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by Greta Van Meeteren

May 30, 2012

Swimming makes a full life

"Life’s busy and rewarding—I'm largely doing exactly what I told a medical school interviewer I would be doing 25 years later," says Mark Alexander. He is a pediatric cardiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, which means he sees patients still in fetal development to older children born with heart problems. He sees lots of teenagers with arrhythmias and athletic cardiac concerns and he helps run the exercise lab at the hospital. He is married to an obstetrician he met playing water polo and swimming at Amherst College.

Alexander started swimming at New Trier High School near Chicago, and, with transient breaks for residency and fellowship, has been pretty steady with swimming since then. He started swimming because he thought he was "OK" at it. "It turned out I was the slowest person to make the freshmen team, so my ego was bigger than my accomplishments," he says. Although Alexander enjoys workouts, he has always had some competitive targets and he uses those to try to focus his swimming on specific meets and races.

He swims four to five times a week and about 80 percent of the time he swims with the Cambridge Masters team. In the morning he gets just over an hour and he aims for 3,000-3,500 yards, with evening and weekend workouts the team tries to reach 4,500-5,000 yards.  

"I was always a backstroker and loved moving to college and getting rid of the 50 (too short) and moving to the 200. Now though I enjoy the full range of distances. I’m an adequate middle to distance freestyler, and enjoy the one-hour swim most years. My IM sets rarely include fly or breast under the notion that workouts are “suggestions” and the excuse that my mildly balky knees and reconstructed shoulder have a limited set of insults left in them," he jokes.

Alexander mostly swims in pools since he lost focus and navigated poorly in several open water races. In addition, he says: "I was spoiled, resuming swimming after residency in Hawaii and keep looking for those 80 degree, crystal clear water open water swims with schools of parrot fish underneath you."

GTD has added to the long list of motivators to keep him going, particularly in the seasons after big meets. He tracks his swimming, biking and dryland work and weight. For swimming he writes the workout in the program. He uses it to track his progress and to see how this year compares to last year. In addition, there are several high school and college buddies/rivals on the list and he will check how their year is going. He has a goal of having a more active fall and maybe getting up to 500 miles, though he says that making 450 miles and beating last year's total is more realistic.  

When asked about hobbies, he says he and his wife are avid tandem cyclists. When he is not swimming or cycling he reads, cooks, and enjoys following the Red Sox. He is also starting a garden.


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