|At Blue Marsh Lake northwest of Reading, PA|
Sports: Open Water Swimming, Running, Mountain Hiking, Trail Running, Triathlon
Occupation: Assistant Director of Library Public Services at HACC
Location: Elizabethtown, PA
Louise is a highly accomplished swimmer and teacher who is a certified US Masters Level 3 coach and Adult Instructor and American Red Cross certified WSI Water Safety Instructor. A swimming friend told me about one of Louise's open water swimming clinics at Blue Marsh Lake, northwest of Reading in Pennsylvania, which was where I first met Louise. Her love for swimming and her swimmers was palpable! Even as an experienced pool swimmer, I learned much from her advice and instruction on open water swimming during the clinic. I followed her on facebook and it has been a pleasure seeing her expand and enjoy her swimming career and swim coaching business. Below is an excerpt from an interview with Louise in her own words about her journey to becoming an athlete and coach.
My participation [in sports] began when I was working full time, caring for my mom at home – she lived with us – and also at the same time our daughter was in middle school and starting to display some behaviors that I didn’t understand. It was later discovered that she had developed an eating disorder and was later diagnosed as bipolar. So, at the same time I was working full time, caring for my mom, caring for my increasingly ill daughter, and I was turning 50. It was kind of like this perfect storm.
One of the things that I did, or had been doing, was going to the pool at Elizabethtown College on my lunch hour. I would go and jump in and it was kind of my de-stress. Up until then I was by no means an athlete. I didn’t have any set goals. I wasn’t sedentary, but I was trying to be active, you know, be healthy, but I didn’t have the mindset that I needed to do this to be healthy. When I started swimming at the pool, it was really for me to have time to myself. It wasn’t an athletic pursuit. So, I had been swimming at my lunch hour and then I started going to Curves, which was that little circular exercise thing, and again it was to try to help me stay healthy because I was gaining a lot of weight, mostly because of stress: I was turning 50, I was perimenopausal, I was having migraines every month, I was just a mess.
|Swimming the North Channel from Ireland to Scotland|
with a 6-Person Relay Team in July 2019
In 2008, a friend of mine who was a Pilates instructor, was starting to do more running, and she said to me, "Do a half marathon." At that time, I didn’t even know what a half marathon was. I said to my husband, maybe I can do a half marathon and he said absolutely! I didn’t even know what a 5K was. I asked him will you help me – yes I will help you – so I started running on this treadmill. I had never done a 5K. I went right from this treadmill to a half marathon. My first half marathon was the Hershey Half Marathon and I made it to mile 12 and I couldn’t go any farther. I was in such pain and I felt like an utter failure. That was my first athletic pursuit, it was as a running thing. After that I went home and I was so depressed and sad, I thought I’m just this 50-year-old woman, I have all of these problems, I can’t even run a half marathon, but I decided to give it one more go. I was able to successfully complete the Philadelphia Half Marathon two months later and I was hooked.
So then I was doing swimming at lunch and I started doing this running. And it was when I started to get into the running and half marathons that I started to think of myself as an athlete. But what really solidified it was when the same friend who told me I could run a half marathon told me, “You can swim around the Statue of Liberty. I know you swim at your lunch hour.” So, I decided to learn what it takes to swim around the Statue of Liberty. That was my very first open water swim and that’s what got me hooked on open water swimming. And I think because the half marathons – I started doing that just as that craze kind of hit and more and more people were doing running so it wasn’t quite novel a thing. But when I started doing the open water swimming I had more and more women my age coming up to me and saying, after the Statue of Liberty, “How did you do that?” And I think it was the feedback that I was getting from other women who looked like me and had the same life experiences as me – because I don’t look like an athlete.
|Ice Swimming with Penn Heron Open Water Swimming Team|
That’s how the whole coaching thing started because I had more and more people coming to me, and I can’t say I’m going to show you how to do this without understanding how I did it. I wanted to have some kind of instruction to give them. So the very first coaching certification I got was teaching adults how to swim. Because I had more and more people coming to me that didn’t know how to swim but wanted to learn how to swim. And then I was certified as a US Master’s Coach. And then from that, I got into open water and cold water and I am also an ice swimmer, which is a whole other sport!
If you're interested in having a swimming coach, check out Lousie Darlington's coaching page.
Stay tuned for more from Louise on ice swimming, marathon swimming, and the swimming community.
Questions for Louise about her sports or coaching career? Please comment below!
This interview is part of the Thigh Flasher Athletes Who Inspire Me Interview Series. Contact me if you’d like to share your story as a sportswoman or nominate another sportswoman who has inspired you to get fit, compete, and or live a healthier lifestyle.