Peak Performer

Photography by Rebecca Baxter April 30, 2010

Diving In


Why swimming? In Pittsburgh where I grew up, everyone joined a swimming club for the summer. It becomes a social thing. But then I started running, and after 20-plus years, in my 40s, I wanted to do triathlons [swim, bike run races], and I realized I could still swim OK and I really enjoyed it.

I started swimming with the YMCA Sharks Masters Swim Team six years ago. I knew it was a big commitment—they swim at 5:30 a.m., and I wasn’t sure I could get up that early. They swim six days a week; I go five. It’s competitive. We compete as a team, travel as a team. We go to a couple of national meets each year.

Benefits? No. 1, it’s great to get your exercise in before the day starts. You’re done by 7 in the morning. We have a really fun group. It keeps us all laughing. And swimming doesn’t hurt your joints as you get older. Plus, when you swim an hour and a half a day, you don’t really have to adhere to a particular diet.

Your event? I swim freestyle, all different distances.

How can other professionals get involved? Our coach, Rick Walker, is in the pool from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and there’s a night group now, too. Different groups come with different abilities. We have people who are national champions and people who are just starting out.

Does swimming affect your performance as a doctor? Swimming is such a general positive that it certainly overflows into my work. It’s a lot easier to counsel patients regarding exercise and lifestyle changes when you already do it. But I guess I really find time for fitness for my personal self, and then the benefits to work are an added plus.

Goals? To be a top 10 swimmer in the country, which means getting among the 10 best times in my age group. I’ve usually been 11th or 12th. I’m 48, so I’ll be moving into the 50 age group soon. At 50, it may slow down a little, but I’ll tell you, during the 40s, the girls are as fast at 48 as they are at 41.

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