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Learn to Lap Swim program pays it forward

The Learn to Lap Swim Program currently in place at the King George YMCA is the perfect way to blend exercise, fun and the spirit of community volunteerism. While the program has been an ongoing effort spearheaded by King George sports enthusiast and swim coach legend Ken Novell, the primary difference between the earlier programs and the current program is that the latest initiative is to encourage beginner/novice swimmers to participate.

“What’s important to me is to get as many people in the pool for exercise,” Novell said. “Swimming should be a

lifelong habit and not limited to people who do know how to swim. I want to see people who don’t know how to swim very well, or people who are afraid of the water, but want to change their exercise lifestyle.”

The program is open to all age groups. The program currently has total of 11 swimmers who meet from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The group is divided into various proficiency levels: The first level is strictly for beginners. The second level is focused on the basic knowledge of crawl and beginning to swim laps. The third level is for those proficient with lap swimming as a means of getting in shape.

An important facet of the group is socializing and networking with fellow swimmers. Workouts are broken into several sets of repeats; each set is timed to be in sync with the beginning and ending of each set. As a result, all swim levels are resting at the same time before beginning another set.

The exercise benefits of the program have significantly impacted the lives of its members.

“I couldn’t swim before, and now I can,” Joyce Harmon said. “I’ve noticed a real difference in my strength and balance. Just doing things around the house and going up and down the stairs is a lot easier than it used to be. It’s a definite benefit to my overall health, and it’s a whole lot of fun.”

John Nelson began the class with knee problems; however, his total health has experienced a full 180-degree turnaround.

“Basically I had a weak knee when I started, and I’ve been swimming since late September,” Nelson said. “I tried for two years to get it to feel better, but nothing worked. My knee feels better now; swimming has really helped me.”

Novell is aware of each member’s strengths and weaknesses. His ultimate goal is to ensure a better quality of life for his members, while encouraging them to pay it forward by passing the baton of exercise to others.

“At every session, when we’re going through mechanics, I tell them the reason that I’m doing things the way I do,” Novell said. “Also, I want some of them to carry on my message of exercise, and teach others what they’ve learned in this class.”

Novell’s passion for swimming has resulted in the founding of the Rappahannock Swim League, countless high school Battlefield District Championships, and a proven background of community volunteerism.

“I started swimming, because I love the sport, and I want everyone to enjoy the benefits of good health,” Novell said. “I realized over time that it’s really more than that. I strongly feel that the two main things that make the difference in our life are success and how happy we are. Without the benefits and help from other people, nobody can do it, and I think it’s important to pay it forward.”

Leonard Banks
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