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Safe & Happy: How to Set Your Own Swimming Record

Powerful wisdom from a Masters Swimming World Record-holder to help you swim stronger, better, and longer.

Author: Jerry Frentsos

I have a simple goal with a simple solution. 

Set a Masters swimming world record at age 105. I have set 21 World records in Masters Swimming over the last four decades within six different age groups, and I would like to continue this life trend over the next 49 years. 

The longevity of this goal might feel a bit intimidating and daunting, but I have whittled my solution down to two small words: safe and happy. 

While some people share these words of care with loved ones as a shield of protection, “be safe,” others have written songs, “be happy.” But these words have diverse interpretations, and to help establish a standard starting line, let’s quickly review what the dictionary says about these everyday words.

Two Small, Powerful Words

Sport Man Swimmer In Cap Breathing Performing The Butterfly Stroke. Swimmer Swimming At The Pool.

Safe, adj., free from danger or injury, protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.

Happy, adj., feeling, showing, or causing pleasure, joy, satisfaction, or contentment.

The words safe and happy are adjectives, “I feel safe” or “that makes me happy,” which mean different things to different people. Safety and happiness are subjective, depending on what each person perceives will bring protection, pleasure, or contentment. Safe and happy are not subjective adjectives for your body. Safety and happiness result from a wellness journey where your plans become optimized for peak performance and efficiency. Intentionally being well is when your body feels the safest and the happiest. These two words are personified nouns that travel together throughout your thoughts and body. At least they want to travel together. While they are companions, Safe and Happy are not locked together.

Unfortunately, misinformation, lack of knowledge, or health shortcuts cause us to make choices that jeopardize Safe and Happy. Instead of using resources to thrive, our bodies must use resources to protect themselves against our “user error” choices. And sometimes, we separate Safe and Happy by making choices based on what we perceive will make us feel safe or happy.

Future Self Forever Safe and Happy

Side view of multi-ethnic group of male swimmers at swimming pool, standing on starting blocks

I carry these two personified words wherever I go; they are my companions. Regarding my exercise and nutritional routines, being safe and happy is top of mind. While nutritional patterns fluctuate depending on the timing of my competitive season, my exercise routines will allow me to carry the longevity I need to make it to 105.

So far, after swimming for 51 years, I have not sustained an injury or required any surgery related to my athletic training. And I want to keep it that way.

On my 41st birthday, I promised to keep the version of my Future Self forever Safe and Happy. I want to be an asset to myself, my family, and my friends, so I decided to pay more attention and be more intentional about my health choices. Looking forward to my future, I committed to myself: “I will take care of you now,” knowing that today’s attention and intention would give my future self the best shot at taking care of me later.

From Sir Francis Bacon to Thomas Jefferson to the present, everyone loves the power of knowledge, so much so that it is a frequently used bumper sticker: Knowledge is power!  What most don’t know is that Thomas Jefferson tweaked Sir Francis Bacon’s original 1597 statement to include,

Knowledge is power, Knowledge is safety, and Knowledge is happiness.

Maintaining the Power of Happiness

Back View Of Young Muscular Man, Swimmer Training Alone At Public Swimming-pool, Outdoors. Sport, Po

There is power in safety, and there is power in happiness. How I care for myself physically, mentally, and emotionally determines how well and efficiently I continue to train now and far into the future. Maintaining the power of happiness will keep me safe, and maintaining the power of safety will keep me happy. 

As you learn to increase your body’s efficiency, you can keep doing things as you have or turn information into knowledge. Knowledge allows you to follow a new path when faced with “you choose” choices beyond power as with what you do with that knowledge.

The Vasa swim trainer allows me to concentrate on building power, maintaining safety, and protecting happiness within three muscles to keep up with my future. 

How to Set Your Own Swimming Record

At home swim training

The first one is obvious, everything I do starts with my heart. Every world record I have set and every world record to be set starts with my heart. The heart, the most complex working muscle in my body, controls my strength, agility, endurance, power, and speed. Cardiovascular health begins with a slow, steady, and reliable use of my entire body. For my longevity, this is accomplished with jump rope, swimming, and repetitive use of pull, push, and core.

The second set of muscles is not as obvious as the first. For a swimmer, the first thought goes straight to your shoulder or rotator cuff muscles, but for how I swim and train, the next muscle on my shortlist is the latissimus dorsi (a.k.a. Lats). My lats (“wings”) allow me to fly through the water. With proper use and form, once triggered, these muscles set up the power pull portion of my stroke and stay engaged until my hand passes my chest, setting up the final push portion of the stroke.

The last set of muscles becomes once again very obvious. Every breath, every stroke, every movement starts in my core. The connected core muscles, including the back, hip, pelvic, glute, abdominal, and diaphragm muscles, will help improve balance and training for injury prevention and pain management.

I have protected these three muscles for the last 51 years: my heart, lats, and core. With 49 years to go, as my 105-year self awaits me on top of a future starting block, the knowledge of what I do will keep my Future Self safely and happily waiting.  

When I am safe, I am happy. When I am happy, I am safe. Two small, powerful words are never locked together but will always travel as companions beyond my imagination of success. 

About Jerry Frentsos

Jerry Frentsos has a Master’s Degree in nutritional sciences & biochemistry.  He is a clinical dietitian, sports nutritionist, and adjunct professor.  He’s an accomplished coach, having been an NCAA Division 1 head coach, age-group swim club coach, Masters swim coach, and head coach of 2-time collegiate triathlon national champions. Jerry is an accomplished swimmer and set 21 Master swimming world records over the last four decades, with the latest world record set on December 7, 2021. Jerry was also a member of the U.S.A. Swimming National Team from 1985-1988. 1986 U.S. Open National Champion. Gold Medalist at the 1987 Pan American games. He competed in the 1984 & 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials, finishing 3rd in the 400 IM to become an alternate for the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team.

Jerry Frentsos
Author, Educator, Clinician, Coach, Athlete