HAFless 101

I grew up in a small town in Northern Wisconsin in a large family; I was the middle child (#3) of six siblings. Growing up on a lake, we all learned how to swim very early, and all began swimming competitively as early as we could – I believe I was about five when I joined our community swim club. Swimming was the only sport I did; being in a small town in a club, my swim season was October – February/March, dependent upon whether one qualified for state. Outside of that, I did not do any sports except for two years in high school. I tried soccer in second grade (and promptly quit after two weeks); I tried softball in fifth grade (I can proudly say I did finish the first day of practice). I ran cross country my freshmen and sophomore years of high school, but did not continue to prevent further injury to my knees.

Until I was about 12 or 13, my strong strokes were freestyle and backstroke; my first experience with state swimming was when I was about 10. However, sometime in eighth grade, my strong strokes switched to breaststroke and butterfly (sort of). I never was serious competition at the butterfly, but was one of the few on the team who could swim it well and could sprint it fast. But breaststroke became my true love – 100 yards and 200 yards. I don’t think I could pinpoint one thing I loved about it – but it was all I ever wanted to do. I went to state my freshmen, sophomore, and junior year – and loved every minute of racing for those three years.

However, anyone familiar with the breaststroke is also familiar with the fact that it is not kind to your knees, and by my junior year, my knees were essentially shot. I was walking around, unable to bend my knees, and spent all of practice using a pullbuoy. The only time I kicked was in races, and even then, I sometimes pulled out of meets because it hurt so badly. I tried physical therapy, but to no avail. While I competed at state, and had the best races and best times at state, this would turn out to be the beginning of the end.

Come my senior year, I began having back problems as well – spasms that looked like seizures but weren’t seizures. After almost a week in the hospital, we found out that while they were not seizures, the doctors did not have a diagnosis. Shortly after getting home, that “episode” ended; by “episode,” I mean a longer duration – a couple of days to almost a full week – in which these spasms will last for 30-45 minutes, and will happen multiple times a day. While a second “episode” occurred in March, it didn’t involve another hospital visit. These spasms began before the swim season did, but my coach was aware of the situation.

When swim season began, I was informed that I was no longer allowed to swim breaststroke, because of the previous season and my knees. Heartbroken, I gave swimming my best effort that year. I was forced to become a butterflier, and would have spasms during practice. I quit sometime in December. I will always regret that decision, not only because it meant I gave up on something I loved, but had I remained on the team, I probably would have saved myself a lot of heartbreak in other areas of my life.

After graduation, I moved to Minneapolis to begin college at the University of Minnesota. I found a job at Learn to Swim at the U, and was able to teach swim lessons throughout my undergraduate. I worked for a year after graduation and went back to school for my master’s in public health (MPH). Although I finished my coursework in May 2011 and began working full-time immediately after, I am still wrapping up my master’s project. This project has been the bane of my existence, but come September, I will have defended, and I will officially have my degree!

Like most college students, the amount of time I exercised dropped significantly while the amount of time I studied (and partied) increased dramatically. Any exercise I did was in the form of running, because swimming at the U required getting to the pool, paying for parking or finding free parking (near impossible), and then getting in and swimming. Honestly, a 2 hour extravaganza when I could get a run done in 30-40 minutes? While I did get in the pool now and then, I usually chose the run over the swim – especially during my masters program, when the apartment complex I lived in had a workout room with a treadmill (great for winter!). Even after I was done with classes, it took awhile before I got into a routine with working out. Regardless, I always missed swimming – especially the competitive racing part of it.

So how do all of these things play out? Well, this past summer has been a ridiculously hectic one. While working full-time and frantically finishing my thesis (do you know what its like to not leave your apartment for an entire weekend, living off Reese’s Pieces and not showering?), I also am part of a weekly Bible study, love exercising (particularly swimming), spent the summer training for my first sprint triathlon, and love time with my friends and my significant other. I also love sleep, and alone time (hard to believe of someone who grew up with so many siblings, right?), but truth be told, those things are lacking, and will continue to be lacking. Why? Because I am a project person. I already have a list of arts and crafts and home-y decorating projects I can’t wait to start…in November. I will forever be a project person. So when I finished writing my thesis and took note how quickly my triathlon was coming up, I realized just how much free time I would have – and thus, the 2by30 project was born.


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