Swimming laps for exercise has a unique challenge: how do you keep track of the number of times you swim from one end of the pool to the other? If you’re a competitive distance swimmer, you have someone to keep track for you. But a personal lap counter is a luxury most swimmers can’t count on.
So swimmer Margaret Dimock devised her own system for keeping track of her weekday mile-long swims. Using the skills acquired from her career as a major gift fundraiser, she follows the money - albeit in slightly smaller denominations.
Margaret has long been a lap swimmer, logging hundreds of kilometers in pools in Mexico City, Sao Paulo and other South American countries where she traveled for work. Her love of travel, and South America in particular, began early in her 22-year career at MIT. Looking through alumni data she noticed a large and successful base in Latin America. Why not check in on them, Margaret suggested, and see if they’d like to give back to the school?
This was a win-win-win, Margaret confided. The alumni would feel valued, MIT would thrive financially from the niche resource she created, and the Spanish she studied at Vassar College would blossom.
MIT was excited and Margaret was soon seated business-class aboard the first of hundreds of journeys south. She met with alum and soaked in the cultural experiences, the people, their history and food, while establishing strong bonds between MIT and its graduates.
Then in January she turned 57 and decided it was time to join husband Allyn in retirement. She made plans to improve her health, explore China, and visit Buenos Aires with Allyn to learn to tango. To hit that first goal, she began a regimen of serious lap swimming at the Beede, choosing endurance over speed. “I don’t swim fast,” she says. “I basically just keep going.”
So how to keep track of her laps?
Along with goggles and swim suit, Margaret packs a waterproof Walkman, four pennies and six nickels. Once on deck, she places the 34 cents in a pile to the left of her lane and begins swimming to the tunes of Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow and Celtic and folk favorites.
After each lap - a lap is defined as swimming to the other end and back - Margaret stops and moves a penny from left to right. On the fifth lap, she slides a nickel to the right, and the four pennies back to the left. This pattern continues until the sixth nickel moves right, marking 30 laps. Two more laps and two pennies to the right and a mile has been completed with 2 cents to spare.
Margaret is back to improving her endurance and achieving her health goals.