Swimming a mile is an endurance test for most casual swimmers. But at the San Benito High School pool, 25 swimmers—10 who are senior citizens—are taking it a step further, accepting a challenge to swim 100 miles over the course of the year.
Swimmers keep track of their laps on a form provided by pool operator San Benito Aquatics, and when they finish the 100 miles they will receive a special t-shirt commemorating their achievement.
“I thought this would be something good to keep people motivated to keep swimming all through the year,” said San Benito Aquatics Program and Facility Manager Julie Corrigan. “And swimming is a great way to exercise during the pandemic. Most people can do about 1,000 yards at a time. For swimming, a mile is 1,650 yards, so it will take most people all year to do it.”
But Glynis Crabb, 72, is not most people. She has managed to swim a third of the miles in just nine weeks.
“Julie told me about the program and I signed up right away,” Crabb said. “I am thinking I will get the challenge done by June. And then I just might start over again and earn another t-shirt.”
Crabb began swimming when she was 10, after her parents could no longer afford to pay for horse riding.
“My parents suggested I try swimming, so I started going to the pool at Aldershot,” Crabb said. “It was where they trained the military. The trainer, Mr. Kennedy, coached us too. Very strict—really made us work.”
Crabb swam competitively through her high school years, but did not continue after that. She became interested again when she was 63, watching her son Iain compete.
“He was doing his second triathlon and I wondered if I could do that,” she said. “I knew I could swim and I had been running. So all I needed was a bike. I have done several since then, including going back to Milwaukee for the championships. I’ve swum in the National Senior’s Games as well.”
Crabb was a regular at Rovella’s Gym in Hollister before it closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. She discovered the pool at San Benito High School and has been going there ever since.
“When Rovella’s closed, I was desperate,” Crabb said. “And then I found this magnificent pool. Swimming is my mental salvation. When I get in the pool, I can either think about things or block them out. I do think about my stroke and try to improve it. But if I need to shut something out I can do it.”
The Centers for Disease Control recommend swimming for seniors as a way of decreasing disability and maintaining bone health. The American Association of Retired Persons writes that swimming improves balance and muscle strength, as well as gives an increased range of motion. For Crabb, that is an important benefit.
“I live by myself and it is really important for me to keep up my health,” Crabb said. “It keeps my muscles in shape and it helps keep my weight down. My breathing is my weak point and if I get sick, I always get a cough. The regular breathing I get in swimming really helps me with that.”
Susan Carpenter, 59, has already done 30 of her 100 miles. She hopes to keep adding four miles a week, which would put her on track to finish by July. Twenty years ago, an injury ended her time as a competitive swimmer, and she now swims for exercise and relaxation.
“I come out here to do my miles and it is better than a gym,” Carpenter said. “I don’t want to do aerobics because of the impact on your joints. Swimming keeps up the joint movements and prevents injury. When you swim, your hips, your shoulders, and hands are constantly being used and not overtaxed. Movement is important as you age. If you stop moving, your health will quickly leave you.”
Carpenter also believes that swimming has helped her manage the stress of being a teacher at Tres Pinos School during the time of COVID.
“Movements and kinesthetics also help the brain chemistry and diminishes stress,” she said. “As a schoolteacher, the stresses this year have been much different than I have ever felt before. Swimming is a way to cope with that.”
Enrollment in the 100-mile swim challenge is open throughout the year. Memberships at the pool are also available through San Benito Aquatics, and the pool is open daily.
“We’d like to encourage seniors to come out and join us,” Corrigan said. “It is a great challenge and it is a way to keep yourself motivated. It is easy exercise, but great for your heart. It is a good way to get some motion and keep yourself developed. I think anyone can do it as long as they put in the effort. And above all, it is fun.”
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