A typical training day for Bob Swift, coach at the Boulder City Henderson Heatwave Swim Team, consists of one-to-two hours in the pool, one hour of biking or running, and an hour of core exercises at the gym. And he’s 68 years old. However, age is nothing but a number to Swift, who is used to four-hour workouts and traveling the world to compete in triathlons. Swift believes that it is a core value to stay fit and healthy, especially when coaching young swimmers to do the same.
Have you always loved physical fitness, or did it grow on you over the years?
I’ve always loved physical fitness. We swam almost every day in the summer. We lived near Stanford University, and we would go on bike rides and hikes all the time.
How do you continue to maintain peak physical fitness at your age?
When I train, I train on my own and don’t push myself too hard. The key to maintaining good physical fitness is consistency. The main reason I really haven’t been injured much is because I keep my intensity level down. Plus, it’s important to stay healthy since I have a spouse and kids.
How do you find the motivation to continue at the fitness level you are at regularly?
The first step is getting out of bed. But seriously, I enjoy physical fitness. If you do a job, you should take pleasure in the job and what it involves.
As a teen, Swift ran track at Menlo-Atherton High School, the same high school that Olympic swimming champion Dick Roth attended a few years prior. Due to his passion for athletics, Swift pursued a degree in physical education at BYU, which was where he met Olympic gold medalist Mike Burton. Swift enrolled in a swim class taught by Burton and since then, he completely fell in love with the sport.
Burton introduced him to butterfly and helped him improve his other strokes while at the college. Swift said humorously, “Burton called me a fish because I was the only PE major that could swim.”
After college, Swift competed at several meets with a masters club and worked at a gym in Salt Lake as a lifeguard. He began teaching WSI classes, which inspired him to create a swim team for the gym. Swift also continued his daily bike rides and runs, often commuting to and from work on his bicycle.
Upon moving to Las Vegas, Swift participated in his first few triathlons in the 80s. Ever since then, he was hooked. “Since I already swam and biked daily, I didn’t really need to do any additional training for the triathlons,” he said.
Swift worked for the Sandpipers for 10 years until 1990, when Mike Polk left to create his own team, BCH. Swift has now been coaching swimming for 45 years.
Swift balances his fervor for coaching and triathlons equally, often sharing stories of his triathlon accomplishments with his swimmers. Since his first one, Swift has competed in triathlons in Germany, New Zealand, Canada, Amsterdam, Madrid, the East Coast, Louisville and Tahoe.
“The first full one I ever did was the Silverman in 2005,” He said. “I’m the oldest person that did every full distance at Silverman. There are only like seven or eight people [worldwide] who have done the full.”
Swift continued, “I’ve done about 20 Ironman competitions. At this point because of my age, all I have to do is finish to win in my age group,” he said smiling.
Swift said of the three (swimming, biking, and running), he enjoys swimming the most because there is less impact on the joints. Plus, there are different strokes, and it is cool in the water, which is a great relief in Vegas.
“I like biking as well,” he said. “In 2009, I biked a cross-country. I did a triathlon in Utah to start it, and then back to New Hampshire to finish it.”
In addition to maintaining good physical fitness, being mentally prepared is just as important. Swift said of training, “The most important thing to do when exercising if you’re not feeling motivated is to just work through it. I normally get on my bike or go up to the pool, jump in the water and start swimming.
He continued, “With biking you have to focus on traffic. With running you have to worry about curbs and rocks and terrain. With swimming, it’s just automatic.”
Swift also eats healthy meals and gets plenty of rest before exercising. “When my weight is where it needs to be, I sleep better,” he said. “And sleep is recovery. And if you can’t recover, you can’t work out. Nutrition fuels your workouts. But if you’re not eating right, you’re also not going to sleep right.”
Swift said that as an athlete, it is important to love your sport, and as a coach it is essential to try to inspire others.
“If you tell people to be fit and swimming is a year-round/lifelong sport, you should lead by example,” he said.