My name is Chris Lowder and I am the China General Manager for Proof & Company – a group that distributes craft spirits, builds and educates the craft cocktail community, and consults on luxury cocktail bars all over Asia Pacific.
I first moved to China in 2008 during the Beijing Summer Olympics when I was studying to become a Mandarin Chinese translator. I was lucky enough during that time to get tickets to the Water Cube to watch some of the swimming events and I was absolutely hooked after feeling the exhilaration of Olympic-level swimming.
Now that I am living in Shanghai and working in the alcohol industry, personal fitness is more important to me than ever before. A 12 year career operating and managing bars and restaurants has given me a deep appreciation for self-care and wellness, helping me to embrace my identity as an athlete and mentor other hospitality workers to strive for greater balance in their lives.
The MySwimPro app has not only helped me to take a more structured and educated approach to my swimming workouts, but has also given me a platform to share my passion for fitness with the international hospitality community in China and beyond.
It’s inspiring to know that I can share my love of swimming and fitness to genuinely improve the quality of life for service workers all over the world.
Give me a shout on Instagram at @GetLowderNow if you are a swimmer working in a bar, restaurant or hotel – I’m always keen to hear the stories of people hustling to balance fitness in their F&B careers!
MY SWIMMING BACKGROUND:
I grew up in Baltimore where my father was a captain in the Merchant Marines, and his father fought in the navy during WWII, so I swimming and the water have always been a big part of my life. Growing up, our family belonged to the local Baltimore pool, and we would go swimming every single weekend of every single summer of my childhood. I fell out of the practice while growing up and didn’t start again until I was 19 years old, living in Beijing during the Beijing Summer Olympics.
My roommate was on a local swim team and offered to give me some informal coaching. I stuck with it while living in China, but transitioned over to running when I moved back to New York to work in fine dining. It wasn’t until I got tendonitis during Marathon training that I found myself back in the pool again, this time ready to really dig in and get serious about improving as a swimmer.
I now balance swimming, running, yoga and jiu jitsu in my personal fitness, alternating based on my needs. I travel to a different city in China almost every week for my work, and one thing that I have come to love is that Chinese hotels almost always have a decent pool, even if nothing else. Most Chinese cities aren’t “runner friendly” so I have limited options when I’m on the road outside of swimming.
Now, I really look forward to my time on the road, and in just this year, I have trained with MySwimPro in 15 different cities across China!
WHY I WAITED SO LONG TO START SWIMMING:
Growing up in Baltimore, I heard stories about Michael Phelps – this guy who was three years older than me at the time. I even had some friends who trained in the same pool as him. One part of me was deeply inspired to be living so close to a legend who was clearly destined for greatness. But another part of me was *so intimidated* to get into swimming, knowing that I could never compare to that level of excellence.
I took Drivers Ed at a local YMCA, and would show up early and just stare at the water imagining myself joining swim team and getting involved, but at that point in my life I was worried that I had missed the boat and would be the slowest person on the team.
If I could give myself one piece of advice, I would of course smack myself on the head and tell myself to jump into the pool!
Fitness is about one person and one person only – yourself. The only person that you should feel that you’re in competition with is the version of yourself who is going to be alive five years from now, shaking his head at you for missing so many great opportunities to try new things and have fun and grow.
I may not have joined the swim team that year, but I did download MySwimPro later in life and I got involved all the same! The best time to plant a tree is ten years ago… the second best time is today! Don’t give your future self a reason to give you a hard time about not having fun in the pool right this moment.
HOW I SWIM WITH MYSWIMPRO:
Before MySwimPro, I primarily trained as a distance runner, logging a good 40-60km each week. Running in Shanghai can be tough because of the constant rain; Sometimes it doesn’t let up for a full month! Also, only running can lead to muscular imbalances and injury if you don’t supplement with some basic core, hip and strength training.
I still do run in Shanghai, but I have to say that I’m a completely different runner now that I’m mixing swimming into the game. The strength that swimming brings to your hips and thighs is just incredible. I’m so grateful for the feeling of complete fitness that can really only come from swimming with MySwimPro.
I use the app on my iPhone paired with my Apple Watch, and I am currently following the Improve Endurance Training Plan. To be honest, though, I do skip around the workout library when I travel, and will often just pick a workout that feels fun that morning.
While I’m serious about my progress, I do see swimming as a very sacred space during my work travel, and so I try to stay “in the moment” when selecting my workout each morning.
I like that MySwimPro has the flexibility to let me chuck in a sprinting workout if I feel like I really need to get some energy out, and then my workout plan can just pause until the next day that I’m ready to resume.
MY FITNESS GOALS:
For general health, I am climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with my wife Micaela this September. Swimming is helping me stay in top condition so that I can stay focused during that nine day hike. I am also 100% dedicated to running the Shanghai Marathon next Spring, and would love to race in a triathlon at some point.
As far as pure swimming goes, I'm committed to spending time this summer on my IM training, finally working the kinks out of my Butterfly. Each time I hit the pool I feel faster, and it's amazing to feel like I'm making so much progress working with MySwimPro. Also, just as a fun life goal, I would LOVE to go swimming in Houhai lake in Beijing. Local old men go swimming there early each morning, swimming past all the paddle boats in the middle of the city, and I have always wanted to go do the same - Look out for a future blog post!
WHY I LOVE THE MYSWIMPRO APP:
My swim training is dramatically improving my overall fitness, no questions asked.
I have a bad habit of repeating workouts that are in my comfort zone, even if it's not technically beneficial to my balanced fitness. For this reason, in the past I tended to over-focus on running, neglecting general strength training and fitness. It's no surprise that I eventually overworked my tendons due to a lack of hip strength and had to sit out eight weeks of running.
Since working with MySwimPro, I feel like my holistic fitness level is through the roof.
Not only are the swim workouts extremely satisfying just by themselves, but I feel twice as powerful when running or practicing jiu jitsu. I did my first long run last week after about a month of mostly swimming and I cruised through a 12k no problem, and easily could have doubled that distance if I had the time.
Before working with MySwimPro I was always curious to get more serious about swimming, but was honestly intimidated to get involved. I knew the basic strokes and how to swim, but I didn't know how to structure a real swimming workout, how to use basic equipment, etc. As a result, I would swim a few laps but inevitably get bored and go do something else.
MySwimPro really helps me to break a 1-2 hour workout into a series of small goals and exercises. It has not only helped me to more confidently and competently swim, but also it helps me to stay motivated and in the pool, even when the workouts are really pushing me to my edge.
Needless to say that this deeper level of fitness achievement has had positive impacts on my life, bringing me closer to my personal goals and also bringing me into a global network of fellow swimmers!
MY ADVICE FOR OTHER SWIMMERS:
- Always pack your gear when traveling, and call ahead to ask your hotel about their pool. I have swam in close to twenty different Chinese hotels now, and you *never* know what you're going to get. Different lengths, hours, styles... all over the place. But once you have controlled all the variables and you have found the hotels that maintain a great pool, the payoff is so real! It's the #1 thing I now look forward to in my work travel. I can't wait to go home from meetings to get ready for the next morning's swim.
- The Pull Buoy is life! I had *no idea* what I was missing all these years. Swimming with a pull buoy is about as satisfying as it gets... Just trust. I only wish I had known sooner.
- Michael Phelps goggles are worth the hype. Go for it.
- Spend time on your form when just starting! Take those drill practices seriously. If you're swimming with bad form, you're going to upset your shoulder tendons in no time and have to sit out for a week to heal. Start slowly, and get the basics down. You can always pick up the pace later.
- If you have to pause, pause. There's no sense in killing yourself to keep up with the reps in a given workout if it means ending the whole workout early. Take rest if you need it and slow down so that you can complete full workouts. You will get faster each week and setting new PRs before you know it.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Chris! We're so excited to have you on board as an ambassador, and can't wait to see you crush your goals this year!
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