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Wind Crest Resident Learns to Swim for First Time

April 22, 2019

On-campus pool and fitness center staff help Marriott Smart gain new skill

At Wind Crest, residents enjoy an active, vibrant retirement lifestyle. With three fitness centers, a pool and more than 100 activities to choose from, there's always an opportunity to try something new.

One resident, Marriott Smart, recently did just that when she learned to swim for the first time with the help of Ann Hall, Fitness Specialist at Wind Crest.

Marriott, who moved to Wind Crest in June 2017, is the mother of two daughters now in their fifties who have both been swimming competitively since the age of five. As a young mom, Marriott spent much of her time on the pool deck cheering them on, but never learned to swim herself.

"Growing up, I did take a few lessons at one point, but then we moved and didn't have a pool close by," she said. "Later, I was always at pools with my daughters, but never really had the time or opportunity to learn how to swim," she said.

Now retired, Marriott has a bit more time and with a pool right on campus, Wind Crest gave her the opportunity she needed. Always active, Marriott enjoyed running for about 30 years in addition to practicing Pilates. Upon moving to Wind Crest, she added a balance class to her routine. During one class, the instructor Ann Hall mentioned her personal experience as a competitive swimmer. A lightbulb went off in Marriott's head.

"I thought, the pool here is so close and easy, I'll just see if she'd be willing to teach me," said Marriott. "I don't know at first if Ann knew that I would really go after it, but now I am swimming nearly every other day."

Says Ann, "I never doubted for a minute that she could do it."

First things first

Marriott started meeting Ann on Wednesdays in Wind Crest's pool for a weekly lesson. Slowly but surely, she learned to blow bubbles, bob up and down and move her body in the water before progressing to a glide and eventually adding in arm strokes and a kick.

"We progressed slowly at first. I really wanted Marriott to get the feel of each motion," said Ann. "Core and upper body strength are so important in swimming, and most people tend to lose strength in those areas as they age. It was a lot of repetition and developing those muscles.

In between lessons, Ann says, is when the real work happened.

"Marriott came on her own almost every day and practiced, practiced, practiced. By the following Wednesday, I could see a difference. It was thrilling to witness Marriott build up the skills and endurance. Now, she has beautiful stroke," said Ann.

For Marriott, her big goal was to surprise her daughters with her new skills. She didn't tell either of them what she was working on at Wind Crest. When they came to visit at Christmastime, they were blown away. Though both been swimming for decades, neither had ever seen their mother swim.

"I didn't tell them that I was taking lessons," said Marriott. "I was waiting until they got here. I didn't want to tell them until I was sure I would be able to do it. They were so excited!"

Inspiring others

In addition to impressing her family, Marriott's progress began to attract the attention of other Wind Crest residents.

"Some members of my Aqua Pilates class have watched Marriott's progression. As she mastered new skills, their eyes kept getting bigger and bigger. They are now high-fiving her. It's been a real inspiration for other residents to physically watch her transformation," said Ann.

"It has started to get around that I am swimming. People are so nice and supportive of it," said Marriott. "I want others to know that yes, you can do it! You can learn something new at any age."

At Wind Crest, there are plenty of new things to learn. The community offers an array of fun and engaging activities for every interest, from sports and fitness, to art, music, social clubs, hobbies, and more.

"We offer a range of programs that are mentally intriguing, intellectually stimulating and physically challenging. Our philosophy is that wellness is much more than physical fitness, and we try to offer options that fulfill our residents' social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs as well," says Ann. "As members of this community, residents are also empowered to organize their own groups, clubs or classes if there is something they want to do that the community doesn't currently offer."

Life lessons

Ann, who spent years as a competitive swimmer and beach lifeguard in Hawaii, has taught hundreds of people to swim.

"Marriott is probably the one person I have seen grow the most, and be the most challenged," Ann said. "What I think is most impressive is that she set a goal and never stopped until she met it. It just shows that you should never stop learning, and never stop trying to develop new talents."

As for Marriott, she continues to swim at the Wind Crest pool about every other day. After surprising her daughters, her goal these days is simply to become a stronger swimmer. "Swimming is great exercise. One doesn't hurt while swimming in a pool or after the swim. I plan to keep doing it for as long as I can," she said.