09/10/2011 11:00 pm ET Updated Nov 10, 2011

Inside The World Of A Competitive Swimmer

By Deborah Dunham for Blisstree.com

This week, we continue our new column, “That Girl” to celebrate the accomplishments of real women who make health and fitness a priority. In honor of women of all ages, shapes, sizes and athletic abilities from all over the country (and hopefully beyond), we’re celebrating Stacey Vorhies this week, a competitive swimmer, mom and doctor.


Stacey Vorhies

Ozark, Mo.

Age: 41

Fitness/health accomplishment you’re most proud of:
I could list some of my accomplishments -- like being ranked third in the world for a swimming relay, or placing on the U.S. National top ten list in Masters swimming -- but really the accomplishment I’m most proud of is feeling fit and strong once again, after years of not taking time for myself to work out. I was busy studying (in medical school) and then building my career (as a doctor) and then I was having three children…and I put myself and my fitness on the “back burner”. I turned around one day and thought, Oh my gosh, what happened to me? I was so busy taking care of everybody else, my children, my husband, my patients, that I didn’t really have any energy left to take care of myself. I’m proud that I made time for myself to get back in the water and start exercising again.

What inspires you to get fit every day?
A while back I read an article in Oprah’s magazine. It asked the reader to write three “simple” words that could describe what they wanted out of a “dream come true” scenario. My scenario was swimming again (as I had done growing up and in college). I wrote down “Satisfied, Fit, Strong and Youthful”. OK, that is four words, but those are the adjectives that I want to achieve when I have a good workout.

What do you do when you don’t feel like working out?
If I truly don’t feel like working out, then I don’t. Maybe because there were years in high school and college that I had no choice, no matter what, I HAD to show up for practice. Now I have the luxury of being there because I WANT to be there. That, in itself, is really empowering and motivating. When I work out with the high school kids, there is a difference some days as I am choosing to be there and sometimes a few of them would rather be somewhere else. It shows in the workout. When your head isn’t there, and you are just going through the motions of the workout, then you obviously aren’t getting the maximum benefit from your efforts and time. However, I’d also like to add that sometimes it’s just good to swim through a workout without worrying about the pace-clock. It can clear your head, you can think things over, you can brainstorm and get new ideas.

Favorite energizing meal?
I have a favorite cookie recipe that I got from a cycling magazine. I modified it a bit. It is an oatmeal raisin cookie with dried cherries, cranberries, M&M’s and peanuts mixed in. Yummy.

What’s your favorite way to chill post-workout?
Since I work out in the early morning, when everyone is still asleep, I come home to a schedule of packing lunches, getting kids ready for school and sometimes going off to work myself. Occasionally I get to take a nap after the last bus drives away, and that is a nice way to “chill out”.

What is your top kick-ass workout?
I work out with the local masters swim team and also the local high school teams. The high school team coach has a “set” where we rotate lanes every fifteen minutes. We may do five times 200 yard freestyle with 15 seconds rest in between each, then rotate to another lane where we are tethered to the wall and put in a harness and made to sprint 25 yards against resistance, then to another lane to sprint kick underwater 25 yards, get out onto the pool deck and do 10 push ups, and sprint back another 25 yards and on the other end do squats with six- and eight-pound medicine balls.

Where is your favorite/most unique place you’ve ever exercised?
With swimming there are so many beautiful lakes and oceans you can work out in. Swimming across a clear clean lake is always fun. Even if it is a mile or two across -- most swimmers can make that. The ocean is a good workout because it throws in the challenge of waves and tidal pulls into the workout. There are few things better than swimming outside while the morning sun is rising and the dark pool becomes blue and sparkly with the sun that is at first red, then orange and then bright as day.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through sports?
My swimming has taught me that what you BELIEVE has more power than what you dream, wish or hope for. You become what you believe yourself to be. The power of the mind and its influence on our bodies has so much more power than we give it credit for. Many elite athletes know this, and that is the difference between mediocrity and greatness. This concept of believing in oneself can apply to EVERY aspect of one’s life. Whether it is career, parenthood, getting in shape, completing a project, or something else, what we believe forms what we can achieve.

Calling all female athletes (that means you!): Do you surf, ski, swim, climb mountains, mountain bike, compete in races or stay fit with any other sport? We want to inspire other women with your story. Send an email to Briana@Blisstree.com with the subject “That Girl”.

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