U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS), the national governing body of Masters swimming, provides swimming workouts, competitions, workshops and clinics for members. Masters swimming programs are a good choice for swimmers who are 18 or older, already comfortable in the water and looking to improve their speed, endurance, efficiency and technique. Some USMS members go to classes to stay in shape, while others compete at USMS-sponsored swim meets. Swimmers can join USMS online or through their local branch. The registration cost for 2009 was $30 plus a Local Masters Swimming Committee fee of $5 to $25. Some branches require a club fee up to $15, while others don't [source: USMS, How to Join].
Masters training sessions are done as a group, and swimmers of similar speed and skill level practice together. Masters training focuses on the four legal competition strokes: backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle and butterfly. Coaches observe swimmers and correct their technique, and they design workouts to improve specific skills, like kicking.
Masters swimming started in Texas when Navy doctor Ransom J. Arthur decided it would be a good idea to have swim meets for adults. He thought that some publicity might help get more people interested in swimming and improve their fitness and health. He brought together former Olympians and retired competitive swimmers for the very first Masters swim meet in May 1970. As of 2006, Master swimming organizations were active on five continents, and in 2010, there were more than 50,000 members in the U.S [sources: Lucero, USMS, Frequently].
According to USMS, fewer than half of their members choose to compete in their swim meets. Masters swimmers who do compete, though, take it very seriously. Masters organizations put together more than 500 competitions in the U.S. each year, and USMS keeps track of all the records set at official competitions in a database that is available online [source: USMS, Competition]. USMS holds many pool meets, including two national championship meets, each year. Additionally, they hold open water meets, postal meets and long-distance competitions. Each season, USMS makes top 10 lists of the best times in USMS pool meets by age, sex and course, so check out their Web site and see how you measure up.
Next up is a swim training philosophy that's more about Zen than about a win.