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by Ashley Gangloff

December 31, 2008

A better version of you: healthier, happier and less lonely

Some people swim to get and stay physically fit, some people swim to justify tonight's anticipated dessert consumption, some people swim to prove something to others and themselves, and yet other people swim to get a few quiet minutes away from their hectic lives. Swimming and USMS provide each of us with the opportunity to experience a healthier life, a happier life and a better you.

A Healthy Heart
"I won the lottery," Ralph Davis remembers thinking on February 10, 2006, when the doctor came into his room and told him that he was going to be receiving a new heart. Less than 24 hours later Ralph's heart transplant was complete and two weeks later Ralph returned home a "new man." Ralph was back in the pool a mere six months after his transplant and attributes his successful recovery to his experiences as an athlete. Ralph, the epitome of a fighter, never gave up. He kept faith, relied on his support system and continued to push. To celebrate the one-year anniversary of his transplant, Ralph competed in his local Michigan Masters State Meet.

USMS, and Ralph's local coaches, teammates and workouts, give him focus and "a reason to work a little bit harder," Ralph said as he chuckled. Ralph continues to swim and compete in regional and national competitions. He also volunteers with USMS at the national level.

"Swimming keeps me healthy and it keeps me young," Ralph says. "Swimming makes me a better me."

Ralph currently works very closely with the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center and was included in the accompanying advertisement for the "Michigan Difference" campaign.

Tony LiaoStress Relief
"As much as I swim for myself, I want to be around a long time for my six-year-old son Ethan and five-year-old daughter Amelia," says Tony Liao. Tony, 39 years old, didn't grow up with a swimming background but was a baseball player. He was first introduced to the pool in physical rehabilitation after a track injury. He rediscovered swimming in his 30's when he was looking for an exercise program to balance his work commitment as a business development manager for Mentor Graphics. He travels considerably for his job and in the last year alone has been to Taiwan eight times. "The stress and demands of my career, and significant travel take its toll," says Tony. "I knew it was catching up with me and I needed to do something for my health. I found swimming because I thought it would be healthy for my body without being too punishing." Today, Tony is a member of the Club Hot Tub in Pleasanton, Calif., and, in his words, "he's hooked."

"Swimming is absolutely the most healthy activity for my body," continues Tony. "I even arrange my hotel stays so I can be near a pool. One of the first things I want to do when I land is swim. It helps with the jet lag, the exercise clears my mind, it allows me time to think, and my body responds well. Hopefully Ethan and Amelia seeing their dad commit to his health will see it as an inspiration to them too," he proudly shares.

Carrie, Meg, and Chris ColburnFamily and Quality of Life
Chris Colburn, a 36-year-old Masters swimmer and coach, credits swimming with changing his life. "I met my wife, Carrie, for the first time when she showed up at a Masters practice looking for a place to get back into swimming," he shared. Twelve years later, Chris and Carrie are married with a daughter and another child on the way. "We are a swimming family!" Chris said; Chris's mother-in-law also swims with Chris in Naperville, Ill.

Chris also attributes his good health and quality of life to swimming and to the friends that he has met through his local Masters program. "After years of not addressing chronic high blood pressure, a well-placed second opinion from a fellow Masters swimmer (Dr. Jim Miller) got me on the right track," recalls Chris. Chris since has also lost 30 pounds thanks to the help offered by his nutritionist, who is also a Masters swimmer. Masters swimming has not only helped improve Chris's skills in the pool, but has "made huge differences in [my] quality of life, from family and friends, to my day job, to health and wellness."

"The connections that I have made and the benefits that I have derived from participating in Masters swimming make me the person I am today."

Kari LawrenceConfidence
Though she'd been around the water since she was a little girl, Kari Lawrence joined USMS three years ago. "It's my therapy," said Kari, 27, of her early morning swimming workouts. "It clears my head."

"Honestly, I hate jumping in the water at 5:30 a.m., but once I'm in I am reminded of how much better I feel the rest of the day because of it," she said. Not only is Kari's attitude better throughout the day after a morning swim, but "it gives me confidence," she shared. During practice she pushes herself, races her teammates and refuses to give up on an interval, and she believes that these skills translate into her life out of the pool. Kari started coaching her local Masters workout group a year ago after moving to Charlotte, N.C., from Hawaii and her job as a marine animal trainer. She currently coaches both age-group and Masters swimmers in Charlotte.

"You can ask my roommate," she joked as she explained the effect swimming has on her daily life. "The other day my roommate asked me why I had been so happy lately, and I replied ‘I've been swimming!'"

USMS Support
The USMS Endowment Fund, founded in 1989, assists each of us in our daily quests to be a better version of ourselves. It supports USMS, LMSCs, clubs and coaches through its commitment to seek out and fund projects that focus on medical and health research, development assistance for new Masters programs, outreach to other adult fitness organizations and education that positively impacts Masters swimming and Masters swimmers. The USMS Endowment Fund has funded projects such as the effect of Pilates and dry-land workouts on Masters swimmers and the effect of aging on stroke rate. It is the only national institution addressing the matters of concern to Masters swimmers.

Take Dr. Joel Stager, for example. Dr. Stager, of Indiana University, applied for and received a USMS Endowment Fund grant to study and understand the impact of swimming on our bodies. Dr. Stager began his research on Masters swimmers in 2002. Since then, Dr. Stager, also a Masters swimmer, has been one of the champions of Masters swimming and Masters swimmers research.

The activity level that swimming provides, "helps people maintain their independence and mobility, it helps maintain people's ability to think and process," according to Dr. Stager. Dr. Stager has seen a 15-year offset in the bodies of swimmers, meaning that a 60-year-old swimmer can have the body composition and muscle mass of a 45-year-old person of the general public. "High-activity people live longer," claims Dr. Stager, and swimming provides that high activity level. Dr. Stager is enthusiastic about continuing his research on Masters swimming and Masters swimmers. "It just makes people better," he said. The USMS Endowment Fund is one of many USMS programs that continue to support USMS members in their pursuit of fitness, health and wellness.

Together, USMS and the USMS Endowment Fund, Ralph Davis, Tony Liao, Chris Colburn, Kari Lawrence and Dr. Joel Stager answer the question: "Join USMS? What's in it for me?"

Their answer: a better you.


  • Human Interest