FITNESS SWIMMER BOB BROWN
Twin River Masters
By Greta van Meeteren
Bob Brown, 65, is a member of TRYM (Twin Rivers YMCA Masters), New Bern, North Carolina. Bob has a compelling story to tell. Below is the interview I had with Bob on March 10, 2008.
Q: How long have you been a fitness swimmer?
A: Since 2004.
Q: Why did you become a fitness swimmer?
A: I had a quintuple bypass surgery in 1995. Before then, I really led an unhealthy lifestyle: I smoked, and ate all the wrong foods. Of course that had to change after my heart attack, which by the way happened as I was walking.
I proceeded to walk 2 miles a day, and was also using the treadmill. Eventually I decided that just walking was not challenging enough. I had heard that swimming was supposed to be the best exercise, and so I started swimming on my own in 2004.
My arms started to feel really heavy; I went back to the cardiologist who then put 5 stints into 3 different veins. I went back to the pool and started swimming again on my own. At that time, one of the lifeguards, who is himself a masters swimmer, and the masters coach, Frank McGrath, encouraged me to start swimming with the masters team.
Q: How has masters swimming helped you?
A: I had never learned how to swim as a child, and I really did not do very well. It would take me an hour and twenty minutes to swim a mile!
With the help of coach Frank I have really improved a lot. I realize it is hard to "teach an old dog new tricks", but I am willing to learn and am having a great time doing it! My time on the mile is now down to 52 minutes.
Q: What do you enjoy about fitness swimming?
A: The team feels like my extended family. There is an appreciation for each other and each other’s commitment to the sport. Look, I may not be the fastest fish in this pond, but it really does not matter at all, we are very good friends. I really like the challenge of a scheduled workout and being with others who are enjoying this just as much.
Q: What benefits do you derive from fitness swimming?
A: I have a healthy heart.
In July of 2007 I had another (very mild) heart attack. I took my nitro capsule right away and my cardiologist, a teammate who was swimming right next to me, took me to the hospital. He put another stint in one of my veins and recommended I go to Chapel Hill to have the bypasses thoroughly checked out. There I was told I was doing just fine, but I decided to get another opinion. This time I went to the Duke University Hospital, where the head of cardiology checked my entire history and looked at all of the scans. He told me that my heart had made a miraculous recovery: all of the bypasses had bypassed themselves and the main artery is wide open. I attribute all of this to my healthier lifestyle. Swimming is a major part of that.
A note to the reader: Bob has participated in the one-hour postal swims and the 3,000-yard swims twice!
FITNESS SWIMMER LOUISE MURRAY
Niagara Masters RAMS
By Ken Koppenhaver
Louise learned to swim at age 35 at Fairport High School’s summer swim program. In 1980, at age 40, she joined Southeast YMCA Masters Swimming, coached by Lorie Gibson.
"I always wanted to be a swimmer," she says. "As a young child I was not allowed that choice because of the threat of polio. This was prior to 1954 and before the Salk vaccine."
When the opportunity finally came for her to learn to swim, she was more than ready. Today she has been swimming about half her life and she’s been a Masters swimmer for 28 years. Masters swimming has been a big part of Louise’s life, keeping her active, healthy and fit.
"After almost 3 decades, I still look forward to Coach Lorie’s practices. Each practice is an adventure, a challenge and often a personal victory. I love walking onto the deck, the smell of the chlorine, getting in the pool, the lights with their halos, the sounds of the water, finding a comfortable pace during warm up, learning new techniques, team friendships and sharing goofy conversations with lane mates."
Louise loves to push to swim faster, making the time on tough sets and soaking up her coach’s input. More enjoyment comes from feeling tired and still being able to go one better, tracking yardage, the subsequent million dollar high and anticipating the next pool encounter.
Fitness swimming has given Louise good health. In a recent 4-month period she underwent 3 serious major surgeries. Doctors credited her overall fitness for being where she is today. Other benefits she notices are more energy, more flexibility, more inner peace and more appreciation for what can be changed and what cannot.
Summing it all up, Louise says, "Because Masters swimming is more than a swim-on-your-own program, I feel a sense of always improving. It is a form of body, mind and soul therapy that keeps those 3 areas rust-free and well-oiled."
FITNESS SWIMMER JOANNE DENNER
LMSC: Pacific Masters Swimming
By Teresa Wistrom
Joanne swims with Wine Country Masters (WINE), located in Sonoma County, California. With a childhood history of recreational swimming and life guard training, she returned to swimming as an adult to see what it could do to provide a low-impact aerobic workout. Eating bon-bons on the couch just did not work, and, no, she did not become a fitness swimmer to smell like chlorine. She has been a fitness swimmer for six years.
Joanne found that swimming with a coached Masters group workout improved the efficiency of her swimming, and she has grown to enjoy the friendships she has made. She has been known to participate in a pool swim meet, but her love of swimming draws her to the open water. As soon as weather permits, Joanne heads for a lake nearby (Lake Ilsanjo in Santa Rosa, and Lake Sonoma are two of her favorites), or to Johnson’s Beach on the Russian River where she often swims the 1-mile course used for the Vineman Triathlon. The San Francisco Bay is another favorite of Joanne’s. She is beginning to make the 1.2- mile swim from Alcatraz to the South End Rowing Club in San Francisco an annual event for herself and her swimming buddies. Although she is interested in her times for her Alcatraz swims, she allows time in her swims to stop, gather her swim group together, and to check out the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyscape.
As for the benefits of swimming, she appreciates the aerobic workout it provides, the mental challenge of swimming with good technique, and, in normal years, avoiding visits to a chiropractor.