Fitness trend: Joining a swim club

Should you start swimming with a group? Here’s how one woman dove right in and rediscovered an old passion

Fitness trend: Joining a swim club

Source: Best Health magazine, March/April 2013; Image: Thinkstock

A few months ago, I noticed a woman in my spin class with a great body and huge confidence. When I approached Sara afterwards, she attributed her physique to regular sessions in a Masters swim club and asked if I’d be interested in joining the team. I had taken years of lessons as a kid and loved being in the water, so I seized the opportunity to get back into the pool.

That weekend, I bought a swim cap, bathing suit and goggles, and headed off to my first 90-minute swim practice with Sara and the North York Masters Aquatic Club, known as the NYMAC Gators. I was intimidated’I hadn’t swum in a long time‘but I was determined to take on a new challenge, increase my fitness level and, as a mom to two preschool boys, focus on myself for a few hours.

When I got to the pool, Sara welcomed me warmly and introduced me to the other swimmers. We all chatted easily and I immedi­ately felt like part of the team. There’s Sara, an optometrist and mom of three, who has been swimming with the team for 24 years, even through her pregnancies. And there’s 80-year-old Judie, who founded NYMAC 40 years ago and holds 27 world records in Masters swim competitions. I’ve gotten to know people even better because members get together outside of practices for wine-and-cheese parties, swim meets, cottage days and bike rides’after all, the club motto is ‘Fun, friendship and fitness.’

That first time, while most of my new teammates moved into the five ‘fast’ lanes for their swim, I felt more comfortable with those in the slower, less competitive Lane 6. At first, I struggled to keep up with them. I had to learn to improve my strokes, breathing technique, strength and confidence. After that practice I was dizzy with exhaustion but, somehow, it was exhil­arating. I kept going, and within a few weeks, I noticed improvements. Now, I swim three to four kilometres in a 1.5-hour practice. (Though it varies depending on your weight, you can burn between 190 and 420 calories in 30 minutes of swimming laps.)

Today, I feel refreshed. I gave up swimming for a long time, but I’m finally back in the swim. Right where I belong.

Take the plunge

If you enjoy swimming, Masters swim coach Stephen Forsey of Thornhill, Ont., says there’s an option for everyone:

Lessons

Many community centres offer adult learn-to-swim programs, as well as classes aimed at various skill levels.

Lane swimming

This is a good option for those who like to swim independently. Community pools often reserve certain times of day for lane swimming only.

Masters swim club

If you’re a capable swimmer and enjoy intense workouts in a social setting, consider joining a team. You will likely pay a membership fee (from $8 per drop-in session to over $1,000 annually) and be encouraged to compete in various local and national meets, so try to find a team that’s right for you. You could start by checking out Masters Swimming Canada (mymsc.ca), a national governing body that works with more than 270 clubs across Canada.

This article was originally titled "Fit friends" in the March/April 2013 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!

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