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The ultimate swimming goal?

The other day, Tracey Baumann of Swim Solutions asked me about my swimming goals. Despite writing a lot about swimming, and goal setting, my own swimming goals at the moment are somewhat vague as I struggle with a prolapsed disk that hinders how much I can swim. The answer that immediately sprang from my mouth, perhaps driven by some unconscious worry, was: “to keep swimming as long as possible.” It certainly wasn’t something I’d given a lot of consideration.
As we’ve discussed previously, open water swimming offers multiple dimensions on which you can test yourself and set new goals including speed, distance and water temperature, or some combination of all three. But swimming is such a great exercise it’s not totally unreasonable to hope to keep doing it for most of your life, unless illness or injury get in the way.
Back in January this year Jaring Timmerman of Canada required a new masters age group category to be established – for 105 to 109 year-old swimmers. Timmerman set two new world records in the category, simply by being the only person in that age group.
Interestingly, Timmerman only took up swimming when he was 79, an age when many people might consider stopping. When he reached 100 his doctor advised him to give up because he tore ligaments in his shoulder, but he decided to ignore medical advice and carry on, and hence swam his way into the record books.
At the other end of the scale you sometimes come across ex-swimmers who either achieved a high level in the sport as youngsters or have completed a major swimming goal but in the process got so tired of counting tiles they never want to go back in the water, which seems like too high a price to pay.
When you can, it’s good to set goals to help motivate your training and to achieve new things but, on reflection, “to keep swimming as long as possible” is not a bad long-term goal to underlie your shorter-term ambitions. It certainly helps keep things in perspective and may help reduce the risk of burn-out in the pursuit of shorter term objectives.
What do you want out of swimming and how long do you want to keep doing it? It’s worth thinking about.