Frequently Asked Questions

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Check out our “Masters Swimming 101” article series for tips about what to bring, common swimming jargon, and how to circle swim, read the clock, and more.

USMS is a national membership-operated nonprofit organization that provides membership benefits to nearly 70,000 Masters swimmers across the country. These benefits include insurance, SWIMMER magazine, sanctioned events, and many others. USMS and its 52 Local Masters Swimming Committees (LMSCs) provide direct support to more than 1,500 Masters Swimming clubs and workout groups. Structure and organization of USMS programs vary and are driven by factors such as pool availability, instructor or coach availability, community support, and finances. The majority of locations offering Masters Swimming programs have coaches on deck. Coaches write workouts and provide feedback and instruction.

The word "Masters" sounds intimidating? The word Masters was first applied to adults who participated in track and field and was later adopted in organized adult swimming. In swimming, Masters simply means 18 and older.

Do I have to compete to be a Masters swimmer? No. About 25 percent of our nearly 60,000 members enter pool or open water competitions. The greater percentage of USMS members does not compete.

I'm not fast enough (or in shape enough) to be a Masters swimmer? This is something a lot of coaches hear. However, most Masters coaches and swimmers don’t care how fast you are. In nearly every program, there are others of similar ability, or those who started where you are and have improved. Don’t let your perceived ability, or lack thereof, hold you back. Although it’s important to have a physical examination before starting any exercise routine, you don’t need to be in shape to start Masters swimming—Masters swimming will help you get there.

I'm a triathlete—why should I join USMS?  Many triathletes, including world-class triathletes Jarrod Shoemaker, Gwen Jorgensen, and Sara McLarty, join USMS programs because training with swimmers is the best way to improve the swim portion of the tri. Masters coaches provide technique instruction and interval training with a group. USMS membership also grants access to the triathlete-specific workouts posted regularly in the members-only Forums at usms.org. In addition, SWIMMER magazine and STREAMLINES e-newsletters have technique and training tips in each issue.

What can I expect when I attend a USMS practice? Check out our “Masters Swimming 101” article series for tips about what to bring, common swimming jargon, and how to circle swim, read the clock, and more. Try to swim in a lane that fits your ability and don’t get discouraged! Swimming is different than running, cycling, and other endurance activities. Regardless of your fitness level, it can take months to get into good swimming shape. And don’t be shy—ask for help; most Masters swimmers and coaches are happy to welcome new members. Camaraderie and new friends are two of the best benefits of swimming regularly with a group.

Do I have to join USMS to swim in a Masters practice? USMS provides insurance coverage for all individual USMS members and liability insurance for clubs and workout groups. For the insurance to be in effect, all participants within the activity, such as an organized practice or competition, must be registered with USMS. Thus, most USMS clubs and chapters require that all swimmers in their programs be registered with USMS. Check with your local program.

What about exercise as I get older? Study after study has proven that regular exercise can significantly contribute to good physical and mental health. Swimming has continually been identified as one of the best ways to exercise. Stress reduction, weight control, cardiovascular fitness, reduced cholesterol, increased muscle tone, and endurance are all benefits of swimming regularly. The social benefits are equally important; the camaraderie found in most USMS programs helps to keep people in the pool well into their golden years. Learn more in the article, "Masters Swimming IS the Magic Pill."

I'm convinced! What do I do now? Dive right in through our online registration system—it only takes a few minutes.