National record: Lisa Blackburn swam a 1:11.70 100m breaststroke last week to establish a new Bermuda mark. *Photo by Doug Patterson
National record: Lisa Blackburn swam a 1:11.70 100m breaststroke last week to establish a new Bermuda mark. *Photo by Doug Patterson

WEDNESDAY, MAY 16: Lisa Blackburn, currently the World’s fastest 40-year-old swimmer, is striving to achieve an Olympic qualifying time and represent Bermuda at the London 2012 Olympics.

It is a monumental challenge and, if she were successful, would almost certainly represent the achievement of a lifetime.

Blackburn has no illusions.

This is a challenge that is measured in microseconds and inches, step-by-step beating her last fastest time.

Blackburn is taking part in a series of US Grand Prix swimming events, the latest being The Charlotte Ultra Swim, May 10-13.

Having already broken her personal best at the Indianapolis Grand Prix, Charlotte was, as Blackburn put it, “Good for me”.

She swam to a new Bermuda national record in the 100m breaststroke in 1:11.70, an improvement of 0.5 seconds from the Indianapolis Grand Prix. 

Blackburn is now 0.81 seconds away from the Olympic qualifying standard of 1:10.89.

These “small” steps may ultimately lead to an enormous leap for Blackburn as 16 years ago she retired from the sport because she thought she was too old.

At Charlotte, Blackburn qualified for the “A final”, placed seventh from 62 and competed with some of the world’s best. Her last grand Prix A final was in 2004.

For Blackburn, step-by-step is a realistic way to approach personal targets. She said:  “I find setting goals helps me stay focused on what I need to do in order to get there.  Hard work and taking one day a time are key as that is all you can do, focus on the now. 

“Eventually all of your daily efforts will add up to achieving the goal you set for yourself”.

Step-by-step can become a natural progression to new levels of health and vitality as long as we compete against our own personal goals. Don’t be distracted by celebrities and super athletes, just do your own thing in your own way.

Blackburn is striving to reach an Olympic qualifying time, but first and foremost she is competing with herself.

Blackburn’s resting heart rate is around 48 beats per minute and her blood pressure 118/80.

These levels of fitness didn’t happen overnight. While some athletes are born naturally fit, the rest of us need to work at it, but it doesn’t have to be hard work.

As Blackburn said: “For me it is diet, rest, exercise and spirit.  It is also important to take part in activities that you enjoy. 

“If you like what you participate in, you will want to do it more often. I have been eating more fruits and vegetables over the past few weeks and I have noticed a big change in how I feel and with how I look. I also understand the importance and value of rest”.

If Blackburn achieves her Olympic dream, she holds to the belief that the pleasure of exercise and personal goal setting is far more important and long lasting.

In fact, Blackburn would be the first to say that the pleasures and benefits of a step-by-step approach to improving fitness and lifestyle can last a lifetime.