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Fitness Success Story: Kate Fisken Started Swimming for Recovery and Now Competes in the Senior Olympics

Image Credit: Kate Fisken

A car accident, a yoga class, a back injury, and the thought of surgery to insert rods and screws into her body all lead Kate Fisken back into the water to start swimming again.

Fisken grew up swimming at a very young age thanks to having strong swimming role models in both her mother and grandmother. “We lived in Seattle near Lake Washington and I took swim lessons at the athletic club but my grandmother also taught me in the lake. I swam competitively in high school but in college there were no women’s sports so I stopped swimming,” she said.

All that changed years later when in 2004 during a yoga class, Fisken injured her back during a twist pose. Fisken explains, “The vertebrae moved away from my spine. My discs were fine but the nerves don’t always have enough room and the result is a painful sciatica. My doctors, however, determined that the original injury most likely happened during a car accident in 1999.”

Fisken chose an alternative to back surgery which would involve rods and screws. Working with her doctors, she tried radical physical therapy and part of that included swimming. According to Fisken, “Both my doctors and physical therapist encourage me to swim. It’s low impact, it works all of your muscles from head to toe, and it really helps to strengthen your core, which stabilizes the area where I would have had to have the rods and screws.”

Getting back into swimming was not easy. At first she could not even swim the length of the pool. She would hit the pool every Saturday and eventually increased her swimming until she needed a new goal. That is when she joined the Masters Swimming program and starting swimming 2500 meters during practice. She accomplished her first goal in 2006, swimming the One Mile Chesapeake Bay Open. This summer Fisken is competing in her third Senior Olympics in Cleveland, Ohio!

She has advice for adults looking to start swimming for the first time ever and for adults who are getting back into swimming after a long break:

1. Start slowly
“Many adults get frustrated early on because they can’t get the breathing down or they can’t keep up.” Start slowly and keep at it.

2. Find a coach and take lessons
“Montgomery County offers both private and group adult lessons at reasonable rates.” Work with someone who can help you with technique and endurance.

3. Take a water aerobics class
This is a great way to get over any water-induced anxiety and to get comfortable and excited about being in the water. Plus, according to Fisken, “Water aerobics classes are a great way to meet nice people and the instructors make it lots of fun!”

For more information on water aerobics, swim lessons, or the Masters Swimming program visit or click on the links below: