My name is Miriam Leach, and I am 68 years old. I retired in December, 2011 and set myself some goals that I wanted to reach during my retirement. These goals were to fulfill my dream of learning to swim, to develop a healthier and more active lifestyle and to gain control of my lifelong struggle with weight. I would like to tell you about my journey to meet these goals.
I have been struggling with weight issues ever since I was fourteen and tried numerous medically supervised diets but nothing really worked. I had bariatric surgery in the 1970’s and had some weight loss but not as much as was needed. I managed to go from a size 24 dress to a size 20 but finally gave up on any additional weight loss until after retirement and the start of my fitness regime coupled with healthier eating. I am happy to say that now I have lost over 100 pounds in total, with 60 pounds being lost since December, 2011. I can now wear a size 12 dress and can purchase new clothes in a regular store and not the “fat lady” stores I used to have to use.
Early in 2012, I contacted the Upper Valley Aquatic Center to discuss the possibility of taking swimming lessons. After discussing my wishes with Ann Greenwald, I signed up for my first group of lessons; prior to the first lesson I purchased the needed equipment and became a member of the center. Lessons started in February, 2012. Fortunately I did not have a fear of the water and had no problems putting my face underwater but needed to get used to the way the water felt. Things went very slowly but Ann never lost her patience and if I couldn’t do one thing we tried moved on to another.
Soon, I was going to the center twice a week so I could practice and get more comfortable in the water prior to my lesson. Lessons continued, but took a little hiatus while a broken bone in my elbow healed and then again for surgery. Early in 2013 I contacted Ann about more lessons and she readily agreed to help me reach my goal. It took some time to get enough confidence to be able to eliminate all floatation devices but was very happy when I was able to get half way across the leisure pool! As I was having problems turning my head to breathe got a snorkel and Ann instructed me on the proper use – took to that like a duck to water! Soon I was “swimming” about three-fourths the length of the pool.
Thursday, March 14, 2013 is a day I will always remember as this is the day I actually went the length of the pool, As I was able to do 50 meters without stopping. The lifeguard told me I was no longer learning to swim, but swimming! After a short rest, I did two more 50-meter distances and left very happy. Now, I will work on going longer distances and more on form but am so pleased that a lifelong goal was reached. This would not have been possible without the expert instruction of Ann and the support and encouragement I was given by all the lifeguards – they are awesome and have provided invaluable assistance to me by answering questions, making suggestions and urging me on. Other users of the pool have also watched my progress and tell me how pleased they are with how I am doing.
After spending time in the pool last year, I decided it was a good time to work on my other goals post retirement. I started walking more, and gradually was able to walk for a mile without stopping; this was a big accomplishment for me as prior to this I was only able to walk a very short distance before getting tired and out of breath. Now I am walking at least three miles a day and stop only for a water break.
I hope my journey to reach my retirement goals might inspire others to reach for some goal they have wanted to accomplish. With patient guidance, support of others and a willingness to challenge yourself what might seem like an impossible goal can be reached. No one should ever say they are too old to learn – if you set yourself some intermediate goals to get where you want to be and keep telling yourself that you can do it, nothing is impossible!