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by Kalpana Nathan

May 10, 2011

The community of Masters swimming

I joined Mountain View Masters in February of this year. The idea was planted in my reluctant brain last November by Carolyn Boak, who gave me some numbers to call and convinced me that it would be just fine for someone with no competitive swimming experience to give it a shot. Little did I know that Carolyn herself is a coach and holds several world championship records; one of our colleagues who overheard us talking (after I joined MVM) mentioned this about her. I can tell you that had I heard that before, I never would have ventured out to test the waters. It surely would have intimidated me, having never been any sort of athlete my entire life.

So, how did I get into swimming? In my 20s, I took a few community swimming classes, and then started swimming regularly in my 30s, mostly because it relieved all the aches and pains of sitting crammed in a car for long hours commuting to work in San Francisco. After swimming at various gyms, I had sort of given up a couple of years ago. It was difficult to make the time (as it always is), and it is easy to creep into middle-age lethargy.

Would I have ever imagined that at the beginning of this year I would now be swimming farther and better than ever before? Hard to believe, but that is what has happened after swimming merely three times a week for the last couple of months. I am deeply grateful to all the MVM coaches who are so generous with their time: Laura Schuster who really worked hard to break my stubborn-old-wrong-way of swimming; Chris Campbell who gave me an unforgettable mini-lecture on the 'T', swimming from the core and using the latissmus dorsi; Jody Smith who has such great enthusiasm and is always encouraging; Misa Sugiura who painstakingly tried to explain what all the 'cruise' lingo is about; and Bob Stenz who gave me feedback after my very first clumsy trial of the butterfly stroke. (After watching the technique on the internet, I was trying it out when there was no one else in the lane and I thought no one was looking).

At my very first workout with MVM, on a chilly February morning, I was desperately gasping for air after a couple of laps, and I had a moment of panic. “This is certainly not for me,” I thought, and I just wanted to get out. There was only one other person in the slow lane, and she graciously let me keep to one side where I could feel the side of the pool to stifle the panic, and I managed to get through it. I remember telling one of my friends: “These people are serious … there was just violent thrashing around, and crazy swimming going on…” It was intimidating, yet it piqued my interest. I guess I don’t like to give up. It seemed like a fun challenge, and here I am, still going strong. I remain in the slow lane, and likely will stay there forever, but my pace is improving, and I am feeling better already.

It is hard not to push yourself when you are surrounded by people doing their best, and the workout is infinitely better than keeping your own slow pace by yourself at the gym. Having never played any team sports, this is the closest I have ever come to experiencing it, and I am surprised at how much I am enjoying it.

I am thankful to be part of this community, to be among people who are friendly, accepting, gracious and filled with a passion for swimming which is rather infectious. I look forward to getting to know more of you in the days, months and years ahead.



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