who are afraid to put their faces in the water. Somehow that didn't make me feel any better. When I told her that I've done Ironman a couple of times and that I'm generally comfortable with the distance, she looked genuinely shocked. I'm not sure that was a compliment.

I know that sticking with this will be good for me. It'll be great to meet some new people and improve all of my swim strokes. It will keep me motivated to get in the pool this winter, something that I struggle with every off season. Eventually, it'll make me faster, too. I can tell that already. I'm planning on going back for at least a few more classes. I'm sure that if I can just get over the initial embarrassment, I really will have fun. On nights when we focus on free and endurance, I'll be fine. I'm already a little nervous for this Thursday, though, when we focus on the butterfly. Gulp.

Happy swimming everybody!



Good luck Pharmie! I know that the group I swim with are just impressed that I try out the different strokes since so many triathletes only do free. You'll pick it up and do fine. I do a modified fly that is just one arm at a time...it looks funny but it is more manageable since I can't dolphin kick that well. I have really enjoyed Masters swimming this year and hope your class works out for you!


Thanks Whitney! I know I'll enjoy it eventually. It'll just take a bit to get over the initial shock :)


I remember my first masters practice. I was terrified. I still am scared every time I go to a new group. And I almost failed swimming in college because of my breast stroke kick. It's still awful.


I'm so glad that you posted this. I am terrified to join a masters swim group and need that umph to just get the courage and go. I'm glad that I'm not the only one nervous - you took that first step... now I just have to!

Rachel Wasserman

I have the same trepidation about masters swim class. there is one that just started in my neck of the woods but i'm terrified of every stroke except freestyle.

Good to hear that the instructor responded to your needs (in addition to that of the group)...I'm sure it will be much more fun on the next endurance/free day.

Jenny Davidson

Hang in there - you'll be in your element in no time! NB I find breaststroke by far the hardest stroke to get right - the kick is counterintuitive, everything about the timing is very difficult to master - in its way, it is more challenging than fly...


I heart masters, even if the former collegiates scare the crap outta me. :) I wish I could find one that worked with my schedule or met in my basement, but no luck for me. You will totally be a superfast fishy in no time if you keep going!

Oh, and my "butterfly" provides great entertainment. I'm sure it's WAY more ridiculous than yours.


I am terrified to go to Masters Swim classes for just the reasons you mentioned. Now, I am really going to have to work on getting my nerve up!


It will get better!

I never did a masters class, but joined a "tri swim class" for the last two winters. The first couple of times, I was really wondering how I managed to stay afloat all these years when I got all the flaws in my stroke explained. But it certainly made me a much better swimmer, so it's all worth it.

Theresa @ActiveEggplant

Good for you for jumping in and taking the class! I am an awful swimmer...I just "learned" freestyle in January - and by learned I mean finally figured how to swim with my face in the water! I took a handful of swim lessons at my YMCA and got some great pointers. Even though it was just me and the instructor I was still nervous. I can't imagine being in a class with real swimmers!
Can't wait to hear about the rest of the classes you attend!

Brent Buckner

Enjoying swimming is a gift - full body exercise that most of us could stick with for life. Glad your Masters folks are acting as facilitators.


Sarah! Beth is great, she will take the time to talk and show you stroke mechanics, etc...You are a good swimmer. I have done her masters sometimes and you are by FAR A STONGER swimmer than many!
Hope you have fun!
PS maybe she can work on your hubby's "giddy up" kick on the free. That makes me chuckle anytime i am swimming next to him!


I really really want to get the kahonas to join a masters...good for you!