Slower times with aging

In my youth (ages 9-18), I swam for a club team in the summers and was really only a middling swimmer. I never swam year round and focused on other sports. We only swam SCM back then. I had a 1:22.5 best in 100 m breaststroke and a best relay split of about 35.5. In freestyle, I swam only the 50 in the relay on occasion and I clocked in about 28.7.

After a 35 year layoff, I got back into swimming in 2012. I was pleasantly surprised to go under 40 in 50 m breast (39.42 my first time at age 54, and a masters PB of 38.82 in a non-sanctioned meet at age 60!) and I got down to 30.37 in 50 m free at age 55. In yards, I did 35.11 in 50-breast, and 15.47 in 25 yard breast the same day, which is the best time listed for that year (I understand many serious swimmers skip this event, so I take it with a grain of salt, but I still think it is a very good time). I once did 39.8 in LCM at 60, which I was also pretty happy with.

I'm now 65. After still getting under 40 last summer in a non-sanctioned SCM meet (39.55), at age 64, I did 41.28 this year. In 50 m free, I did 32.10 last summer at 64 and 33.28 this year. My training was not a lot different. I'm guessing some of it could be hand-held timing which is done mostly by teenagers and is probably a bit unreliable, but assuming these times are accurate, is slowing down this much expected? It looks like the difference in world record times between the 60-64 and 65-69 age groups in 50 SCM breast is about 2.73 seconds, but this doesn't necessarily mean anything (Rick Colella is a former Olympian and a great swimmer, but Arturo's times are insane). Increasing almost two seconds in a year is pretty disappointing. 

So I guess I have two questions: 1) Is this normal and should I just accept the inevitable 2) Is there anything I can do to slow down or even reverse aging (as a swimmer). I'm already taking a ton of supplements, including P2Life, and I've lost a lot of weight and kept it off. 

  • Skiboy,

    Short answers to your questions:

    1) Adding time is normal and inevitable.  A combination of loss of muscle mass, reduction in VO2 max, lung capacity, etc..  And, other lurking health issues.  Some defy the evitable longer than others, but eventually, it catches up to everyone.

    2) You can slow the slow down by maintaining strength as much as possible (lifting weights),  maintaining mobility/flexibility through stretching to reduce the impact of tightening tendons, ligaments, and onset of arthritis, and by including fast swimming in your training.  

    3) Avoiding injury is the best way to slow the slow down.  Be smart about lifting and stretching and training.  And, allow recovery time.  All of these are unique to you - there is no single answer to any of this.  Try to avoid extended time off without some kind of physical activity that elevates your heart rate.  Time away from swimming when we're younger is much easier to come back from than 65+.

    4) Accept the fact that health issues creep up.  Since turning 65 (4 years ago), I have encountered cardiac issues, more persistent anemia, an essential tremor, shoulder pain from arthritis (stretch has helped this), a total knee replacement, and being a care giver have all kept me away from training.  Of course, losing 12 months to the pandemic was the worst.

    5) Continue to work ALOT on technique.  Losses in strength (especially bicep and tricep) and flexibility (shoulders, back, and ankles) negatively affect strokes, turns, streamlining, etc.. 

    6) As you slow down, you may think competing is a waste of time.  It is NOT because being with like-minded people will motivate you.  I need to take my own advice in this regard.  :)

    Hope this helps a little.  Good Luck.


  • I've got all of the above and then some: type II diabetes (that onset before I got back into swimming), hypertension. I've had asthma all my life, but it's not severe. I've not had cardiac issue per se, but I've got a high calcium score and therefore plaque...I'm on a statin and Repatha. I've got degenerative disc disease, likely brought on by aging, but also by years of engaging my other passion, which is skiing---(I also race in that sport). I definitely feel like I never recovered from the pandemic. Even after the pool opened back up, we were at first restricted to 30 minute swims, since only person at a time could be in a lane.  I try to avoid layoffs, but its especially hard on vacations. 

  • Skiboy - you definitely can appreciate the impact of health issues!

Reply Children
No Data