Say you want to compete. Now what?
If you are interesting swimming as a Short Course swimmer, the US Master’s program has events all year round all over the country. These are for people who have aged out of the competitive, school-age and college teams (although to participate in Masters Swimming you only need to be over 18), and these are organized by all the Local Swimming Committees (LSCs). You can choose the events to swim and when you want to participate, but just because you join a local team does not mean you have to swim in all the meets around you. You might not choose any.
If you are like me and hate racing in chlorine tents (bubbles and indoor pools! Yuck! I need to BREATHE!), you might choose only to swim in outdoor events. I am not a great breather, and I grew up swimming in lakes and oceans, and aside from jellyfish and sharks not much in the open-water freaks me out (I still cannot pee mid-race, as you might hear other swimmers brag about doing), so I enjoy open-water. I see it as an equalizer—anybody can compete in open-water if they are crazy enough, regardless of size or shape or age. THAT’S the group of swimmers I fit into!! You might need to purchase a wetsuit, depending on where you live or compete, but that is something that is a big investment, and so if you are new to swimming be careful because as your size and musculature changes, that wetsuit will not change with you. And they have to fit like a glove, so that might be a problem if you lose a lot of weight or gain a lot of muscle, but sometimes you can find second-hand suits at a sporting goods store or on Ebay. Most of the events I post about will be open-water, because I typically focus on these and scale back to training only in the winter months.
Speaking of suits… once you start getting to this point in your swim career, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to start thinking about gear. Oh lord, does this get expensive. I am will post more information to you about the gear you need, but to start out you need:
- A suit. Try some different styles on at your local triathlete gear store, sporting goods store, or swim store, and then order a couple from SwimOutlet.com. In the open-water season, I advise that you have one suit and one pair of goggles for non-chlorine, outdoor use.
- Goggles: get tinted ones for outdoors (this makes a big difference in those early races when the sun is still rising and you are trying to keep your sight on the buoys), and is you swim indoors you might have a non-tinted or lighter tint you use. You will need to try different ones here, to, because NO FACE and NO GOGGLES are equal. Everyone likes a different style. The Vanquisher style is always very popular, but I switched to a smaller fitting TYR Tracer to minimize migraine issues. You won’t know until you try. But you have to have the SwimOutlet account because you are going to return things, re-buy things, and look for sales religiously!! Here goes your Starbucks or college fund.
- Aquafor or Vaseline. When you repeat a motion like a flutter kick or freestyle stroke for an hour, especially in salty/brackish water, you will chafe and that Glide stuff is NOT made for swimmers. It will rub right off, and you will have sore thighs and armpits. Ouch. Triathletes love the stuff—but no. Go with the petroleum products, I am sorry, mother earth, but you need it. I have heard you can use goose fat. I am not tempting the sharks and I will use Aquafor.
- A supplement like Gu or Powerbars for pre-race. I like Gu because after my breakfast settles, I don’t want any other heavy food in my system. Some people swim okay with protein shakes or bars… but I am an empty stomach swimmer.
- Lots of food after. Local races our favorite is IHOP. Of course, if you are traveling, check out the local specialty. At Big Shoulders we had Big Shoulders Smokehouse BBQ Ribs (yeah, it was brunch-time, oh so good!), and they were DELICIOUS. I WISH we had those here in North Carolina!!! We have peanut butter and Great Harvest Bread, which is also delicious after 2.4 miles in the water.
- A good strong bag for your gear.
- And a cheering squad! This makes you accountable. You can’t just not show up if they have it on their calendars too.
Good luck training and working out in the water! Your heart and body will thank you!!