Meet Michelle Rogalski (@seeshellswim), an avid open water swimmer and MySwimPro community member based in Michigan who recently completed a 30k swim workout on her 30th birthday, raising $28,661.12 for charity. We caught up with Michelle to learn more about her story, her swimming goals and her advice for new swimmers!
Tell us about yourself! What is your swimming background?
Hello! My name is Michelle Rogalski. Born and raised in Annapolis, MD, I have been swimming for as long as I can remember, spending the majority of my time growing up in or around the water. I participated in club, high school, and summer swim team. I coached my community’s summer swim team and organized a couple of neighborhood swim-a-thons as well. I enjoyed long distance events in freestyle, butterfly, and individual medley the most.
Swimming in open water builds a special connection amongst what would otherwise be completely random people. We may be separated by the caps of waves, unable to see each other, but we are feeling the same powerful currents, forming a connection through the water.
Throughout high school, a love for open water swimming and a dream of a career in aquatics started to develop. Now, west Michigan is home, and I get to spend my summers swimming in Lake Michigan. I currently work as a swim instructor, make and sell wire wrapped jewelry, and train for open water competitions. I love to teach people and have taught people of all ages and capabilities how to swim. Some long distance swims I have done in the past include the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim, the Mighty Mac Swim, a 5k swim in Ocean City, MD, and a 2-mile lake swim.
Swimming has also given me something that I was missing for a long time: community.
Unfortunately, over the years, I lost the desire to swim and gained a lot of weight due to bad diet, not enough exercise, alcohol abuse, and depression. Because I got lost in the bottle dealing with life’s trauma, I took a 5-year hiatus where I didn’t swim laps, up until about a year ago.
Swimming saved my life in more ways than one. The biggest change you can see is losing 90 pounds with the help of working out in the pool. Swimming has given me an outlet for stress and healthy relief from depression. Swimming has also given me something that I was missing for a long time: community. MySwimPro is one of the best examples of an online social community that the swimming world has to offer. I’m so glad that a friend introduced me to the MySwimPro app! I have also formed a strong bond with people who use the app at open water events and at various local pools.
It’s as if swimming in open water builds a special connection amongst what would otherwise be completely random people. We may be separated by the caps of waves, unable to see each other, but we are feeling the same powerful currents, forming a connection through the water.
Open water swimming brings me closer to my higher power. Mother Nature can be felt in open water swims. The quietness of being underwater, being 2 miles away from shore, and seeing little fish pass by are all very humbling things. It takes away the manmade distractions and lets you focus and be completely in tune with what matters most.
What are your swimming goals?
I swam 30k on my 30th birthday in the pool, raising $28,661.12 for the local Boys & Girls Club.
My goal ultimately is to see how far I can swim in open water. This winter, most of my goals are focused on improving stroke technique and will slowly transition into longer distances once open water training gets into full motion. To prepare for that and keep me on track, I am finding fun and worthwhile reasons to keep me motivated. For example, I recently swam 30k on my 30th birthday in the pool, raising $28,661.12 for the local Boys & Girls Club. As one of their swim instructors, it turned into a very rewarding way to bring people together for a good cause.
I will be participating in more open water events this year including my second attempt at the Mighty Mac Swim, and first time attempts at the Swim Around the Rock (Alcatraz) in San Francisco, the Swim Around Key West, and possibly more! I will also be competing in Masters swim meets (200-400 Individual Medley, 50-200 butterfly, 1000-1650 freestyle).
I have stroke work goals, too. My breaststroke technique needs improvement and so does my freestyle catch. I hope to incorporate more sprints in workouts, especially at the end. Improving starts and turns and developing a stronger dolphin kick underwater will help in Masters swim meets.
How did you train before using MySwimPro?
When I was younger, I trained competitively year round on club swim teams for over a decade. A coach guided us through a workout 5-8 times a week. We swam between 4-6k at each practice, divided into sets of intervals, for around 2 hours.
A typical workout consists of 4-10k, usually divided into a long set of 400 meter swims (350 meters free, 50 meters back) at a medium-fast intensity.
Most of my training in the past year has been on my own in preparation for open water swimming events. A typical workout consists of 4-10k, usually divided into a long set of 400 meter swims (350 meters free, 50 meters back) at a medium-fast intensity. I spent more time focused on counting laps than anything else. Being able to swim the distance was my main goal.
In addition to swimming in the pool, I looked forward to the days when I got to train in Lake Michigan. Last summer was full of trips to the beach, where I would frequently swim the coastline of Lake Michigan for a few miles.
How do you train with MySwimPro?
I currently rock an Apple Watch Series 5 when using the MySwimPro app and switch between using workouts from the app’s library and the 10k Challenge training plan. The instructional videos have been very beneficial for understanding why and how to improve stroke technique, and the written articles have helped steer me in the right direction when it comes to training.
Preparing a workout plan with the MySwimPro app is helping me reach my objectives. I am more focused on stroke mechanics, and my freestyle is feeling much more efficient after practicing a few new drills. My breaststroke timing and cadence has improved after watching several instructional videos. I am properly incorporating different equipment into training, such as a parachute to increase drag and mimic the strong currents sometimes faced in open water. I’m challenging myself to work on the things that need it most, breaststroke and sprints, and actually enjoying it.
Long distance swimming can be isolating, and it can be difficult to find other people to swim with in open water. MySwimPro’s online community has given me a chance to reach out to people who love swimming just as much as I do.
I’m working towards being faster now – not just stronger. My workouts have shifted from straight, long distance workouts, to ones with more variety and interval training at higher intensities. Setting intervals that buzz on your wrist helps keep you moving when motivation starts to fade. When you can see and track progress, it is easy to figure out what needs improvement. The MySwimPro app is just another way to keep me accountable!
When working towards achieving personal ambitions, it is better to try and only make it part of the way, than to not try at all. Success and happiness lie in the process, not the end result.
MySwimPro has made a great impact on my life and swimming simply by improving the quality of my time spent in the water. It frees up my mind to think about other things and makes the workout less mentally exhausting. This means I can train at harder intensities for a longer amount of time.
However, long distance swimming can be isolating, and it can be difficult to find other people to swim with in open water. MySwimPro’s online community has given me a chance to reach out to people who love swimming just as much as I do. It has inspired me to face even greater challenges. Reaching specific goals after putting in the hard work made me realize that I have been holding myself back from reaching my full potential. Now, my confidence has increased, and my passion renewed. When working towards achieving personal ambitions, it is better to try and only make it part of the way, than to not try at all. Success and happiness lie in the process, not the end result. Thank you for making it possible for me to dream even bigger. Who knows what interesting swims the future holds!
What tips do you have for new swimmers?
Believing in yourself is just as important as physical training.
- Think hydrodynamically! Water is about 12 times more resistant than air, so understanding some basic physics principles will help you move more effortlessly in the water. The more time you spend in the water, the better your feel for it will be.
- Just get in the water and swim. Believe in your potential, and don’t give up.
- Personal progress is often harder to see as an adult. We are sometimes our own worst critic. Trust that you will improve over time if you put in the effort.
- Envisioning success is just as important as physical training. Do not let preconceived notions set limits on what you are capable of. Whenever people tell me something is impossible, I tell them about the swimmer who finished right ahead of me in the Chesapeake Bay Swim – with one leg. It’s quite the accomplishment to swim 4.4 miles, let alone as an amputee. Believing in oneself is just as important as the physical training.
Who inspires you?
I would like to mention how proud I am of my mother. She swims for at least an hour almost every day. She is now half the size she once was, and has kept the weight off for years because of swimming and dietary changes!
Lynne Cox is a huge inspiration for me as well. She is best known for making the world a better place through her extreme, open water, world-record-holding swims. Thank you for opening up the realm of possibilities and for leading me to the idea of swimming laps to bridge gaps in my own community!
Do you have any fun swimming stories?
- It’s always really difficult for me to hear what people are saying while swimming. I’m not sure if I tune it out or what, but I swam through fire alarms. In my first long distance timed event, I kept on hearing “take a break,” which confused me, but in reality they were saying “doing great!” Luckily, my coach memorized our breathing patterns and mastered the art of saying “go” when we lifted our heads up to breathe. This proved to be the most effective cheering method.
- I had the honor of racing against Olympic gold medalist Katie Hoff in the 400 individual medley. She won, of course.
- I can hold my breath for a really long time, over two minutes at my best. I was able to kick underwater for 50+ meters without a breath (this put some coaches on edge).
- My current personal best 50 yard butterfly time of 30.44 seconds is about the same as my 50 yard freestyle time.