Ask a Coach!: How to Make Every Minute Count as a Masters Swimmer

PHOENIX, Arizona, November 13. THE Ask A Coach! series today looks at a Masters training schedule for a swimmer without a strong swimming background. Tennessee associate coach of men's and women's swimming and diving Tyler Fenwick focuses on how making every minute count matters for a Masters swimmer.

Coach Fenwick, I read the question if 9,300 is too much for a 12-13 year old. Then is 3000-4000/day enough for a Masters swimmer wanting to push it to the next level?

I never swam club and only swam about two years in high school, so I don't have much swim background but I have improved as a Masters swimmer during the last four years since I started competing and swimming about 60-90 min per day six days per week in addition to dryland training.

I am right at Masters nationals qualifying times in the middle distance free and fly events for my age group. I run a business and have a family so time is at a premium. If I were to double my TITW and train 2-3 hours per day versus 1-1.5 hours, would it pay off for me?

Is it physically possible having not swum age group, college, etc. to ever catch up to those guys? I am 5-9 170 lbs not a physical specimen for swimming but pretty fit for 40. Thanks!
Henry Morales
Carlsbad CA

Hi Henry!
I hope SoCal is treating you well! I think the answer to your question essentially comes down to your goals in the pool and what you value outside of the water. As with any skill, the more time you can devote the more proficient you will become. As you aptly mentioned, your time is at a premium.

Between your business, your family and other responsibilities it's critical that you are getting the most out of your time. With a limited swimming background, to be qualifying for Masters Nationals is impressive. You obviously have a training plan that is working for you as evidenced by the fact you have been improving consistently for four seasons.

I don't necessarily believe that someone in your position needs to train longer. With everything you have on your plate, I do think it's essential that you make every minute count. I would talk to your coach and see if they'd be willing to sit down and discuss your training plan for the next 6 months. This would give you an opportunity to sketch out a basic plan for the season.

If possible, follow up once or twice a month to discuss and flesh out a more detailed plan for the weeks ahead. Understand what you're trying to get out of each practice and what your coach expects from you in terms of performance. Look for pieces of training that are measureable and plan to record results. Make sure that there is a progression in and out of the water that both of you are comfortable with. These meetings are an opportunity to express your goals, see how reasonable they seem to your coach and to design a plan for you to achieve them.

At any moment in training you should be able to see how each element it fits into the next and conceptualize how each stroke, set and practice compliment your weekly and overall season plan. Communicating with your coach ensures you an opportunity to express what is working well and aspects of the plan you do not fully understand. Constant critique and review is important for any successful program.

Where there are no guarantees that you will ever catch any of the fish in the lanes next to you who grew up in the water and have never strayed far from the sport, I do think you have ample opportunity to improve. If you are efficient with your time and have a thoughtful plan in place, it might not be necessary to sacrifice much more time from your business or family in order to see fantastic results in the pool. You've improved steadily over the last 4 seasons, so I would not deviate too far from your current regimen. I appreciate your devotion to success and wish you the best of luck this season. Keep us posted!

Our resident expert coach currently is Tyler Fenwick, Tennessee's Associate Coach for the men's and women's swimming and diving program. Fenwick has coaching experience at both the collegiate and club swimming level. Before moving to Tennessee, he spent three years (2009-12) as the Head Men's National Team coach for the Mission Viejo Nadadores, a premier gold medal club in Mission Viejo, Calif.

In his time with the Nadadores, Fenwick's athletes posted 58 National Age Group top-10 swims, 24 top-three swims and seven #1 ranked swims. His swimmers broke 13 Nadadore club records, four Southern California records and one National Age Group record. This past year alone, two swimmers each made the U.S. National Team, Junior Pan Pacific Team and Junior World Championship Team. Two of his swimmers won gold and bronze medals at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships. To cap it all off, he coached the 5k National Champion, David Heron, at the Open Water National Championships. Heron has since committed to rejoining Fenwick as a Volunteer after his senior year of high school. Another distance freestyle recruit, Evan Pinion, has also decided to be a Volunteer in college.

If you would like to submit a question to Coach Fenwick, email us or leave a comment below! All swimming-related questions are welcome!