Tuesday, September 19, 2017
What began as a quest for a healthier lifestyle led member Scott Carpenter to three National Swimming Championships and the World Masters Games. He won five medals at the latter, one of them gold. Rehabilitating his shoulders, quitting his cigarette habit, and resuming coaching happened along the way …

Reviving the Swimmer Within

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It was about four years ago when Scott decided to return to the pool. A swimmer since his youth, he enjoyed competing and advancing to All American Honors by his junior year in high school. He attended Texas Christian University (TCU) on a full scholarship. Scott considers himself a lifelong athlete with a passion for aquatic sports. However, his post-college activities were on terra firma.  “I hadn’t been in the water at all since college,” shares Scott. “I missed the adrenaline rush of a challenging swim. I decided to join the Center because of the impressive aquatic facilities.”

Scott had some work to do. His physician recommended Scott strengthen his back and rehabilitate his shoulders, which were suffering from chronic tendinitis. Scott created a therapeutic workout to accomplish a more balanced muscular structure. He consulted with personal trainer Rick, who guided him through the process. “I’ve always been fitness savvy,” states Scott, “but, it was valuable to have an expert on the scene to guide me in reaching specific goals.”

After three years of training, Scott hit the water with a vengeance. He was in impressive physical condition as a result of training and eliminating the cigarettes. In only 1.5 years, he established himself as one of the world’s best in his age group for freestyle and butterfly events. “It’s great to win swimming competitions, both here and abroad, and advance to the World Masters level. However, quitting cigarettes has been my biggest accomplishment. You can swim or you can smoke. You can’t do both,” he attests in regard to a sport where full lung capacity is critical.

Scott’s enthusiasm rallied other members. He began coaching a Masters Group at the Center. “We’re a family,” he comments on this diverse group that includes everyone from high school swimmers to physicians training for triathlons. “It’s demanding on my schedule, but the people are so appreciative. In five minutes, a member might learn a new technique that completely transforms his/her stroke,” informs Scott. He enjoys helping others through his own experience.

One year after reuniting with the water, Scott took to the sky for Sydney, Australia to participate in the World Masters Games. “It was fabulous to have some success at my first international competition. Also, it was a thrill to be in the pool of the 2000 Olympics,” says Scott. With 28,000 athletes from 95 countries competing, it surely was exciting.

Scott at the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney. Proudly displaying medals: Gold 100m Fly; Silver 50m Fly, 50m Free, 200m Free; and Bronze 100m Free.
Scott at the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney. Proudly displaying medals: Gold 100m Fly; Silver 50m Fly, 50m Free, 200m Free; and Bronze 100m Free.

Competing in the United States Masters Short Course Nationals in Atlanta in May 2010 is next on Scott’s agenda, as well as several other Center members. He also anticipates attending FINA World Championships in Sweden in Summer 2010. The competitors at this level are extremely fast. Scott notes he is swimming at about 95 percent of his record speed at TCU, and some 40-year-olds are as fast as they were in college (Division I).

Scott mentions that speed tends to improve with age, despite what one may think. “We’re faster than a lot of younger age groups,” shares Scott who falls into the 45- to 49-year-old category. He attributes this to a more established career and family life, which may allow more time and (dare it be said) energy to train.

Comebacks Are Common

Member Bill Segal, MD, has enjoyed a similar rebirth of his former swim-star self. A competitive swimmer throughout his youth, Bill’s passion for aquatic competition smoldered after medical school and during the early part of his career. Eighteen years passed before he began to swim competitively again, a passion that was reignited at the Center.

“Having access to a beautiful pool at the Center has opened a whole new world to my wife, Leigh, and me,” informs Bill. Both medical doctors, Leigh and Bill share a common career and now a hobby as well. Member Leigh discovered the joy of swimming when first dating Bill. Despite beginning this sport later in life, she has made amazing strides, including at National Masters Swimming events.

Bill and Leigh on a “date.” Participating at the 2008-2009 United States Masters Long Course Nationals in Indianapolis.
Bill and Leigh on a “date.” Participating at the 2008-2009 United States Masters Long Course Nationals in Indianapolis.

“Swimming at the Center has become an integral part of our lives. It’s great to be around others with a common interest. The outside world is left behind as diverse members share the love of the swim,” Bill indicates.  “From teens to elderly folks, and from various backgrounds, we connect, socialize, and have a great time. It’s not only about the sport; it’s about the socialization,” he continues.

Training at the Center pool allows these members to become a team. It’s fun and healthy. And, if their parents are in town to watch the kids, Bill and Leigh even consider the pool time a date. (Yes, all three of their children are water lovers. Their 11-year-old twin daughters are already competing on swim club teams.) “The pool hours are spectacular. There’s never an excuse for not working out,” adds Bill on the Center’s ability to accommodate their busy schedule with extensive operating hours.

Lessons Learned

  • You’re never too old to start a new hobby or sport.
  • Sometimes the older you are, the faster you really can be.
  • Anyone can become a swimmer and progress. As a self-competitive sport, you are always racing to beat your last record. If you do, it’s a victory—even if you come in last place in the race!

Swim events attract a diverse group of people. With over 50,000 registered United States Masters Swimmers, of which several thousand compete in meets each year, you’ll find former Olympians, newcomers, and folks of all ages representing each state. “The competition aspect is kept in perspective. You cheer for everyone,” says Bill.  “Witnessing the accomplishments of participants is awe inspiring,” he declares, mentioning a 90-year-old who shot across the pool fast as lightning.

Dive into Something Different for Your Next Workout

Enjoy the benefits of aquatic exercise. Visit our Aquatic Center and learn more about aquatic Group Fitness classes, swim lessons, and pool activities. Whether training for a swimming event or overcoming a fear of the water, there is a class and coach to meet your needs. Splash on …

Image credit (Splash!): www.flickr.com/photos/theju

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