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Mike McCoulf – “I wish I had never stopped”

I wish I had never stopped: 22 years, a long time. 

That is approximately the number of years between swim practices for me. The last one 22 years ago with the Grand Island Swim Club. Back then 5000-6000 yards a day no problem. I miss those days.

I went off to college, I tried to work out though my first few years were spent undoing the things that made me that 5000-6000 yard a day athlete. I wish I had known that there was USMS, that it was ok to continue with my swim club and keep competing.

December 2012 I began again, no where near where I was. In between practices in those 22 years I let myself go to 415 pounds and on verge of diabetic stroke. My blood sugars in early October 2011 were over 500 well over. I began my slow journey back to the pool at that moment. First by changing my diet, second by joining gym and I to this day have kept all fast food, sugary soft drinks including the diet ones, and alcohol off my list of things I consume. I had to, there was no choice. After that it was a psychological thing… I hadn’t been seen in public with my shirt off in years I was very self conscious, not to mention a swim suit I still wasn’t small by any means, where would I find a swim suit? I had help, my friends encouraged me, they know who they are….”Mike, just do it, you’ll be fine”…so September 2012 I went to just watch a masters practice, Nickel City Splash, University at Buffalo. I just watched…I still wasn’t ready but I saw the various ages and levels and I knew I could do it, I just needed a little more time.

Finally, December 27th, 2012 I got in. Best thing I’ve ever done. It was a struggle, I had been riding bike and weight lifting and exercising prior but nothing will replace actually being in and working in the pool. I was limited to two maybe three lengths at a time, flip turns forget it….but slowly I found my self getting my swimming conditioning back. By the end of January 2013 I was doing flip turns and committed to my first Masters meet in Binghamton, NY. By the end of February I was all flip turns and doing some butterfly and breaststroke.

April 2013 first meet in close to 22 years…. I did 200 free, 100 free, 50 free, 50 fly and 100 IM. I finished all won some ribbons and felt really good again. I have since continued and done four other meets and continue to go to the pool as if every day is my last and wonder every day why I ever stopped.

Moral of this story? Don’t stop… Whether is swimming, running, biking or anything you are good at, don’t stop. If you do stop it’s never too late to start again. It’s never too late to pick up what you love and do it again no matter how much time goes by. The most important thing is not to stop. Find the time for things you love. I used to coach swimming as well and that would be my message to all the kids I’ve ever coached, don’t stop doing it if you love it no matter what “it” is.

Will I ever be as fast as I was? No…..but I don’t have to be, I just have to love doing it and I do, and I should have never stopped.


This was a submission on the Vasa Facebook page as part of the Vasa Ripple Effect campaign which strikes to the very heart of what gets us out of bed in the morning to do the sports we love. We want the Vasa community to share, connect and live better lives. At Vasa, we believe in “the power of why.” We believe people can achieve the extraordinary when they know and live their why. And, we believe that if people share ‘why’ they do their sport, it will make them better athletes & coaches—and thus, better people—which produces a positive ripple effect on others. With that, we invite you to join the new Vasa community by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Connect with like-minded people, share your Why—and experience the #VasaRippleEffect!