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How to Stay Motivated to Swim Year In and Year Out

I started to swim competitively when I was 7 years old and almost 60 years later I am still going strong. There was only one time I hung up my swimsuit and quit swimming. That was way back in the late 70s when I had finished my college and international competitive swim career. What got me back into the pool was gaining 30 pounds and a change in attitude. I would like to share a few of my motivational tips that have helped me along the way.

Adjust your goals. Going from Olympic Champion to everyday Masters swimmer took some major adjustments on my goals. My competitive ambitions and training effort needed to change simply because I needed a job to support myself. Later on came the family obligations. I had to be realistic on how fast I could still swim and how hard I could train given the limited time commitment. As the years passed and I began to slow down I realized the social aspect of swimming with a group was as important as my times in practice or how far I swam.

The older you get, train less and train smarter. This really started to hit home in my 50s. Cutting back to swimming 2-3 times a week with less yardage and intensity has kept me injury free and has made my practice times more enjoyable. I don't do near the sprints (fast 50s and 25s) in practice like I used to. And I have learned it's OK to take the extra rest when needed. The desire to have intense practices is no longer necessary. It's steady and consistent swimming for me from now on.

Attitude is everything. Competing and training at such a high level from age 14 to 23 resulted in burnout and quitting the sport. Despite losing weight my attitude changed for the better when I realized how much I missed staying in swim shape. I look forward to my swim and it is one of the most positive experiences of my day. I am a much happier and healthier person because of it. I still find swimming more enjoyable and challenging than ever.

Change it up. In 1983 I started organizing Masters team trips to Hawaii every Labor Day weekend to swim the Maui Channel relays and the Waikiki Rough Water swim . I have done this event a total of 20 times. Open water swimming is so much different from swimming and competing in a pool. By the mid 90s I was an open water junkie addicted to swimming in blue incandescent waters in beautiful places. I have taken groups all over the world to swim in open water events. This year I plan to swim the north shore of Oahu with my son Beau, the northern Philippines islands and take a group to experience the Barbados water festival in early November (If interested send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Cross train. The older we get the harder it is to avoid boredom and injury, especially doing dryland exercise. I have seen lots of folks in their 40s and 50s turning to swimming as their best form of exercise. For me cycling is the ultimate cross training activity. I bike around White Rock Lake twice a week and when it is not too hot or humid I love every second of it. In the spring and fall when it's cooler I enter a bike rally to keep me motivated to train. I also get to meet a whole different crowd of people who share my passion for a great ride. 

What Swim Team Taught Me
The Love of Swimming