Wednesday, July 30, 2014

UVAC Swimmer Hannah Cox competing at the National Level

To the UVAC Community: 

Hannah Cox swims on the UVAC Swim Team.  She is competing at the national level.  Perhaps some of you are interested in her story and would be interested to know about a fund raising opportunity to help her compete at these extraordinary events.  Here is a letter from her family.

Please help Hannah continue to swim at the National Level!  This August Hannah will swim in Irving, CA at USA Swimming Jr Nationals and in December she's already qualified to swim at Nationals, to be held in Greensboro, NC.  The cost of two national meets per year, one sectional meet, two senior meets and several qualifying meets is at least $10,000/year.  Please join our pool of friends dedicated to helping Hannah stay in the fast lane!  Every drop counts!
Invitation to donate: click here

Hannah's Story: Hannah learned to bob around the Woodstock Rec Pool when she was 2 and has taken to the water ever since!  When she became a Vermont State Champion at 8 we thought "Oh isn't she cute!"  Notwithstanding she continued to show promise!  Finally we told her when the new aquatic center was built in our area she could swim year round.  (We really thought that meant swimming winters in addition to 6 weeks each summer...)  She started swimming at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center when she was 11, even so she didn't swim ALL year round until the summer of her freshman year in high school. Hannah is now a top New England Swimmer.  She has two Junior National competitions under her belt, and swam last year at the National Select Camp hosted by USA Swimming at the Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs.  Hannah and her Coach Dorsi Raynolds were interviewed by SwimmingWorld Morning Swim Show.  My favorites though are the tweets!  "Hannah Cox of UVAC does it again with a fierce win in the 400 IM"  "Hannah Cox from VT is out in 1:53.45 in the 500 Free. Can she four-peat?"  "She does it! 16yr Hannah Cox of VT 4-peats at #ezsections"  "The 16yr old wunderkind from VT wins her 6th event at #ezsections" (#ezsections = Eastern Zone Sectionals)
Better yet is what teammate Ellie Thompson has to say: "Hannah's greatest gift in swimming is her incredible discipline and ability to compete. Her amazing work ethic, modesty, and passion for swimming is truly amazing and she has earned all the success she's had.  She is an absolute joy both to swim with, and to watch swim.  I truly believe that she has only begun to experience the incredible opportunities that her ability in swimming will bring her!"  (Ellie now swims for Emory University, 2014 Division 3 Champions)

Hannah Cox and Ellie Thompson at the NE Senior Meet, July 2014 Brown University... Hannah set the New England record in the 200 Free for the second time - a record formerly held by Olympian Elisabeth Beisel!
Thank you so much for your interest in Hannah's future.  This will "take a village" as they say... please join our family in helping our girl pursue her passion and her dreams!

Follow updates on my (Karen Cox's) Face Book page!  National meets include live and archived video links!  She's very exciting to watch!

With Gratitude ~ Karen Cox

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Proof Behind Personal Training

An article was recently published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that compared the results of 30 - 44 year old men who were all members of a health club.  Half of the men were assigned to a supervised, periodized training protocol with a personal trainer and the other half were performing a self directed exercise routine.  The group trained 3 times per week for 12 weeks.

Not only did the group under supervision of a personal trainer have greater improvement in strength and cardiovascular capacity, but one of the tests for the self directed group got worse!  This is the first time, to my knowledge, that reinforced the anecdotal evidence that people receive greater results when they work with a trainer.

If you are interested in seeing results talk to one of our personal trainers!  We have several different packages in 1 hour and 30 minute sessions.  Our weight loss program--Shed and Shred--and spots always fill fast!

For more information contact John at or 802-296-2850 x 103.

John Grainger MS, CSCS
Fitness Director

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

From Non-Swimming to Snorkeling With a Manta Ray

"Until February of this year, I didn’t know how to swim, and I was afraid of water deeper than 6 feet. For a work trip, I booked a travel to Hawaii in Feb, and joined UVAC, determined to be able to swim in the ocean in Hawaii. With Miss Suzanne, Meg and other instructors’ help, I was able to achieve this. I swam with a bait ball, in 25-30 feet deep water, and snorkeled at night up close with Manta Rays. I did not use any flotation aid for the bait ball snorkeling trip in the ocean during the day time. 

Here are the YouTube links to a couple of videos I recorded in Hawaii.

Night Snorkeling with Manta Rays:

Here is a photo of me swimming in the Hawaiian ocean. :-)

I’d like to especially thank Miss Suzanne Cote Curtis
Suzanne Cote Curtis, Adult Swim Instructor
and I also want to thank the entire team at UVAC for their efforts in teaching swimming and their enthusiasm. Thank a lot ! :-)"

Shadab Khan

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Make Fitness Fun!

Do you let yourself eat more or give yourself a treat if you exercise?  Have you ever said "this workout is going to earn me that bowl of ice cream!"? 

Researchers found that when people viewed their exercise as fun they ate less dessert, or were less likely to eat a tasty snack or drink after exercise. 

Personally, I love to play sports.  If I could organize a pick up basketball game at lunch time on our outdoor court I would use that as my exercise everyday.  To me, that is fun! 

So that begs the question--what is fun for you?

John Grainger MS, CSCS
Fitness Director

Monday, June 23, 2014

How Did Snapping Turtles Get Their Name?

Last week when I was at VINS, the grassy slopes were covered with dozens of newly hatched snapping turtles. About the size of a half dollar coin, they were hastily heading toward the Ottaquechee River which was invisible from the nest sites.

There are at least 2 snapping turtle nest sites on the lawns at Upper Valley Aquatic Center (UVAC). I watched the females lay the eggs back in June. Mid September is the time most snapping turtles hatch in these parts. But I haven’t seen any action here at UVAC yet.  If the eggs do not hatch, they stand little chance of surviving the winter. Most turtle nests are only 6 inches or so deep in the ground. The frost will penetrate deeper than that, most likely ending the turtles’ life cycle.

Snapping turtles were around during the time of dinosaurs and have changed little in the ensuing 150 million years. They are among the few creatures which can live in significantly polluted environments, even sewer systems! *

How did snapping turtles get their name? Unlike other turtles they are unable to fully draw their legs and head into their shells. Evolution has given them strong  jaws to protect themselves if threatened; hence the name “ snapping” turtle.  Yet snapping turtles are considered docile creatures except during mating and egg laying season. Once the carapace reaches 3 inches in length, there are few natural predators: hence the docile nature.

If you see tiny turtles scrambling about, give them a lift to the nearest body of water. All snapping turtles will be hibernating by mid-October until next May, when the cycle begins anew.

* Graham TE, Perkins RW 1976 Growth of the common snapping turtle, Chelydra s. serpentina, in a polluted marsh. Maryland Herp. Soc. Bull. 12:123-125

By Zooey Zullo, Operations Director, Upper Valley Aquatic Center

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bubbles and Buoyancy! by Karen Cox, Swim Instructor

Learning to Swim at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center Swim School: Phase 1
Coach Samara giving "just enough" support.

“Bubbles” is code word for "air exchange" in swim vernacular.  It goes over better with the 3-6 year old set, but the idea is the same whether you are a little kid or an adult learning to swim. 

We teach nose bubbles because it takes care of several issues at one time… For children we encourage them to think of something yummy and hum. Making a yummy sound “mmmm” closes the mouth (so no water comes in) and pushes air down the nasal passage so no water goes up!  Timing happens to be important, but if a child will hum as they put their face in the water bubbles will definitely come out the nose!  Exhaling under the water allows for the capture of a quick breath when surfacing.  If the swimmer holds their breath and doesn’t exhale until the face surfaces there is less time to capture a fresh breath, which in turn deprives the body of longed for oxygen and makes the next swim cycle less efficient which then starts a downward spiral and suddenly swimming becomes a battle with your body…not the desired outcome!

Step 1 is learning to exhale in the water (nose bubbles)… Step 2 is learning to make a series of relaxed air exchanges.  While holding onto the side of the pool we call these air exchanges “bobs”.  While moving prone through the water we call air exchanges “little dips”.  Adult assistance is usually needed for the young beginning swimmers. Kick boards are helpful for anyone tall enough to stand on their own in the pool!   Try starting with 3 bobs, then 5, 7 and so on.  We ask for ten relaxed wall bobs, no touching the face, adjusting goggles or talking in between!  Ten seems to be a good number to indicate they’ve mastered the technique and are ready for more.  Jumping bobs would be the next skill set followed by “streamline bobs” (Jumping bobs with your hands held above the head in a streamline position… also great for developing ab muscles and coordination.

While swimmers are learning to master bobs they can be working on other skills of preparation for enjoyable and efficient swimming.  Here is where buoyancy comes in.  Buoyancy is related to the state of “being” in the water.  It’s not fighting the water or your own body but being able to relax in the water.  Easier said than done if one is timid or fearful of the water.  The fearful tendencies of bringing limbs in close to the torso, tensing muscles and craning the neck work against buoyancy.  Surprising even tensing toes can hinder progress… So we teach back floating, tummy floating and glides as the next step in the journey called swimming, having trusted assistance is obviously important for little ones but may be helpful for older swimmers to have reassurance and feedback.

When working on glides we start by asking for a big reach when pushing away from a bench or even when being towed by an adult… opening up at the armpit and stretching the hands and arms way out in front of the body is essential. It’s helpful for children to experience what this “feels” like before they are able to do it themselves.  Providing just enough support for swimmers to be successful is key: meaning don’t support too much so that the swimmer is too high in the water… but just enough to avoid that sinking feeling.  Supporting the hands, maybe the hips while the child is moving forward in the water would be an example of this.  Next ask a swimmer to put their face in including their forehead and doing nose bubbles while moving through the water.  If a swimmer, of any age, can commit their head to the water and lengthen out their body they are well on their way toward independent swimming!  But don’t shortcut this step!  It feels more vulnerable to put the forehead in the water and look down at the bottom of the pool than it does to just get the nose and goggles in.  But this simple 2-3 inch difference makes an unbelievable difference when it comes to swimming with optimal buoyancy  - stay tuned for my next blog post: “If the head is up the hips will sink!”

If you have a child 6 months to 3 years I encourage you to come to Parent and Me to learn some of the techniques used to give children “just enough support to be successful”!  If your child is in group or private lessons we’d love to answer your questions or have your child give a “show” of what they are currently learning.  If you are an adult and desiring to learn to swim we have several great options for you here at UVAC!  So practice those nose bubbles and stay in touch! 

Swimmingly!  ~ Coach Karen

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

All In For Adult Swim

The Upper Valley Aquatic Center (U.V.A.C.) is a place where fun and water safety rub shoulders with fitness and skill mastery. With a grant from the US Masters Swimming Saves Lives Foundation U.V.A.C. offered affordable adult learn-to-swim lessons this winter. The 5-week sessions began in January and more than thirty adults took the plunge and became swimmers.

Tucker Garrity one of the lifeguards who helped team teach this series summed it up best, “Adults are fun to teach, they want to be there, their time is limited so they focus on their goals.” One student shared, “I like the one on one instruction along with the support of being in a group.”  Repetition is key when acquiring a new skill but students can get caught up in frustration when progress feels slow.  With that in mind, we change things up.  Students rotate between different teachers and each class we build on previous drills.  We introduce new challenges each class. All the students remember the first time they make it into the competition pool.  We bring them together so they can see what each other is doing and then break out again into small groups for more focused attention.  Also, we let them focus on what they want to learn each class. At the end of every class we come back together and share our successes or frustrations. What we’ve all come to see is that the more you can laugh and enjoy yourself in the water, the easier is to learn new skills.

Chances are if you haven’t learned how to swim some of the following applies to you:
"I can’t put my face in the water.”
"I can't tread water" “
“I can't put my face underwater without holding my nose"
“I panic if I’m over my head "
“I never learned how to swim with strokes and breathing"
What is amazing is how quickly students move from the place of I can’t to I can.

Various motivations brought the adults to class. For some the price was right.  With the grant underwriting the cost, the cost per class was $3.00 per lesson and half that if all ten classes of the session are attended. For some a moment arrived when unknowing became intolerable. One student shared he was a new parent who didn’t want his child to develop the same fear of the water that he had. Another student shared that he’d watch his family enjoying the water and wanted to get in and enjoy the fun too. One student shared he’d tipped a canoe the previous spring.   Another student needed to pass a swim test to get his Dartmouth diploma. For another student it took a mini freak out moment while snorkeling on vacation to realize that learning how to swim and be comfortable in deep water was a priority.  Not every student was afraid.  There were plenty who could get along in the water but wanted to refine their strokes and swim more effectively.

Whatever the motivation, UVAC strives to teach in a welcoming, supportive and fun environment.  The instructors managed the multitude of emotions and skill level.  A fun dynamic developed in the first session where we had a teacher from Hartford High in the class and students working as lifeguards and instructors. Another positive benefit of group classes is the “camaraderie” of having classmates while learning to swim. We teach skills in component parts.  Drills for kicking, breathing, floating, sculling, bobbing are all geared towards breaking the skills into manageable parts. Those who are new to the skills learn alongside those who are reviewing skills or unlearning bad habits. The instructors were described as “unpretentious down to earth group of experts.”  

Swimming is different than other sports because you have to think about your breathing.  Getting comfortable with rhythmic breathing while learning to balance your various body movements is the challenge.  The pay back is that when you swim, you turn off one of your senses, hearing. As students develop skill and comfort in the water they come to understand the relaxing nature of swimming.  

Students shared some of the surprising and inspiring results of learning to swim.  For some just being able to float comfortably and enjoy it is a huge accomplishment. Once the air exchange and arm coordination comes together students feel a real sense of accomplishment.  Another student shared that she’d begun swimming before work and that it helped her manage her stress and that she’d gone down one dress size.  Another student has moved on to join the Master’s Swim group and is on her way to greater mastery of skill and endurance. We’ve had mothers and daughters learning together, mothers and sons, co-workers learning together and friends sign up together.  One evening was especially memorable when a student who felt her progress was slower than others was able to swim the length of the pool without stopping.  Afterwards she shared that her goal was to make one length of the pool using the freestyle stroke without stopping.  We knew she’d been afraid to put her face in the water when she first started but what we didn’t know was that she’d battled illness and injuries for the last several years.  She reached her goal on the same day as her fifth anniversary of being cancer-free.  Sharing that with the class meant a lot to the others as well because you feel a part of something bigger than your own fears and anxieties. Like the day someone makes it into the competition pool and is able to tread water and move through the anxiety of being in water over their heads.  Classmates cheer you on and share their own success.  While we talk about the importance of feeling safe and comfortable in the water at UVAC,  students this winter learned  the added benefit of getting stronger and gaining a sense of accomplishment.  And perhaps that is what made the adult swim lessons such a success.  The willingness to show up each week, do things that scare you or make you feel silly and keep on trying while making friends in the process.  Thanks for all the hard work! 

by Suzanne Curtiss
UVAC Swim Instructor and Lifeguard