Swimming classes keep athletes working year-round | SteamboatToday.com

Swimming classes keep athletes working year-round

Luke Graham

— On an unseasonably warm Thursday for Steamboat Springs, when temperatures had actually crawled into the 40s, Old Town Hot Springs Aquatic Director Jill Ruppel moved back and forth at the end of the lap lanes.

Ruppel, almost always with a smile, wore a puffy red jacket and raced between lanes.

Although many across town were skiing or preparing for the holidays, for a group of athletes in the Master Swim Workouts, the temperatures outside made it bathing suit weather.

"It's not bad," swimmer Julie Franklin said. "The pool is warm."

The pool also was hopping with energy about the increasingly popular Master Swim Workouts, designed for swimmers of all abilities.

The classes are from 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Mondays and from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. The classes are free to members and generally have featured two to 18 swimmers.

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"It's just designed to keep people swim fit throughout the season," said Ruppel in between calling out the next set of strokes and distances. "A lot of these swimmers are triathletes, and some are former competitive swimmers who were on masters teams and want to keep swimming. It improves cardio and swim fitness. We keep it fun and interesting."

Ruppel teaches the Tuesday and Thursday classes, and Hadley Nylen teaches the Monday class.

The workouts are designed by Ruppel, who uses the help of multiple swim books to put them together. But since the workouts started in October 2008, the Master Swim program has gathered a cult-like following.

"It's just a good workout in an hour," Franklin said. "I'd be out of the pool in half an hour if Jill wasn't here."

Ruppel said oftentimes, she will put together workouts just from being familiar with the swimmers.

It's that camaraderie that also drives the workouts.

Take Thursday's class, where the eight swimmers in attendance were broken into two teams for an individual medley relay.

After a brief back and forth between the teams — each calling the other out to not cheat — it was on.

"If you're by yourself, sometimes you'll say, 'I'll do a 100 instead of a 200,' or you might not do the end of the workout," said Mark Satkiewicz, who is training for a triathlon in April. "It's just more motivating when you're around your peers."

Although most of the swimmers in attendance Thursday were triathletes or former competitive swimmers, Ruppel said she encourage everyone to consider coming.

Ruppel generally breaks up the class by ability. With newer swimmers, or those who just want to learn, Ruppel puts them in a lane and has them work on the intricacies of a freestyle stroke.

"People will come up to me and say, 'I haven't swam since I was 8. What can I do?'" Ruppel said. "We break it down. These guys, I give them specifics on what to work on with freestyle only. It's building the stroke."

That also has been a big part of the class. The swimmers watched video in fall with Ruppel to work on their strokes.

"It's just to see what you're not doing great, and you can work on it over time," Satkiewicz said. "I'd recommend it to anybody. It's for all levels. There are great swimmers and average swimmers like me."

It's also one heck of a workout.

As Ruppel changed strokes and workouts Thursday, she pointed to all the parts of the body that were working.

At one point, it was the oblique muscles. The next, it was the core and throughout.

"Think about the resistance," Ruppel explained. "Water is up to 12 times more resistant than air. It's moving through a resistance and trying to learn to efficiently move your body through that."

After the individual medley was complete and swimmers had cooled down, talk turned to the holidays and potentially the worst part of the workout — walking the 20 or so feet in the cold to the locker rooms.

But one thing was clear: All would be back next week for another workout.

"They develop a camaraderie," Ruppel said. "The accountability is what keeps them coming and what keeps me so excited to come back and keep coaching."

Events for January

January swimming

■ Mondays

Master Swim Workouts with Hadley Nylen from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. All levels are welcome. Workouts are free to members.

■ Tuesdays and Thursdays

Master Swim Workouts with Jill Ruppel from noon to 1 p.m. All levels are welcome. Workouts are free to members.

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