I grew up swimming. My family had a pool and it was a struggle for them to get me out of the water. My first swim meet was in high school, but then life took over and I took a break from swimming for about 12 years.
Then, I joined a masters swim team – I tested out many masters teams and got back into doing swim meets. Fast forward 13 more years – now I coach two masters swim team locations. I am a USMS Level 4 Certified Coach. So sure, I am always looking to get people more involved in swimming. The biggest reason I hear people say why they would not do a swim meet: “I’m not good enough for that.”
Let me break this to you – if you can swim 50 yards of the pool (that’s just two lengths or “there and back”), you are good enough. Particularly for triathletes, swim meets can offer a lot of benefits for you as a swimmer trying to improve. Here I will provide you with five reasons you should try a swim meet:
1. Competition is not Always Intense
In triathlon, people are put into waves based on age group and gender. In a swim meet, athletes are put into heats of swimmers of equal ability. For each event, you will enter a seed time. This times how long it takes you to swim the event and your time is used to map out the heats. This means – if you are a 33-year-old female and swim a 1:30, 100 freestyle, you could be lined up next to an 82-year-old male who swims a 1:34 100 freestyle. Yes, of course there are some very competitive swimmers out there, but you will have all levels at any meet, even at the state level. Simply look at the levels of abilities in a triathlon or a marathon. Swimming is the same way, there are all abilities at any given meet.
2. You Can Compete Against Yourself
Whether you are the fastest in the pool or the slowest, you are always competing against yourself. Just about every athlete I know wants to get that PR (Personal Record). This applies in biking, running, triathlon – and the same applies here in a meet. If in your first meet, you swim that 100 freestyle in 1:30, then in the next meet, you want to try and swim 1:29 or faster.
3. Meets Help Set Goals
Think about running. If you are asked to go out and run a 5K for time by yourself or if you enter a 5K race, which one do you think you will run faster in? Of course, the race! You will have other runners around you, your adrenaline is pumping and there is an excitement in the air. This holds true for swimming, too. Once you get your time, you can then use it to build your workouts moving forward. This means – in a swim workout, instead of taking 10, 15 or 20 seconds rest after each interval, you can make an actual time for you to hold the set on, giving you a workout tailored for you, but also more effective.
4. You Will Learn More About the Sport
Most of us have watched some of the swimming in the Olympics this year. The truth is, those are the best of the best and can seem untouchable. However, at a local swim meet, these people are just like you and I. They have jobs, families and other responsibilities just like you. The very last heat of every event will be the fastest one. I encourage you to get up out of your chair and watch the last heat of each event. You can learn many things by watching others and trying to emulate them.
5. Meet Other Swimmers
One of the reasons I started a masters swim team is because I know how challenging it can be to swim alone. It’s boring, there’s no one to push you to go faster and no one to hold you accountable. If you don’t want to join a masters swim team or if there simply not one available near you, find someone you can make plans to go swim with at a local health club. This is also helpful when you want to start swimming in open water. You should never swim in open water alone, so the more swimmers you know, you can make plans to go together to get your workout in.
So now that you’re ready to try a swim meet, what do you do? Head over to www.ilmsa.com and look on the left-hand side. There is a link for “Upcoming Meets.” In most cases, you will need to be a USMS member (www.usms.org). However, the Tri Right Candy Cane Swim Meet is a perfect opportunity for people who have never done a swim meet. You do not have to join USMS – just give it a try. If you find that you really like swim meets, you can join USMS and enter more. You never know until you try!