SIX SUGGESTIONS FOR THE SOLO SWIMMER

Note:  The following article appeared on Swimspire.com in September of 2016 and was adapted for the Georgia Masters Newsletter in December, 2016:

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Are you a solo swimmer?  If so, welcome to my world!  For many of us, swimming solo rather than with a workout group or team isn’t a preference; it’s dictated by circumstances.  In my case, the nearest U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) team is located quite a distance away, so the community pool just one mile away is the more convenient option.

Although swimming solo may have its disadvantages, I have discovered ways during my six years as a lone Masters swimmer to overcome them and make the most of my swimming experience.  Hopefully, the following suggestions will do the same for you.

  1. No coach? No problem!  Learn to coach yourself with video.

The most frustrating thing for me training solo was not having a coach on deck to evaluate my strokes on a regular basis, so I bought a waterproof camera and enlisted the help of my husband to periodically shoot video of all four strokes. Having to kneel down on the deck to record underwater views was a knee and back buster, so I rigged up a camera mount on a PVC pipe.  Now, my husband can stand up straight to shoot underwater video.  He simply twists the pipe to pan the camera as I swim by, or he holds it still at the end of the pool for front views.

In order to shoot video myself, I use reusable rubber-coated twist ties (available at Home Depot) to attach the PVC pipe to the pool ladder or railing.

Next, I upload the videos to my computer, and compare them to instructional videos right here on Swimspire.  I also compare my stroke videos to “Go Swim” and “Total Immersion” videos viewed on YouTube.

Alternatively, the U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums (www.usms.org) are a great place to have your stroke video evaluated by other Masters swimmers.  Just upload your video to YouTube, and post the link on the Forums.  (You don’t have to be a member to sign up for a free account.)  Every time I have done so, other “Forumites” have responded with great advice.  Often these online “coaches” have been actual swim coaches or world-class Masters swimmers!

  1. Are you lost as to how to design your own workout plans? Check out the Internet!

The USMS website is THE place to find a variety of excellent workouts to suit your needs.  Sign up for that free account, and check out “Workouts” in the “General” section of the Forums.  Swimming workouts are posted on a daily basis by top-level Masters swimmers that are geared for sprinters, long-distance swimmers, triathletes, stroke specialists, and more.  There are even swim workouts specifically written for expectant mothers and those with limited mobility!

There are plenty of other options for swim workout ideas, too.  Google “swim workouts,” and there will be numerous options for ideas.

I copy and pasted my favorite workouts into Word Documents, custom-formatted them in larger font for easy reading through goggles, and printed them out.  They are kept in a three-ring binder in plastic sleeves, and I place a selected one in a jumbo Ziploc bag to keep it dry at the pool.

I also record my results (such as my practice “race” times) on a plastic SCUBA slate using a pencil.  After recording the information online in my USMS Fitness log, I use toothpaste and water to scrub it clean.

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  1. Be a sociable solo swimmer.

Many swimmers love the solitude of swimming solo, and escape to the pool to alleviate stress.  If you’re an extrovert like me, though, I enjoy being around people; so, I make an effort to be sociable when I’m at the pool.

Regardless of your personality type, there are advantages to getting to know others where you swim.

Over the years my friendliness towards others at the pool has come back around in ways I had never expected.  I get asked about upcoming competitions, receive a lot of encouragement, and get congratulated when I return to the pool following a meet.  There are several people who even offer to move (or just automatically do it) if they are using my favorite lane when I arrive for my workout.  (The other narrow swim lane has two ladders that are not built into the wall—painful for my fingers if the butterfly recovery isn’t timed perfectly.)

Striking up conversations with others at the pool has led to some wonderful friendships, too.  We already had one thing in common when we met; we loved to swim!

  1. Become a “Forumite” on the USMS Discussion Forums.

Joining USMS, and being active on the Discussion Forums has also led to cherished friendships over the years.  One “Forumite” (a FINA World Record breaststroker) who had viewed my posted stroke videos and responded with advice did something for me I will never forget.  At my first USMS Short Course Nationals, just two months after joining USMS, he surprised me by watching me race, and then meeting me at my lane to provide stroke feedback.  Hearing what I did well and how I could improve helped me going into my next race.  This “Forumite” has been my valued online coach ever since, and I am one of his biggest fans!

At another national swim meet the following year, my husband and I got to know the guys from another team sitting next to us in the bleachers.  When it came time for my 200 breaststroke race, I heard a booming, “Go, Elaine!” echo from the bleachers as I stepped up onto the starting block.  That jolt of inspiration propelled me to swim a personal best time!

Besides learning a lot from the other Forum contributors, many of them have become real friends—unlike the so-called “friends” many people make on Facebook (that they may never meet face-to-face).  When I compete at swim meets—especially USMS National Championships—I get to see and spend time with my Forum friends.  One of them even traveled across the country to visit me in Georgia, and participate with me at an upstate meet.  It was a blast!

Overall, the swimming community is a friendly, open, and supportive one.  Become a part of it, and you will be happy you did!

  1. Volunteer.

Are you a non-competitive fitness/recreation swimmer?  You will be welcomed with open arms if you go to a local swim meet, and volunteer to time races, count laps during distance events, or assist the meet director!  It’s a great way to meet other swimmers, and become a part of your local swim community, even if you never swim a race.

When I was unable to compete following hip surgery, I timed races at a meet.  I had so much fun cheering my teammates on and socializing with the others.

Are you considering becoming a competitive swimmer, but a lack of self-confidence in your abilities is stopping you? Do you feel intimidated by the thought of competition?  Volunteering at a local Masters or Senior Games meet is a great opportunity to see what it’s really like.  Watch the other swimmers, and see how you compare.  At a recent local swim meet, there were swimmers of all levels; from a three-time 1980’s Olympian to a swimmer who appeared to struggle with completing the race.  Nobody paid particular attention to either one; we were all there to race against the clock and achieve our personal goals.  As always, the atmosphere was fun, friendly, and supportive.

  1. Share your skills.

Related to the last suggestion, sharing your skills with other swimmers will bring joy in unpredictable ways.  When I complimented a new resident at my community on her freestyle stroke, she lamented the fact she hadn’t been coached since her age-group swimming days; so, she wasn’t sure how her stroke looked.  I offered to shoot topside and underwater video of her stroke, so we met up the following day for a video session, and I recorded her stroke from several angles.  I then uploaded the videos to YouTube and sent her the links.  She was so appreciative that she treated me to lunch!  We had a great time, and a new friendship was formed.

I also write a monthly “Swimmer Profile” column for the Georgia Masters Newsletter and contribute photos I shoot at swim meets.  In addition, I periodically submit meet recap articles.  I enjoy the writing process, and interviewing profile subjects has been a great way to get to know other area swimmers.  Friendships I’ve formed have deepened, and the compliments on my writing have been gratifying!

Think about your skills and how they could benefit other swimmers at your pool or your local swim club.  It will be a rewarding experience!

Putting these six suggestions into action is sure to make your solo swimming experience more enjoyable.  Give them a try and see for yourself!

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WELCOME TO MY WORLD! FOUR WAYS TO INVOLVE YOUR NON-SWIMMING SPOUSE OR PARTNER

This is dedicated to Bruce, my soulmate for over thirty years and husband for nearly 25 of them.  You have always been there for me, even when you thought I was nuts!  (Only you would have the patience to video my painstakingly slow 2000 yard butterfly for Butternuts.  Yes, I am a nutty Butternut!)  I love you more than ever, I’m your #1 fan, and will always remain your Aqua Dog.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

WELCOME TO MY WORLD! FOUR WAYS TO INVOLVE YOUR NON-SWIMMING SPOUSE OR PARTNER

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IT WAS GREAT WHILE IT LASTED

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2013GeorgiaChampionshipSeries

For the second year in a row, I won the Georgia Championship Series for my age group. This series is a United States Masters Swimming year-long competition that takes place in the state of Georgia. The trophy is awarded to the swimmer in each age group with the most accumulated points in a designated short course yards (25-yard pool) swim meet, long course meters (50-meter pool) meet, open water competition, and short course meters (25-meter pool) meet. To qualify, a swimmer has to participate in at least three of those four competitions throughout the year.

By no means am I the fastest swimmer in my age group. The way I win is by competing at all four events, swimming the maximum amount of races allowed at the pool meets, and racing the hardest events that most women my age would never attempt. Last year, only 16 women in the country in the 50-54 year old age group competed in the 200 meter long course butterfly, and 24 raced the 400 meter individual medley.

At the open water competition, I raced the 3K and 1K back-to-back both years and discovered how much I really enjoy swimming long distance events!

The Lotto motto is, “You can’t win if you don’t play.” My motto is, “You can’t win if you don’t show up!” Of course, for me, I also can’t win unless I race all of the difficult events that nobody else wants to swim. How else do you think I win 1st places in those tough events? I’m the only one in my age group crazy enough to race them!

I’m not that slow; however, there are a couple of my teammates who are Top Ten swimmers in the country. The gal who won high points at the first 2014 Georgia Championship Series meet is #1 in the country and used to swim for UGA (University of Georgia). At least I beat out the other three gals to place second for the meet.

Winning two years in a row was a combination of hard work, motivation, endurance, having tons of fun, and being lucky enough that the faster gals didn’t show up to all of the meets. This year, it looks like Ms. #1 is planning on competing at every meet—including the open water competition. Oh well, she’s a super nice gal and an awesomely fast swimmer.

It was great while it lasted!

FROM INTERVIEWER TO INTERVIEWEE

Interviewing others for my Encore series in Griffin/Zebulon Life Magazine is something I enjoy as much as writing their stories. In fact, I have found it to be such an enjoyable process that I am now writing artist profiles for another local publication, Kitchen Drawer.” My first artist profile will appear in the next issue with another slated for sometime next year.

Although I have been on flip side (twice) being interviewed for stories in Swimmer Magazine, I was taken by complete surprise when I was asked to be interviewed for http://www.swimspire.com . Julia Galan, Director and Head Coach of Swimspire contacted me after reading some of my posts on the United States Masters Swimming (USMS) Discussion Forums:

“Hi Elaine,
What a fantastic initiative to be able to help two people learn how to swim – there is no better feeling!

I’m just so impressed by all of your swimming ventures – getting through shoulder problems, striving to improve, and helping others. I also noticed you have a travel blog, which I flipped through and it looks really interesting!

My website, Swimspire, is an online coaching site but it is also a site for articles about inspiring people. I’d love to feature you in an article, if you agree! You could either send me a write-up about yourself, or I could send you interview-style questions…whatever you like!

Let me know what you think

Julia”

What did I think? I was flattered! Since I had already written about my experience as a member of USMS for Griffin/Zebulon Life, I sent the story to Julia along with an unpublished story I had written. It was this story Julia chose to include in her article about me: http://www.swimspire.com/swimming-journey-united-states-masters-swimmer-elaine-krugman/ . The story is also posted on Swimspire’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/swimspire .

Julia, thank you very much for your story AND for your terrific swim advice on the USMS Discussion Forums thread, “The Breaststroke Lane.”

A HUGE thanks (and hugs!) go out to “COOOOOOACH!” Mike Slotnick who really deserves the most credit for improvement in my stroke techniques. Thanks to Mike, what used to be my worst stroke (backstroke) is now my second best and second favorite. Mike is also my training partner on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Steve Lundquist Center. Never has swimming 4,000 yard workouts been as much fun (and as much of a challenge) as when I swim them with Mike. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be training 4,000 yards in a session if it weren’t for having him in the neighboring lane to challenge me!

SWIM HAPPY!

On the United States Masters Swimming website, there is a discussion forums thread entitled, “Swim Happy”, where swimmers can post something swimming-related that made them happy.

I was happy, yesterday, when the 2013 USMS Top Ten rankings were released for short course (25 yard pool), and I learned that an 800 Yard Mixed Free Relay I was on placed in the Top Ten, just making it in at #10.

Today, my swim buddy and teammmate, Judd (“Swimosaur” on the forums), informed me that I made Top Ten in another relay; one that I swam on with him, at Georgia Tech, in April, along with another swim buddy of mine, Jennifer. Not only did we make Top Ten; we placed 6th! What a surprise!

Swimosaur, you made my day!

"Swimosaur", my teammate and "Forumite" buddy

“Swimosaur”, my teammate and “Forumite” buddy

Chris Eastman, another relay teammate

Chris Eastman, another relay teammate

Jennifer and I also tied for 1st in high points in our age group; only because we each swam completely different events and placed 1st in each one.  If we had overlapped in any event, she would have won, because she is a MUCH faster swimmer!

Jennifer and I also tied for 1st in high points in our age group; only because we each swam completely different events and placed 1st in each one. If we had overlapped in any event, she would have won, because she is a MUCH faster swimmer!