LGBT Masters Aquatics Club

What to expect

So you are thinking about joining Out to Swim but have no idea what to expect. If you are a competent swimmer but have never swam for a club or competitively; then this may help you to understand what to expect.

First off, we are a LGBT masters swimming club (one of the largest masters clubs in the country) but we welcome all swimmers irrespective of their sexual orientation. Our focus is on competitive swimming, but a lot of our members don't compete.

What that means is that you will be encouraged to improve your fitness and swimming ability until you can comfortably cope with an hour of solid swimming. We welcome people to come and just swim, whether that is for fitness or fun.

Are you fit enough?

Well, five years ago I came to my first OTS session thinking I could swim. I managed 30 minutes and felt sick, but that was my fault for not accepting that I wasn't as fit as I thought I was and should have slowed down! Five years later I can now swim properly (coach may disagree with that) and am in the second lane (the top lane will probably always be out of my reach because I did not start swimming at age 5!). I found that within about two weeks of swimming 2-3 times a week I was able to swim the hour in the slow lane. So, before joining OTS I'd really recommend being able to swim for at least 30 minutes non-stop at a reasonable pace.

What strokes do I need to know?

Most people can swim front crawl and breaststroke. You will be encouraged to learn butterfly and backstroke in time but don't worry if you can't do them. Unless you have been taught to swim properly your stroke will no doubt be awful (mine was) and you may need to learn how to swim properly.

Our sessions are busy and the coaches don't have time to teach you how to swim - that requires small sessions of 4-6 people (see more about our lessons). However, you will pick up tips in the general sessions. On Tuesday night we have a dedicated lane for stroke correction/improvement, which is very popular and something you may want to think about. Sunday night tends to be a technique session as well, but you won't get individual attention as on Tuesday night. OTS also runs improvers lessons, which may be a good option if you are feeling unsure about your ability.

Should I give OTS a try?

Unless you really can't swim or are very unfit I'd recommend just coming along to our new starters Sunday session - your first three sessions are free. You'll find out pretty soon whether you are up to it and the chances are that there will be someone in the pool already with a similar ability to you.

Not all of our swimmers are expert... the reasons for joining OTS are many:  fitness, being part of a "community", the social angle, swimming in competitions, etc.  All the pool details and times are under Venues & Times.

What happens when I get to the pool?

Make sure you are at the pool at least 20 minutes beforehand. This is so that you can be assured of a place (we operate on a first come first serve basis) and you need to introduce yourself to the person ticking off names.

Tell the reception staff you are with OTS and you will be let in without being charged. Our swimmers are used to seeing new people so don't be shy about asking if the group is OTS - you should be directed to the list taker.

You will be asked how good a swimmer you are and you will be advised to swim in a specific lane (which are graded by ability/speed). Do yourself a favour and start at the back of the lane. You can always move up in the lane but if you go out too fast/hard you may well struggle and you won't enjoy the session. The aim is to finish alive! About 15 minutes before the session starts the group will move off like lemmings to the changing area and then the pool. Just follow along (hopefully we will have asked someone to look after you).

What happens in the pool?

Obviously, we swim! The session will start with a warm-up, usually 400m. Depending on the pool, the number of people and the training programme you could end up swimming lots of short fast lengths (e.g. 10 lengths of 50m, repeated 4 times; followed by more of the same) or a long slow set (e.g. 800m).

You could do a medley set (all four strokes, but usually the slow lane will concentrate on technique not hard swimming). The session works best if everyone is prepared to slot into the right place, which can vary depending on the stroke and your fitness. Before coming along please make sure you read our lane etiquette guideline and our glossary of swimming terms.

The key thing, though, is that if there is a big gap in front of you and someone is right behind you (tapping your toes repeatedly means he/she wants to go in front) then be prepared to step aside at the end of the lane so that the swimmer behind can go ahead. Don't push off right in front of someone - the person behind you will not be expecting this and it will force him/her to slow down. And if you've stopped for a breather or a pee don't jump in and rush ahead of someone who has been swimming solidly and steadily. Yes, you're rested and can go faster, but you'll tire again and then that person has to try and get ahead of you all over again! If someone is slower than you and holding you up just politely ask if you can go ahead of them. Please remember though that some of the women are very fast so don't be surprised if your foot gets tapped!

What's next?

Well, you need to decide if swimming is for you. Don't be disheartened if your first session is tough (though I'm sure it won't be). Mine was because I had no idea what to expect. I stuck it out and am really pleased I did.

My swimming is so much better, I'm much fitter and I've met a really great group of people. After three years I finally entered a competition and now regularly compete, not because I will win anything (far from it) but because it takes me to lots of places I wouldn't otherwise have gone to and we have a really good time at competitions.

Use all of your three free sessions - that's what they are there for. Remember we also have water polo and synchronised swimming - give those a try. On Thursday evenings we tend to go out for a drink and quite often on a Saturday evening people end up having a drink after the session. For the women, there is a women-only lane on Thursday evening at 8pm.