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by Greta Van Meeteren

August 12, 2011

More reasons to go swim!

Jennifer Hallstein is a graphic designer for a non-profit organization. Deadlines and sitting in front of a computer used to give her severe pain in her shoulders. She decided she would swim to strengthen her upper body, hoping to avoid the pain. Though she loves her work, she knew that she could be stronger both for herself and for her daughters, especially since she is a single parent. She knew she needed to lose some weight, and she wanted her daughters to know their mom was healthy and strong for them in the long term. Hallstein’s family has a history of heart disease and diabetes, and she knew she needed to find a fitness routine that she could do to try to avoid these medical issues for herself.

In fall of 2008, Hallstein made a commitment to start lap swimming at the age of 41. She had never been on a swim team in school, and knew very little about the discipline of swimming. But she did have a good friend who was an excellent swimmer. Hallstein started asking him some questions and let him know that she wanted to learn.

"I really started from square one, even though I've always loved to swim as a kid. I didn't know how to count my yardage, I really had no idea how to find power in my stroke, didn't think I could ever do a flip turn or the butterfly stroke, and had about zero endurance. I remember being very winded after swimming two laps. But, I knew this was where I belonged, and later that fall my friend started to help me first on my freestyle stroke, teaching me how to ‘glide more, and swim less.’ Slowly, I learned to find my catch and do flip turns," she shares.

In January of 2009, her friend encouraged her to join a Masters group that was just starting up, as he was going to be the swim coach for the group. By that time, Hallstein had worked up to being able to swim about 20 laps in about 40-45 minutes. She really questioned whether or not she was ready to join the group, but her friend said there was no better time to get started than the present.

The group consisted of some excellent post-college swimmers who wanted to stay in shape, and Hallstein really struggled for those first few months. She took many breaks in the swim sets, and she was winded after each practice.

"There was no way I could keep up. Our coach was very encouraging to me though, and I just kept coming back for more. My biggest goal at the time was to be able to swim the 1650 for time. I couldn't even imagine being able to do it. It took about six months of swimming regularly with this group before I felt like I could attempt the swim, and in my first attempt, I finished the swim in about 29 minutes. This was a really big victory for me personally, and I finally felt like I could be successful with swimming.” Later in 2009, she joined USMS, and swam the 1.2-mile open water swim in Madison, Wis., and she then knew she found a love for open water swimming too.

This year, Hallstein and her friend have set a goal to swim 500 miles, tracking their yardage through the Go the Distance program. Her Masters group has changed quite a bit, growing to over 20 members of many different ages and abilities. The group swims together four mornings a week, and they have really become a strong support network for each other. Hallstein is now swimming about five to six times per week with an average of 3,500 to 4,000 yards each workout, and freestyle is her favorite and strongest stroke. She is currently training to participate in the 2.4-mile Madison Open Water Swim, and the 3.1-mile Big Shoulders Swim this fall.

"Hindsight truly is 20/20 and I can see how far I've come, and it feels great to be able to set these goals now and look forward to new ones down the road. I no longer struggle with pain in my shoulders and arms due to my work, and I feel stronger and healthier than ever," she says. She finds that the Go the Distance program has really been an essential part of her workout routine. It has helped her mark her progress over time.

"My advice for anyone considering using the Go the Distance program is to look at swimming with a big picture perspective. It is so important to stick with it and show up day by day. Over time, the conditioning comes and the endurance builds," she says. She loves the fitness log because it gives her more sense of accountability and a way to have a feel for how far she has come.

Hallstein also loves Lynne Cox's book, "Swimming to Antarctica," and admires Cox's strength and perseverance. Hallstein's favorite hobbies include spending time with her two beautiful daughters who are now 17 and 14, having an open home to many friends and extended family, reading, taking long quiet walks at sunset, and being by water either through swimming, boating or canoeing as much as possible. She has truly found a lifelong love for the water, and looks forward to still doing flips turns when she is 80.


  • Human Interest


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  • Goal Setting
  • GTD
  • Biography