Great Bay Masters Swim Club can vary your exercise routine

By Foster's Daily Democrat

DOVER - Are you in an exercise rut? Bored with your current routine or want to expand your cross training? Maybe you have an injury that is keeping you from your favorite high-impact activity. Or maybe you were a competitive swimmer earlier in your youth and have been thinking about getting back into the water. These are all some of the situations which brought current swimmers to the local Great Bay Masters Swim Club.

Great Bay Masters is an adult swimming program affiliated with United States Masters Swimming. For several years there were adult swimming programs at the local pools on the Seacoast, but in 1998 local swimmer and coach Ed Gendreau saw the potential to somehow consolidate the groups since many swimmers actually swam at two or more of the pools. He formed the workout group Great Bay Masters, which held coached swimming workouts for adults at the Portsmouth Indoor Pool and at the Dover City Pools. In addition, a formal workout group was added at the University of New Hampshire Pool. Participation at the three locations has continued to thrive with coached workouts available seven days per week during much of the year. The workout group recently gained formal club status and always welcomes new adult participants age 18 and older.

Swimmers of all abilities ó from novice to college champions ó currently swim within the program. There is no reason to feel intimidated to join the group.

As part of a active lifestyle Mary Susan Smith decided to try competing in triathlons. With a background in running but none in swimming, Smith started training on her own in Bow Lake, eventually moving indoors where she learned about the GBM program from Gendreau.

Smith now attends the coached workouts regularly, and says, "I love the masters group and the challenge of learning all the strokes. Iím still doing triathlons. Not winning triathlons, just doing and finishing."

She is also proud to have just competed in her first swim meet. Interestingly Smithís husband Steve was a competitive swimmer as a youth and in college. He had not trained for almost 35 years, and it was his wife who convinced him to give it a try again. He started back slowly, first coming once a week and eventually working up to three or more times each week.

He has a great attitude and says, "There are many reasons why we all swim ó conditioning, feeling good, camaraderie, and competitions where we can set goals. But at this point in my life competition takes on a slightly different meaning. Iím no longer the fastest swimmer in the pool, but thatís okay. That doesnít mean I donít try my hardest to be and become as good as I can."

The Smiths have two daughters and often have many things to juggle to make it to the pool. They feel swimming is a good activity they can do together and think they are setting a great example for their kids, who they hope will be inspired to seek out some level of involvement themselves.

In addition to providing coached workouts, the group also provides opportunities for stroke instruction, competitions, and social activities. There are also opportunities for more intensive instruction by attending one of the stroke clinics for more one-on-one attention.

A key benefit of swimming with others of similar abilities is that it helps keep everyone motivated to improve and sometimes just make the workout. Whereas many swimmers in the group simply like the camaraderie of exercising in the group atmosphere, others are more goal-oriented for improvement and enjoy participating in competitions to test their training. Carol Prescott has been participating in Masters swimming for about eight years after an eight-year break from the sport. Initially she started lap swimming on her own until current Portsmouth Pool Director Greig Cronauer convinced her to try the Masters program.

"Swimming with others motivated me to swim more regularly, and live a healthier lifestyle in general. Until I started signing up for swim meets and open water swims, though, it was too easy to work late, or sleep in," says Prescott. As she continued to participate in more competitions, Prescott started setting goals which in turn motivated her even more. "I am proud that I worked hard enough to get in the best shape of my life, but now with a young child I have adjusted my attitude to just have balance in my life. I work part-time, spend as much time with my family as possible, but I also swim when I can. Iím not in such great shape any more but I try to maintain the healthy lifestyle."

GBM hosts local swim meets three times a year and helps manage a yearly championship meet each December. It is proud to have won the New England Short Course Meters Championship a record five years running, and is currently gearing up for this yearís meet at Wheaton College on December 4-5.

For the future, GBM hopes to grow locally and expand to other pools near and far. Swimming can be a great part of a healthy lifestyle, offering a low-impact form of exercise that works the whole body with both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning possible. GBM would like to invite anyone to try one of the coached workouts. For more information about the group visit www.greatbaymasters.org

© 2004 Geo. J. Foster Co.