Lifetime Fitness – How And Why One Employee Makes The Time

Every weekday morning in my house, the alarm clock goes off at 4:30 a.m. I lay in bed a few minutes and roll out by 4:40. I slip into my clothes that I place over the end of my bed the night before and head from Shorewood to the pool. I’m in the water with the Whitefish Bay Masters Swim Club at 5 a.m.

My wife thinks I am crazy… and about 50 percent of the time I agree with her, especially when the temps are below freezing and there’s no sign of daylight in the wee hours of the morning. But the simple fact is that Masters swimming has given me the opportunity to be an athlete again. It has allowed me to set some goals and work toward them with the support of a coach and other people who are just as crazy as me to get up early and jump in a pool!

For most of my life, I’ve been an active person. I played baseball and swam in high school, played hockey in my 20s and ran a marathon and half marathons in my 30s. But the wheels came off when I was in a car accident in 2010 and injured my back. My running, skiing and hockey playing were all over in a second. I had a 6, 4 and 1 year old and life was heating up… I had a million excuses why working out wouldn’t work into my life.

However, I realized that swimming worked wonders on my back problems; it did what no physical therapist was able to do. When I took a few days “off,” I would feel stiff… I realized I missed the water.

While swimming one day on my own at the Whitefish Bay pool, I learned about the Masters program there and a remarkable guy named Dave Clark, the former UWM men’s and women’s swim coach who was building a U.S. Masters Swimming program out of Whitefish Bay High School. I was a bit apprehensive at the early hours- what else besides sleeping is anyone doing at 5 a.m.?- but found I got used to it. With Dave’s encouragement, I found myself getting faster again. He gave me the confidence to compete in swim meets again for the first time in 30 years. I can never thank him enough for what he’s brought to my life.

In addition to the clear health benefits of swimming, joining Masters has provided me with two items of note:

  • I’ve set- and exceeded- clear goals for myself. This includes swimming 500,000 yards in one year (2012); 365 miles in 2014 (this amounts to 640,000 yards); completing a “go the distance” one-hour swim competition twice (I swam 3,900 yards in 2014 and 4,100 yards this past January); and completing a 1,650 yard event at this past weekend’s meet (my time was 23:37).
  •  I found myself part of a team again. It’s a team that has a pregnant woman, recent college graduates who swam for the likes of Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Columbia; triathletes; and men and older women in their 50s on up. It’s doctors, stay-at-home moms, physical therapists and accountants. We are all levels of swimmers; but just like the kids that we used to be, we keep striving for our personal best and cheer each other on in the process.

Last weekend, my wife and kids who are now 14, 12 and 7 came out to cheer for me at a swim meet. Of course, my older daughter (who is a competitive swimmer herself) critiqued my starts and dives, but I hope I’ve showed them that you can be an athlete for life. I hope my balanced lifestyle efforts will pay off long term so I can cheer for them when they are adult athletes.

Are you interested in Masters Swimming? Just drop me a note and I’ll fill you in on the rest…


Daniel DeWeerdt, Engagement Director, University Advancement, Marquette University


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