By Scott Trudeau
Special to the Penticton Western News
Karl Donoghue has been swimming for about six decades and with multiple accolades to his credit, the Okanagan Falls senior continues to make physical activity a part of his daily regimen.
Donoghue said he began swimming as a teenager and quickly discovered he had a special relationship with the sport.
“I found an affinity towards it,” he said. “We spent all our school holidays at the swimming pool.”
As he approached his mid teens he decided to take his swimming to the competitive level. He’s now in his 48th year of competitive swimming.
“At 13 or 14, you’re dabbling in it and then at sort of, 16 years old, you started to take it seriously and all of the training that goes into it,” said Donoghue, who last year hit the century-mark when he set his 100th Canadian master swimming record, in the 1,500-metre long course. He finished in 25 minutes, 56 seconds, smashing the previous record by 1:18 seconds.
Donoghue’s most recent Canadian records include the 200, 400 and 800-metre freestyle and the 50, 100 and 200-metre long course backstroke as well as short course records for the 200-metre backstroke and 800 and 1,500-metre freestyle.
Donoghue, who competes with the Okanagan Masters Swim Club (OMSC), said his typical training sessions involve five weekly swims, where he averages nearly three kilometres per session.
In addition to his swimming accomplishments, he’s also competed in Ironman triathlons, including Penticton, plus many short-course triathlons. He was forced to back off on these due to having some cartilage removed a few years ago. He also does resistance-based training, working out with weights and making sure to stretch properly before and after exercising.
It’s this, along with practicing an overall focus on healthy living which has him feeling rejuvenated and vigorous at 76 years of age, an age where some people may be experiencing a variety of health-related challenges.
Not surprisingly, Donoghue is quick to point out the virtues of keeping active in order to bolster one’s physical condition and be better prepared to combat some of the effects associated with getting older.
“I think all activity is beneficial to health and a varying intensity is what we need,” he said, adding that it’s vital to learn to push one’s self but at the same time, to be able to recognize the body requires more recovery time and is more prone to injuries. “We acclimate very quickly to a level and we just have to keep the body off balance.”
Although Donoghue represents the OMSC, his primary training happens at the Penticton Community Centre; he also commutes to Kelowna each week to take advantage of swimming in a larger-sized pool.
After a lifetime spent swimming competitively, Donoghue noted the dedication and time he invests into training in preparation for swim meets is what keeps him going and this is important because to excel at any sport, a person must stay active and train consistently.
“I think the problem today is that people are not making time for activity,” he said., adding 30 minutes of activity per day, three times per week is a great start. “The way we have gone with technology, with too much time sitting in front of screens and being static . . . you don’t even have to get out of your chair to walk down a corridor to get a file.”
For Donoghue, pursuing an active lifestyle translates into improving cardiovascular system and lifting weights to help retain muscle and burn fat to aid with weight control and to stretch regularly to keep joints mobile.
“What keeps me motivated is that I have a chart for daily activity,” he said. “Out of four black spaces I like to fill at least two every day with physical activity: swimming, weights, biking and stretching.
“The key thing with swimming is that it’s gentle on your body and joints,” he added. “I do believe in stressing the body within your own limits. I think it’s necessary.”
OMSC will be hosting the 2017 BC Masters Provincial Swimming Championships in April and expects to attract up to 300 swimmers to the Okanagan.
Donoghue, who competed in the Pan-American Championships in Columbia and picked up five gold medals and set three records is now looking at his next major goal of competing in the World Master Games in Auckland, New Zealand. Last August he competed in the World Masters Championships in Russia, where he picked up five, second-place finishes.
This feature story originally appeared in Living 55 Plus in the South Okanagan, a special supplement to the Penticton Western News.