Overcoming obstacles to training: Stay motivated in the pool

How many times have you heard someone you know say: "I'd love to work out, but ...(fill in the blank)

  • ... "with the kids and my job, I don't have the time."
  • ... "I don't want to mess up my hair."
  • ... "they have coached workouts at inconvenient times for me."
  • ... "I'm too busy or too fat -- or too lazy, or I'm not in good enough shape -- to be seen in a swimsuit."
  • The list goes on. It seems there are endless reasons not to do something you know you should do -- and something that's enjoyable as well!

    We asked six U.S. Masters swimmers to participate in an e-roundtable discussion, and tell us what obstacles they face to training and how they overcome them. Perhaps their experiences will help you -- or someone you know -- to get back in the water.

    Swimming World: What obstacles did you have to overcome to get back into regular training?

    Helen: Health obstacles -- scoliosis and osteoarthritis pain -- seriously limited my activities, my breathing and my mobility on land. Pain effectively limited my motivation for on-land action.

    Dennis: Health is probably the most difficult obstacle. I find I need two days a week of easy swimming or no swimming to recover. Motivation is no problem because I race the young kids, and that keeps me going.

    David: Physical problems: a paralyzed diaphragm (I lost the use of one lung), shoulder surgery, eye surgeries and cerebellum stroke.

    Lollie: Honestly, it's still a battle to maintain a regular swimming schedule and balance my swimming with my art career, multiple jobs and family responsibilities. Luckily, I have a great friend and stickler of a coach in Janet Renner, who reminds me that even our governor, Linda Lingle, works out four times a week despite her demanding schedule.

    Nadine: Motivation was a huge factor at first. I was also afraid to do anything for fear that I would hurt all the time. So I had to start slowly It helped having one of my swimmers, who was seriously injured in an accident, rehab with me. Another obstacle was finding a facility in which to train.

    Brent: Raising a young family and finding time for myself without making a hardship for my family

    Swimming World: What changes did you have to initiate in your life in order to make it happen?

    Helen: I had to move to Arizona, get a walking stick (or two), acknowledge the loss of my favorite activities and abilities, and sacrifice all that snow shoveling -- not a giant sacrifice! My son said, "Mom, why don't you quit groaning about your arthritis and take up Masters swimming? Here's the phone number."

    Dennis: I had to start getting up at 4:30 again. That was tough at first. The rest was easy, because as a coach, I'm at the pool all day.

    David: I had to discipline myself to get up early.

    Lollie: When I'm preparing for an ocean race, I get up at 5:20 a.m. to make practice at 5:45 three times a week. By 7:20, I've swum 2,800 yards, I feel great, I've seen the sun rise, and I'm driving to Starbucks for coffee.

    Nadine: One thing I realized is that I do not have to swim every day -- as I age, my recovery time is longer. I focus a lot of my training on drills, which I can do in any size pool and any day.

    Brent: I set the alarm for 5:30 -- when everyone else is sleeping.

    Swimming World: What are the major benefits you've derived from your swim training?

    Helen: Fitness, good health, camaraderie and fun, plus super friendships! There seemed to be no end to my pain -- until I took up swimming six years ago. Now at least I can stand up straight, enjoy vigorous activity in the swim lane and look forward to even better health for the future.

    Dennis: It's fun, and it's what I love to do. It's great to be fit as well. The people in swimming are some of the best people to be associated with.

    David: Better health and fitness. I had a rapid recovery from my stroke. I was back in the water in three months and swimming at nationals in ten.

    Lollie: Swimming keeps me sane. It gives me peace of mind. I can really zone-out in the pool -- it's like a meditation. Plus, I feel stronger, more competent.

    Nadine: Staying fit, pain-free and meeting friends at meets. In fact, the only place that I am totally pain-free is in the water.

    Brent: I'm able to handle stress. I just swim 40 minutes straight, and I use the time to organize my whole day and put it in perspective. The swim is like a "reset" button for me: It's a new day with new challenges.

    The e-roundtable swimmers included:

    • Dennis Baker (43, Oregon Wet Masters/David Douglas Swim Team, Ore.) swam in high school and college and was a two-time finalist at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Back in the water the last five years, he now holds the world record in the 200 meter fly for men 40-44.
    • Helen Bayly (68, Tucson Ford Aquatics Masters, Ariz.), who has a Ph.D. in astronomy, had no competitive swimming experience prior to Masters, but she's been training regularly for six years.
    • Nadine Day (34, Illinois Masters, Ill.) began swimming at age seven and continued through college at Northwestern and the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials. Now a high school teacher and coach, she began training again two years ago after a ten-year layoff.
    • David Diehl (63, Terrapin Masters, Md.) is the retired chief of security for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He competed in high school and college and has been training regularly the last 35 years.
    • Lollie Groth (49, Maui Masters, Hawaii) is a writer and photographer who lives in Honolulu. She had no swimming experience growing up, but she's been training regularly for four years.
    • Brent Rutemiller (49, Brophy East Swim Team, Phoenix, Ariz.) is the CEO of Sports Publications. An original member of the Cincinnati Marlins, he competed at Eastern Kentucky University and coached swimming for 20 years. Brent has been training the last two years after a nine-year break.

    Swim before eating a fatty meal

    Before sitting down to that fatty holiday dinner or annual company banquet, you probably should think seriously about getting in the water and cranking out a thousand yards or so.

    Research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that men who get between 30 to 90 minutes of pre-meal exercise are helping their bodies minimize the effects of a fatty meal. The study showed that such exercise lowers the damaging effects of soaring triglyceride levels on the men's blood vessels. (Note: This doesn't mean that a workout before a fatty meal means you can indulge.)

    Healthy body, healthy brain

    We all know that swimming keeps your body healthy and functioning like a much younger person. Now comes research that says it has the same effect on your mind.

    New research suggests chat after age 70, staying physically active not only protects your brain against Alzheimer's, but it also has a positive impact on protecting brain function.

    This should come as no surprise. Physical activity promotes a healthy circulatory system (your heart, blood vessels and blood flow), which in turn feeds a healthy brain with nutrient and oxygen-rich blood. And there's no better exercise -- at any age -- than swimming.

    Originally published: 04/01/2005.

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