Swimming has many benefits for elite competitor Aaron, 47, whose record-breaking efforts in the pool in the COVID-disrupted 2021 have resulted in him being named a finalist for the prestigious Sport NSW Masters Athlete of the Year Award.
Aaron had an illustrious career as a junior swimmer, winning multiple National Age medals and earning a place on the Telecom National Dolphins team in the early 1990s. However, like many elite swimmers, Aaron burned out and moved away from swimming for many years.
“In my early 20’s I started having recurring injuries, and after spending a couple of years trying to find the right balance of exercises and physio to manage the situation, I was mentally exhausted and ended up losing my drive and passion for the sport.”
“Instead of taking a step back, I stepped away completely.”
It wasn’t until he took his sons to swimming lessons that Aaron got back in the water himself and felt a rekindling of the passion that he had as a teenager.
“I started swimming again mid-2016 while my boys were in their swimming lessons, this eventually led me to want to test myself racing again after some 20 years out of the water.”
From this spark of inspiration, Aaron joined the Blacktown Masters Swimming Club, where he has found a new level of success as an elite swimmer.
“As a Masters swimmer, Pan Pacs 2018 was a great meet I won 8 gold from 8 events and set 5 Pan Pac records.”
Aaron Cleland with his haul of medals from the 2018 Pan Pacs
Since conquering the swimming pool again, Aaron’s attention has broadened to include ocean swimming. Unsurprisingly, he has found great success in the Big Deep as well.
After finishing third in the 45-49 year age group in the 2km event at the 2020 Cole Classic, Aaron went two better in 2021, finishing at the top of his age group and 13th overall out of over 1000 swimmers.
“I enjoy the ocean swims as a ‘getaway’ from pool swimming.”
“I just enjoy the feeling of the ocean around me. Not having to follow a line and competing with the elements.”
While the Australian Masters Swimming National Championships, happening in Sydney in April 2022 is Aaron’s primary focus for this year, he is very much looking forward to competing throughout the summer in the ocean as well and getting the benefits that come from swimming.
“As a Masters swimmer these days, I am more mindful of the health benefits that swimming enables. As much as I enjoy racing, looking after myself and sharing experiences with my boys as I grow older is more important to me.”
“Plus, the inclusiveness, the social aspect and how Masters Swimming caters for all is also great.”
For those interested in trying out ocean swimming, or who are interested in joining Masters Swimming, Aaron has the following words of advice.
“Look at entering events that you are comfortable in swimming and try swimming with people you know or those that keep a similar pace to yourself.”
“Most importantly in both circumstances, reach out and ask questions to fellow swimmers for any advice they can share.”
To join Aaron in the Masters Swimming family, head to the Masters Swimming Australia website to find your nearest club.
To join Aaron in the 40th Anniversary Cole Classic on Sunday 6th February, view our Cole Classic event listing.