- Human Interest
Meet GTD Swimmer Robert Hitchcock
Loves tracking progress
Robert Hitchcock, 43, has been married for 17 years and has four children. Hitchcock's parents put him on a swim team when he was six, primarily for health reasons. He was a sick child and his parents thought that swimming would make him stronger and healthier, which it did.
Hitchcock grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and swam from the age of six through high school. He was a two-time state champion in the 500 free. In the summers he swam outdoors and loved watching the sun come up over the Wasatch mountain range during morning workouts. He'd swim outdoors until the first couple of snow falls. "It was a lot of fun sprinting across the deck that was covered in snow and diving in the water as fast as you could to get warm," says Hitchcock.
After he turned 19, Hitchcock served a 2-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Louisiana and Mississippi. He could not swim while serving and when he got back home, he became too busy to resume competitive swimming.
About a year and a half ago, Hitchcock was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, which is very similar to rheumatoid arthritis. "It was difficult to impossible to bike or run or do my normal workouts," says Hitchcock. As a result, he began to lose a lot of muscle mass and was largely inactive. His wife started making fun of his "lunch lady" arms and suggested he try swimming again—which he did. He found that the water made him feel better because of the weightlessness and he also found that he could work out hard without hurting himself physically. The other thing Hitchcock quickly realized with swimming is that it is easy to do when traveling and that all it takes is packing a swimsuit and goggles. Working for a large national health insurance company, he is responsible for the insurance operations of the western United States, so he travels almost every week. While traveling, he tries to stay in hotels that are close to pools and he also tries to swim with a local Masters swim team. So far he has had nothing but positive experiences with the teams that he visited. "Everyone is extremely friendly and welcoming," he says.
It has been about six months since he started swimming. In the beginning he tried to swim 1,000 yards or 30 minutes, whichever came first. Over the next few months he built up to swimming an hour a day. After a few months of swimming alone, Hitchcock started to get a bit lonely and he started to lose motivation, so he joined USMS and found a Masters swim program not too far from his house. He now swims about 3,000 yards three to four times a week with the Academy Bullets Masters team in Aurora, Ill., coached by Chris Colburn and Kelly Capen.
"Chris and Kelly do a great job of coaching and making workouts fun and challenging. I'm amazed with how far I've come over the past six months," says Hitchcock. He is not sure he is ready to enter competition again, finding the thought of competing intimidating. So to continue his progress, Hitchcock signed up in the USMS Go The Distance program. His goal is to swim 300,000 yards in 2010. "I love recording my workouts and seeing progress toward my goal. So far this year I'm at 13% of my goal, so I think I'm on track," says Hitchcock. He loves swimming and how it makes him feel and the sense of accomplishment he gets. He wishes all GTD swimmers the same.