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by Laura S Jones

December 31, 2008

Swimming can really take you places

Diana Schabert is spreading the word that swimming is fun and can take you places you never thought you would go. She wants to share her story because “swimming makes me feel so good, and it’s just so nice to share that feeling with other people.”

“Swimming is life, health, and happiness to me,” writes Schabert, 48. “I began swimming in high school. I was on the swim team, never very good but I did have endurance. It wasn't until my husband lost his kidneys before I really began swimming again. I went to college for the first time at 30 years of age, eventually getting my associates degree [at Chabot College]. More importantly, swimming came back into my life.”

Schabert, who swims unattached in the Pacific LMSC, took a swimming class for college credit to fulfill her gym requirement, and she’s been in that pool ever since. “I am a swimmer,” she says simply, but that definition has come to mean so much to her.

“Living with a spouse who has a chronic illness can be very challenging. Swimming is my life; it keeps me healthy and makes me happy in the midst of all the waves crashing in and around me through this thing called living. Swimming calms me and brings me much peace. I have never felt better than I do at this point in my life.”

Schabert swims during her lunch break at the outdoor pool at Chabot College which is close to her work. She never misses a planned workout and loves swimming when it rains. She doesn’t swim with a team, and she doesn’t have a coach, although Ross Shoemaker, the coach at Chabot College while she was in school there, helped her with her stroke and workouts and encouraged her to try open water swimming. She credits Shoemaker with introducing her to the part of the sport she loves best–swimming in the San Francisco Bay. Five years after she started swimming, he got a small group together to do the Alcatraz swim.

She’s now done Alcatraz three times, the length of Donner Lake, the Tiburon Mile and most recently, the Golden Gate Bridge swim. Of the Golden Gate swim, Schabert says “it was the most challenging, but I felt the most prepared.” She had added Friday lake swims to her routine, in addition to her two- or three-a-week pool workouts, which are short in order to fit the small midday window of opportunity that is the lunch hour.

She feels fortunate to have access to a lake with a roped off 100-yard-long area for swimming. She says it has greatly improved her open water swimming. “I learned I have to look up a lot.”

“I am a self-motivator. I don’t need a buddy to go to the pool. I love going to the pool.” She likes having an open water swim or two on her calendar each year to give her a goal to work toward, both literally and figuratively. “I love seeing the finish line and swimming toward it. I always get nervous, but it is so exciting too.” Most importantly she says, she loves “being with all those other people who love to do what you do.”

Even though she swims unattached, Schabert likes being a USMS member because she enjoys receiving SWIMMER magazine and STREAMLINES emails. She says both help her keep abreast of what is going on, and in them she discovers swims she would like to do.

“Having a challenge to work toward helps to keep me motivated and gives me a sense of accomplishment as well, once the swims are over. If I can do it, anyone can! I am 48 years old now and am doing things I had never dreamed I'd do.”

“Nothing brings me more pleasure than knowing I have the strength to make it to the end and that I can do this. My husband is my rock and always there to cheer me on at every swim that I do.” With her husband Schabert has raised two children who also embrace swimming and water sports.

“Keep swimming,” she says. “You just have to make it work. I do these things to finish. But I love swimming in the Bay. I feel so free.”

Schabert is proof that with fun as the goal, you can achieve a lot.



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