> JCC Masters Swim (Fee Required)

     1. Wednesday - 8:00 pm

​     2. Friday - 5:45 am

     3. Sunday - 7:10 am


* Notification and start times for local lake swims will be sent via email to the club members via the MAPSO Listserv.


How does JCC Masters Swimming Work?
by David Leit

Q: Who swims there?

A: Many Mapso members swim with the Masters Swimming group at the JCC in West Orange. There are also plenty of masters swimmers who are not affiliated with Mapso.

Q: Where is it?

A: The JCC is located at 760 Northfield Avenue, West Orange.

Q: What is the schedule and cost?

A: Swimming at the JCC is available throughout the day. A link to the pool schedule can be found here. Occasionally, there are maintenance issues, which you can get notified of by checking the JCC web site and/or checking their page on Facebook. Same goes for changes in schedules due to holidays.

The Masters Swim schedule, as well as rates for both JCC Members and non-members can be found here.

The JCC has locker rooms and showers.

Q: Do I have to be a JCC member?

A: Use of the JCC pool is generally reserved for members. However, non-members can use the pool during Masters Sessions.

Q: There seem to be 4 classes per week. Which ones should I go to?

A: The largest Mapso contingent comes to Masters swim sessions at 5:45 am on Fridays and 7:10 am on Sundays. Some also come to the Wednesday evening and Monday mid-day sessions.

Q: How long are the sessions?

A: Sessions last about an hour.

Q: Are the sessions all the same?

A: Fridays and Sundays tend to be geared towards triathletes, and focus mainly on freestyle (front crawl) swimming. Wednesdays and Mondays tend to add more stroke work (breast stroke, butterfly, backstroke). All sessions are open to all Masters swimmers (not just Mapso members), but Mapso members comprise about half the swimmers, especially on Fridays and Sundays.

Q: I’m not a master swimmer. Will there be a place for me?

A: In the swimming world, “Masters” simply means “over the age of 18” and does not refer to skill level. All are welcome and encouraged.

There are six lanes reserved for Masters swimmers on Fridays and Sundays, and about three or four on the other days. Lane 1 is the slowest lane (about 2000 yards in an hour session, with 100 yard intervals on about 2:50), up to lane 6 which is the fastest (about 4400 yards in an hour session, with 100 yard intervals on 1:25 or 1:20). There are generally six to ten swimmers in any lane. This means there is a place for everyone, and Masters swimmers range from beginners to elite triathletes and former All-American college swimmers. The Masters class is coached by Melanie Fink, who is also a triathlon coach, including for many Mapso members.

Q: How are workouts structured?

A: There is a warm-up set that swimmers do on their own. That is supposed to start at the designated start time for the masters session. After that, there is a drill set (usually with fins) that starts 5 minutes after the designated start time. The group does this together. Those arriving a little late often jump in in the middle of the drill set, sometimes just warming up and skipping the drills. After the drill set is done, the “main set” comes. Finally, there is a short cool-down that swimmers do on their own.

Q: Wait, fins? Do I need to get those?

A: The JCC has fins and pull buoys you can borrow. Most people have their own, especially the fins, since it can be hit or miss finding fins that fit you in the JCC collection.

Q: How do I understand what the workouts mean?

A: The session is broken up into intervals. The shortest interval is usually 50 yards, though we sometimes do 25 yard intervals. (The pool is 25 yards long, so 25 yards is 1 length and 50 yards is one lap (there and back)). The longest intervals are usually 200 yards, though they sometimes get longer if the session has fewer swimmers.

Each interval is done “on” a certain time. If an interval is written as “100 on 2:00” it means you’re going to swim a 100 yard interval, and you will start the next interval 2 minutes after you started the first interval. So if you finish the interval in 1:45, you will have 15 seconds rest before the next interval; if you finish the interval in 1:55, you will have 5 seconds rest before the next interval.

Many intervals are written as something like “5 x 100 on 2:00.” That means you are going to swim 100 yards for each interval, you’re going to do it 5 times, and each new interval starts 2 minutes after the last one started.

Here’s a more advanced one: 2x(200 pull on 4:00, then 3 x 100 on 2:00). That means you’re going to swim 200 yards with a pull buoy between your legs, 4 minutes after you start that, you’ll swim 100 yards freestyle, 2 minutes after you start that, you’ll swim 100 yards freestyle, 2 minutes after you start that you’ll swim 100 yards freestyle, and 2 minutes after you start that you’ll repeat that whole sequence, starting with the pull buoy interval.

That’s the basics. You’ll pick up the rest soon enough; don’t worry!

Q: There’s a gazillion people in my lane! How are we going to manage this?

A: The lane should be organized so that the fastest swimmer is in front and the slowest swimmer is in the back. The person in front is “leading” the lane and is the swimmer primarily responsible for watching the clock, knowing the interval, keeping a steady pace, staying on the designated time intervals, and tracking all that stuff. But leaders sometimes lose count, so you should try to keep your own count and tell the leader if you think things are going off.

If you get lost on where you are in the set, ask and people will try to answer if they aren’t gasping for air. The leader will often say what the next interval is before they push off, but bear in mind that if you are in the back of the lane, the leader may be starting the next interval before you come in to the wall. It is therefore often helpful for others in the lane to repeat what the leader said for the benefit of those finishing their interval when the leader has already started the next one.

Often, Mel will tell you who she wants leading the lane and who should be in each position in the lane.

Often, there will be more than one leader in the lane. The person in the lead position generally works harder because they are not getting a draft from the people in front, so sometimes the people at the first 2, 3, or even 4 spots will rotate the lead.

You always swim on the right side of the lane. That allows for traffic going in both directions. The only exception you will see is when leaders are rotating the lead. As they approach the wall, you may see the person in the #2 spot move left to get to the wall ahead of the person in the #1 spot and take over the lead. If you are bringing up the rear, keep a look out for this so you don’t end up in a head on collision.

Q: What should I know about hitting the feet in front of me?

A: You don’t want to be swimming right behind someone else’s feet. Before you push off the wall, give the person ahead of you a couple of seconds. When things start bunching up, it’s not too fun for anyone, and you’ll start hearing Mel yelling “Give ‘em 5!” – meaning give the person ahead of you 5 seconds lead before you start.

Whacking the toes (or feet, or legs, or derrière) of the person in front of you is considered bad etiquette, unless you’ve talked to that person and agreed that you’re going to work on swimming close together to simulate the close quarters you often have in triathlon swimming (especially at the starts). If you’re hitting the feet in front of you, your options are: suggest that you move up a spot at the next rest interval (because you’re apparently faster than the person in front of you); slow down; or give a little more space at the start of each interval.

People’s reactions to getting whacked in the feet vary. Some will give you the death stare. Some will politely ask you to give them a little more space. Some will suggest you move up ahead of them. Some don’t seem to care very much. And John Bye interprets it as “Let’s race!” Then again, John interprets “Hi, John, nice to see you!” as “Let’s race!”

Q: Hey, all of the sudden there is some backstroke / breaststroke / butterfly in here. What gives?

A: We mainly do freestyle, but we do some of the other strokes. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. When this is in the workout, you may hear people asking if you’re going to do “stroke.” That means that they are asking if you’re going to swim the other strokes as written, or just keep doing freestyle. People’s speeds vary at different strokes, so when we do “stroke,” it often means that the order of the lane gets juggled around a bit. For people who are continuing to do freestyle, they will often be faster than the people doing “stroke,” since freestyle is usually a swimmer’s fastest stroke. So people who are swimming freestyle may move up in the order of the lane and those swimming “stroke” may move back. If you are swimming freestyle behind someone swimming “stroke,” it is particularly bad form to whack their feet.

Q: What do I do if I get tired or fall off the pace?

A: When you come in to the wall, you can take a rest. Move all the way up to the wall and to the right. Squeeze into that corner as best you can to leave as much space as possible for swimmers. If there are a few people taking a rest, squeeze up as much as you can, but most of all, stay to the right side of the lane, right on the divider. Don’t hang out on the wall in the middle of the lane or the left side of the lane. It’s temping, because that’s where the workout is usually written, but it also where people are making their turns, so you’re in the way if you are anywhere other than as far right as you can go. If you want to check out the workout, scoot over there to check it out when the swimmers are all at the other end of the pool.

Don’t “cut the lane short.” In other words, if you’re falling too far behind the person in front of you, don’t stop before you reach the wall and turn around to catch up. It messes up the people behind you. Better to come in to the wall, take a rest, and then jump back in when the parade comes around again. Pick the spot you choose to jump back into carefully. The spot you had been swimming in may no longer be “open” and you may need to move back.

Q: How do I know if I’m in the right lane?

A: Asking Mel is always a good idea.

Sometimes it takes some adjustments before you find the lane that is right for you. Remember that we are trying to keep a steady, endurance pace. If you’re in the correct lane, you can probably blast out at a faster pace for the first few intervals. Don’t do that. You’re aiming to find a pace you can maintain for the whole set.

Generally speaking, if you’re finding that you regularly have less than 5 seconds of rest between intervals, you’re probably in a lane that is too fast for you. If you’re finding that you regularly have more than 15 seconds of rest between intervals, you’re probably in a lane that is too slow for you.

Q: Any other pool swimming options Mapso people use?

Some Mapso members also swim at pools such at The Connection in Summit, Lifetime Athletic in Florham Park, and Drew Rangers Masters swimming in Madison.

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MAPSO TRI is about building to be your best. 

being part of something bigger than yourself. 

We understand that there is more to the sport of triathlon than swimming, biking and running.

The result is an extraordinary fulfilling multisport experience.