Gladstone Masters Swim for Fitness

Masters Coach Doug Hayden Leads Swim Group

Light shimmers off the water in the indoor pools at the Gladstone Community Center. The scent of bleach in the warm air is unmistakeable. A group of swimmers gather at one end of the pool, adjust goggles and suits, jump in the water and begin warm-up laps. Masters swim coach Doug Hayden observes as the Gladstone Masters Swimmers ease into their routine. Hayden started this masters swim program seven years ago.

“When the community center was built, I spoke with the facility director about starting a masters program here,” Hayden says. “Once we decided, Megan Herren and I co-coached for two years and split the workouts.”

Hayden continues as the sole coach for this assembly of swimmers. He swam at a master level in his twenties after college. Prior to coaching at Gladstone, Hayden coached at the Clay-Platte YMCA. He has coached swimming for more than two decades.

The masters swim group, ranging in age from 23 to 93, falls into three basic categories of people: Beginner, Advanced, and Triathlete. Overall, the swimmers attend for the purpose of fitness and fun. Some members train for goals and competition. Accordingly, the workouts vary depending on what each person strives to accomplish.

“The motto is ‘Do as much as you can or as little as you like,’” says Hayden, emphasizing the low-pressure approach of the group. “We promote adult fitness through swimming. Workout routines are suggestions not requirements.”

Weekly workouts begin with warm-up laps of easy swimming that focus on kicking and pulling drills. Kicking involves holding onto a floatable kickboard while working only the legs. When pulling, a floatation buoy is placed between the legs and only the arms are used to propel. Workouts ensue with a series of laps that focus on the butterfly, back, breast and freestyle strokes. Depending on skill level and endurance, the workout time and difficulty level varies.

“On average, the swimmers do 3,000-4,000 yards, or about two miles, in one-and-a-half hours,” Hayden says. “Triathletes don’t necessarily practice all of the strokes. Some of them are all freestyle, some just try a few strokes. A beginner might only be able to do one length of the pool. We work on getting their breathing rhythm and body position down and build up to a workout. When they can participate more, then I push them.”

General workouts also include training on individual medley, distance and speed.

“We’ll also work on starting off the blocks, relays and doing fun stuff,” says Hayden.

The Gladstone Masters Swim group is comprised of 40-50 consistently active swimmers. Approximately 20-30 people usually show on a given night. More than 300 people, age 18 and older, have participated in the program since inception. Practices are held 7:30 to 9 PM on Mondays and Thursdays, and 7 to 8:30 AM on Saturdays.

“It’s a great group. It began with five people,” Hayden says. “Three years later, it became a strong group. We also do local swim meets four to seven times a year, competing at all ages and levels. You have to be a U.S. Masters Swimming member.”

The swim group also maintains ties out of the water through four to five social events each year. The group has attended brunch, holiday parties and nightlife events together.

“Good friendships have been made,” Hayden says “Six babies have been born within the group.”

Hayden has remained an active swimmer for most of his life and with good reason.

“When I was 40, I became a stay-at-home dad. I got fat and out of shape,” Hayden says. “Getting back to swimming saved me. I worked out at the North Kansas City Community Center. When the Gladstone center was built, my goal was to get a Masters group here.”

Hayden is motivated to keep swimming and coaching with no signs of slowing down.

“Swimming is a major part of my life,” he says. “The body is made to move. When not moving, the body is not happy. If I can help people, then that’s what I like to do.”

Age is no impediment, Hayden insists.

“I swim smarter now because of my experience,” he says.

A series of swimmers thrust arms and legs and churn through the lanes of water. Hayden stands at the edge of the pool, watching, socializing and offering tips. He demonstrates to a swimmer how to better position the arms and hands on a stroke. Coach Hayden imparts knowledge to several generations of master swimmers moving their bodies toward a lifetime of fitness.


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