Trying out a Masters Swim Team

By Whitney Hedgepeth – October 25, 2012

Being involved with swimming is what I like. It is what I know.

Right out of college, I was a sixth-grade Language Arts teacher. It was my first job (and a hard one, at that). I knew quickly that it wasn't my calling. Having been a successful swimmer opened many doors and, luckily, I landed a job coaching age-group swimming at Longhorn Aquatics. I coached some of the top 12-and-under swimmers in the state of Texas. It wasn't a job I was going to make a lot of money doing, but it was a job I was very passionate about and one that fit my personality. When I woke up every day, I was excited to help improve the strokes and techniques of my swimmers. I watched them break meet and state records and go on to get college scholarships—and one even went on to become an Olympian. It was so rewarding and fulfilling to see these great kids grow up and be successful both in and out of the water.

Once I started having children of my own, I switched to coaching Masters swimming. The change was much harder than I expected. I went from working with fun, goal-driven kids to a large group of adults with many different reasons and agendas for swimming. I’ve found that 60 percent of my Masters clientele swim to prepare for triathlons, 30 percent swim for fitness, and ten percent compete in meets. Finding a way to accommodate and balance all of these different ability levels, ages, and goals has been quite the challenge.

Over the 11 years I have coached Masters swimming (almost eight of them at Longhorn Aquatics), I have learned to LOVE the adult interaction and the quirkiness each swimmer brings to the pool. Each person has a story to tell; each person has a life outside of the pool that I want to know about and am fascinated by. I suppose a lot of my swimmers call me nosey but I am genuinely interested in how others live their lives. I like to know how many children people have, how many pets they own, who is married, what they do for a living, etc.

During an Olympic year, Masters swimming gets an influx of adults who are inspired to get back into the pool and join a swim group. There are many different Masters programs in Austin, and each team has a different feel and atmosphere. There is one out there that will fit each person's personality. Almost all the Masters programs in town let new swimmers try out a practice for free to see what they think. I recommend this, as I think it is the best way to find a group you feel comfortable with and one that fits what you are looking to accomplish.

Once you decide to try out a team, email the coach and ask what is a good time to come in and find out what the team’s policy is regarding visits. You will need a good swimsuit and a pair of goggles that fit well. Almost all women and 70 percent of men wear a swim cap. Most teams use fins, kickboards, buoys, and paddles in their workouts, so I advise buying your own and using an equipment bag to carry them. Even if the team has equipment you can borrow, it is quicker and easier to have your own accessible at all times (and no telling whose feet those fins have been on or where that buoy has been—hehe). Lane Four Swim Shop is a great place to get this equipment as well as the Longhorn Aquatics Store, located on the second floor of the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center.

Most of the Masters teams in the Austin area are not “learn to swim” programs and require some swimming knowledge and familiarity with swim etiquette as well as the ability to swim freestyle (at the very least). Swimmers are usually put in lanes according to speed and ability so, when you visit a program, ask what lane would be appropriate for your skill level. If you haven't been swimming much (or at all), build into the workout. Do as much as you can without hurting yourself while still keeping it fun. If you decide to join the group, try to swim a little longer or a cover a little more yardage each time you go to practice.

Membership fees and the number of workouts offered per week vary amongst teams. At Longhorn Aquatics, for example, we offer 11 workouts per week for $72 per month. Each team will also have a different focus and way of organizing practices. I like to organize my workouts by days of the week:

  • Mondays and Thursdays emphasize freestyle;
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays are Individual Medley (IM)/stroke days;
  • Fridays focus on FAST anaerobic swimming;
  • Saturdays cover distance;
  • Sundays are sprints.

    However, there are times where I just totally change it up to keep people on their toes. Surprises are always FUN!!

Here is an example of a week with coach Whitney Hedgepeth and the Texas Longhorn Aquatics Masters swim group (yards pool):

Monday or Thursday (freestyle emphasis days)

Warm up
200 free swim drag fingertips
150 free pull breathe every 3
100 kick
50 (5 strokes Fast 5 strokes ez)
above x 2

Main Set
8 x 250 @ 3:30-5:30 (lanes are set up by speed and ability)
1-4 (200 at mile race pace/50 ez)
5-8 (200 at 800 race pace/50 ez)
800 free pull (build by 200's)
8 x 150 @ 2:00-3:15
1-4 (100 at 400 race pace/50 ez)
5-8 (100 at 200 race pace/50 ez)
5000 yards

Tuesday or Wednesday (IM/stroke days)

Warm up
400 swim (75 free/25 no free)
100 kick
400 pull (75 free/25 no free)

Main Set
12 x 300 (8 x 300 for slower swimmers) @ 4:30-6:30
1-3 (100 free/50 fly/100 free/50 back) descend 1-3
4 x 25 fly-6 strokes FAST off each wall @ :30-:45
4-6 (100 free/50 back/100 free/50 breast) descend 1-3
4 x 25 back-12 strokes FAST off each wall
7-9 (100 free/ 50 breast/100 free/50 IM) descend 1-3
4 x 25 breast-6 strokes FAST off each wall
10-12 (50 free/50 fly/50 free/50 back/50 free/50 breast) descend 1-3
4 x 25 free-12 strokes FAST off each wall
100 easy
5000 yards

Friday (FAST-anaerobic days)

Warm up
400 free swim
300 free pull
200 kick-fins optional
100 IM
4 x 50 free descend 1-4 rest :15 (get heart rate up and be ready to
swim FAST)

Main Set
200 FAST free
100 easy
above x 5 @ 5:00 for each round
100 FAST any stroke
100 easy
above x 4 @ 4:00
50 FAST any stroke
50 easy
above x 5 @ 3:00
4000 yards

Saturday (distance days)

Warm up
300 free swim distance per stroke (16 or less per 25)
50 right side kick/50 right arm only
300 free pull distance per stroke
50 left side kick/50 left arm only

Main Set
800 free swim (75 % effort) get time rest 1:00
4 x 50 free with buoy (3 breaths per 50) rest :15
2 x 400 free swim (80% effort) add up should be :08 faster than 800
rest :40 between
4 x 50 (IM order) 25 drill/25 swim rest :15
4 x 200 free swim (85% effort) add up should be :16 faster than 800
rest: 30 between
4 x 50 kick (25 FAST/25 ez) rest :15
8 x 100 free swim (90% effort) add up should be :32 faster than 800
rest: 20 between
100 easy
800 pull (negative split) second half faster; try to breathe every 3rd
5500 yards

Sunday (sprint days)

Warm up
100 free swim/25 FAST/25 kick on back/100 pull x 4

Main Set
12 x 25 any stroke @ :30-:45
0dd: FAST
Even: ez
400 free pull breathe every 2
12 x 50 any stroke @ 1:00-1:30
Even: ez
400 free pull breathe every 3
12 x 75 with fins kicking @ 1:14-1:45
Even: ez
400 free pull breathe every 4
100 easy
4000 yards



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