Tuesday, July 13, 2010

thank god for swimming

I had the best swimming lesson of my life yesterday and I can't believe how my swimming--and my life--has changed in just those 45 minutes. Kim Bierwert is the coach at Smith College, which is near us, and he's amazing. I've been coached by fantastic, elite swimmers, but this was way above all that. I guess I'd have to go back to the swim training class I took at Wellesley from the swim coach there. She was awesome--this was better.

A little background: Maybe I've written this already, but getting exercise outside of the city is really hard for me. I completely underestimated how much walking I did in New York--and I was a bus and subway junkie--and how alluring a car is here. It's so fast. It's easy. It's cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And dry, did I mention dry? I could get soaked walking around NYC.

I seem to workout in phases. Last year it was months of hot yoga three or four times a week. A few months before that I had a trainer I saw weekly, and we didgym stuff, like weights and treadmill. In my early 30s I ran upwards of 30 miles a week at one point. Central Park is fantastic for running. Working at Sports Illustrated was very conducive to exercise and working out: A group of us ran most lunches: Central Park was just a few blocks away and SI had showers. At one point I took a 10-week speed class at the NY Road Runners' Club, and just running splits for an hour a week cut two minutes off my rate, from 10 minute miles to eight. But then I left SI for LIFE, and I left the Upper West Side for Brooklyn, and it all became a lot harder. I ran a bit in Prospect Park, also an excellent running park, but soon we'd moved a few blocks down the hill, and running around the streets and up the mile just to get to the park was a drag. Eventually I developed a bone spur, so running was out.

I fell into swimming when a friend's sister mentioned her Master's team. For two+ years I left my apartment at 5:30am three mornings a week to ride from Brooklyn to John Jay College off Columbus Circle to swim with Red Tide. We'd get in the pool by 6:30 to swim 3000 yards, give or take. I was always in the slowest lane, but my Wellesley class paid off. Boris, our Soviet-era boy-wonder coach--not an Olympic competitor, but almost--and our other coaches really taught me a lot. Saturdays I'd often go all the way to W. 136th Street in Manhattan to swim with the team at City College. Those were two-hour workouts, and boy was I tired at the end of a four-day swim week.

For those who don't know, Masters swimming was started so people could keep swimming competitively after they got out of college. Today not every Masters swimmer competes, but it always entails regular workouts with quality coaching. Swimming's not like running, you can't just go to the pool and do a few laps. I mean, you can, but the drills and the yardage and the stroke critique you get on a team are essential to being a strong efficient swimmer. You just don't need that to run, although lots of people do have teams and all. And of course lots of people just swim, even strong swimmers. But while a serious runner doesn't necessarily need a coach, the same could not be said for a serious swimmer. (Do you agree, Mike?)

At any rate, then Lily was born and taking two hour-long subway rides didn't work. It was too complicated, what with me nursing and Dave working. I couldn't continue and there were no nearby pools or teams. Eventually they built a YMCA in Downtown Brooklyn and started a Masters team, which I tried for awhile, very excited, but did not like the coach. I quit before he did and then we moved north.

1 comment:

  1. I just got back from some time with my coach. Very few people can become better runners without a coach. But most runners don't care if they get faster. Us serious runners call them joggers.

    I really enjoyed spending time at your pool club, mostly because Kim was the director. Very rarely does a person have a job that they are really good at and enjoy it as much as Kim. Watching him work was like watching an art form.


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