Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

We hear all the time how masters swimmers and open water swimmers get better as they age.

In contrast to runners, cyclists, triathletes, and athletes from basketball to soccer, many masters swimmers and open water swimmers seem to get better and faster with age. Dara Torres, Cynthia Lewis and Thomas Lurz are classic examples of swimmers who got better with age.

But improvement with age is not universal. In fact, getting faster is neither inevitable nor expected by many, if not most.

Some of the swimmers’ improvement – or decline – may be due to training time and training focus. With professional careers and family responsibilities becoming increasingly time-consuming from one’s mid-20s through the 30’s and 40’s to the 50’s. Lesser training time and a reduced training focus can certainly impact speed, strength and stamina even more so than the natural progress of chronological age.

But with regular training, speed in the water can be maintained and even improved over the decades of life.

With age, one’s speed reduction is natural and, ultimately inevitable. The lengthy five-decade (going on six) career of International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Sally Minty-Gravett is illustrative.

In 1975, she crossed the English Channel in 11 hours 57 minutes at the age of 18 years.

In 1985, she crossed the English Channel in 15 hours 3 minutes at the age of 28 years.

In 1992, she crossed the English Channel (France to England) in 12 hours 8 minutes at the age of 35 years.

In 2005, she crossed the English Channel in 13 hours 31 minutes at the age of 48 years.

In 2013, she crossed the English Channel in 17 hours 48 minutes at the age of 56 years.

With the work of runner and Professor Ray Fair of Yale University, swimmers can now forecast what to expect. Professor Fair, a Fellow at the International Center for Finance at Yale University, created an innovative module that predicts how speed in the pool can decline over time with an easy-to-use table.

The table shows how fast swimmers could swim when they were younger, how fast they can swim now, and how fast they can expect when they age.

The FairModel that ranges from 35 to 100 years is here. The effects of Father Time in swimming 50 meters for men is here; for women is here; for swimming 100 meters for men is here; for women is here; for swimming over 100 meters for men is here; for women is here.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association