An interview with Masters swimmer Tyler Bergmeier
You don’t merely swim: you’re a triathlete. Tell us about that.
Not much to say here, really. I am a short-course athlete (I haven’t even done an Olympic distance), who typically competes 3-4 times a season in a non-pandemic year. Swimming is where I really struggle as a triathlete, so I am very thankful for all my swimming friends and advice.
When did you start swimming? Were you on a swim team as a kid?
I was not on a swim team as a kid. I actually almost drowned at swimming lessons when I was about 7 years old. I did ultimately learn to swim and have a lot of good memories of the pool and lake swimming as a kid. I never swam laps, in an actual practice, until I moved to the Upper Valley in January of 2014 (6.5 yrs ago). I have been a UV Ray since I moved here, and my swimming has greatly improved — thank you to all my coaches.
What is your favorite stroke?
“Swim free or die” is the NH motto –or is that my motto? Freestyle, of course. People think I am drowning when I swim butterfly, so I don’t do that much. Backstroke is ok but I still have a lot to learn.
Do you think swimming relates to life outside the pool in any way? Any thoughts on how sports help us both physically and mentally?
Swimming has become, in the last few years, my time of silence: No devices beeping at me, no screen to look at. Just that lovely stripe on the bottom of the pool (or the fish when swimming open water). I find the quietness and the all-encompassing feeling of the water to be very therapeutic and relaxing. I really, really, really missed it during the first few months of the pandemic when UVAC was closed. SOOOOOOO glad it is back open and the water is available.
I think sports today are the physical exercise our bodies need to feel good and healthy. You don’t have to be an athlete or race in any way, I just believe that we ALL need physical exercise 3-5 days a week for the endorphins and the deep breathing. We used to get this when running from saber tooth tigers or when we were a society that had to toil the land for food. Now that everything is packaged and ready to go, our brains don’t know how to function well without some form of exercise. Endorphins are necessary for a happy and satisfied lifestyle and society. That is my humble opinion, anyway, and how I try to live my life.
When did you join the UVRays? Why?
I joined the UV Rays very shortly after moving to the Upper Valley in January of 2014. I asked around at work for the best place to swim and UVAC was recommended by a co-worker. I started coming to UVAC and haven’t stopped since.
How do you feel about being on the team?
I feel so very lucky to be part of the team. I am never going to be the fastest person in my age-group, but no one has ever made me feel like the odd-man-out or the slow guy or the bad technique guy. The people are what keep me coming back and they challenge me to keep trying to improve.
How have you been coping through the pandemic?
I have been actually exercising more than before the pandemic which has really helped me get through this difficult time. With no commute time lost to driving I have been able to spend more time exercising, which I think has helped keep me focused on family and work.
How did your exercise routine change as the pandemic unfolded. How has it evolved?
Without my swimming, I had to change focus. I am a member of the Upper Valley Rowing Foundation and they were offering 3 days a week of rowing on an erg (rowing machine). I learned so much from the coach and fellow participants about how to erg effectively. This has now translated to better time on the river now that boats are available. Running on a treadmill and riding both outside and on a trainer (while teaching spinning classes remotely) rounded out my exercise routine during the pandemic.
You teach spinning at UVAC. Tell us what that’s been like and your teaching philosophy. How can people sign up for your spin class?
I have been teaching spinning about 18 months at UVAC. This has done wonders for my own riding. I find myself willing to work harder when in a class versus on the trainer at home. My philosophy is to lead by example: if I want you to ride hard, I should ride hard. I feel like my classes are pretty tough if you follow the instructions to the letter, but my teaching also allows for you to go at your own pace. It is more important to me that you are in there and riding versus me wanting you to hit a certain RPM or wattage output. To me, the best classes are when people walk out saying, “Thanks, Tyler, that class kicked my butt” because I know they got a good workout. I live for the collective “gasp” at the end of a hard interval because it means everyone really pushed themselves. I would like to think I am encouraging in how I teach my classes, as well.
Right now, due to the pandemic, if you want to come to a class you have to sign up in advance (3 days in advance is as “in advance” as you can go) as there are only 9 people allowed in the room. We can have unlimited Zoom participants in my classes as I teach a live class that is ALSO a zoom class. Generally, my classes are full or close to full and I have anywhere from 2-4 Zoom participants, so I feel like people are riding and enjoying my classes.
Where did you grow up and what brought you to the Upper Valley?
I am originally from Kansas but my wife wanted to live closer to her family, so we moved to VT after I finished grad school. We came to the Upper Valley due to my job opportunity at Dartmouth College in January 2014.
Tell us about your family.
My wife and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and I have a 15-year-old daughter and a labradoodle named Senna.
What do you do professionally?
I am a Senior Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Dartmouth College. I have been in the financial aid field for approximately 22 years. I have worked at an Ivy, a community college, a state school, a private liberal arts school, and for a public-non-profit over my career in financial aid.
In terms of hobbies, I like to build stuff: from buildings to furniture. When I have a workshop (which I don’t currently have), I really enjoying working in stained glass. I don’t count my sports as hobbies, although my wife might have a different opinion.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Don’t be afraid to try something new, to stretch yourself and your experiences. Life is meant to be lived on the edges—not on a couch. Get out there, experience life, listen to the birds… Do that one thing that you have always told yourself you couldn’t do: you just might find out you can do it. And if you can’t, who cares, you gave it a shot. Believe me, no one is really watching you that closely, so if you are going to attempt something great and you fail, trust me, no one really cares. Dare and dare greatly.
Interview by Masters swimmer Liz Kelsey