My name is Sarah Bofinger. I’m a para swimmer and MySwimPro Ambassador living in Maryland, USA. Here’s a peek at how I became a record-breaking para swimmer, learned from my toughest races and embraced my weaknesses to build confidence in the pool.
My Swimming Background
I was born with hip dysplasia, and have had seven hip surgeries throughout my life. Swimming has always been important to me. I swam before I could walk!
Swimming has helped me get in the best shape of my life. I have struggled with arthritis, substance abuse and mental health issues, and always found my way back to the pool as a part of my healing journey.
And now, I get to compete as a para swimmer, on the national stage. I feel at home in the water…I’m a mermaid at heart!
Becoming a Para Swimmer
I started swimming with the MySwimPro app in 2019. MySwimPro helped me when I had a dream, but no coach. I wanted to swim in the Olympics!
The app introduced me to a lot of new drills that I used to improve my technique, and the workouts helped me train for 2019 US Masters Nationals. That same year, I made the US Paralympic National Team, and my training really took off.
To compete in the Paralympics, you have to be internationally classified. In December 2021 I met with the international medical doctors and they measured the range of motion and flexibility in my hips to determine which stroke I could compete in. I was over the limit for butterfly, backstroke and freestyle, but under in breaststroke. Which meant I was now a para swimming breaststroker!
Breaststroke was always my worst stroke, but if I wanted to continue my journey to the Paralympics I had to embrace breaststroke.
MySwimPro helped me when I had a dream, but no coach.
I strengthened my hips using bands and weights, and stretched to increase my mobility for my kick. I also used Dual Boards by Rip Current Sports to help stabilize my body position and create the proper kick.
Now I love breaststroke! I love the strength I have gained and the trauma I have released from all of baby Sarah’s hip surgeries.
Facing a Challenge
In May 2022 I swam the long course 200-meter breaststroke at a US Para Open meet and got disqualified. Later that summer, I swam the 50-meter breaststroke at a US Masters meet and got disqualified again. It was very frustrating, and I wanted to give up.
I thought, “Will my ankles ever turn? Will my legs ever go out more to whip around in the correct position?”
With lots of visualization and focus in the month of July I was able to change my stroke to a legal breaststroke.
For a long time, I took swimming too seriously and I never did well. Now, when I set a goal and allow myself to enjoy the process, I know that whatever is supposed to happen will happen. The challenges I face are part of the journey.
My Swim Training
Up until October 2022, my training had mostly been focused on breaststroke. At a competition that October, I didn’t go best times and I realized that breaststroke is a rhythmic stroke that benefits from some variety in the other strokes.
I love having the MSwimPro app as a resource for workouts, inspiration and technique tips.
So, I decided to switch up my training to increase my strength in the water!
I swim six times a week for 1-1.5 hours. These days I mix in MySwimPro’s Workout of the Day with workouts from my swim coaches. I record each workout in the MySwimPro app after I’ve finished swimming, and it’s great to see my workout history over time. I love having the app as a resource for workouts, inspiration and technique tips.
I’ve also finished the USRPT II Training Plan, changing the freestyle workouts to breaststroke.
All of my hard work paid off in November 2022! I was ready to compete in the 9th Annual Solstice SCM Swim Meet in Germantown, Maryland.
I felt really good, and my body now knew speed with the correct, legal stroke. I had been visualizing my races and felt confident in my body heading into my races: The short course meters 50-meter and 100-meter breaststroke.
I followed my routine of meditation, stretching and warm-up at the meet. I knew I was going to swim best times. And I did! But that wasn’t all…When I realized I broke 10-12-year-old Para American Records in both of my events, it felt so good!
Thinking back to where I was during that time, I don’t think I could have ever imagined being a breaststroker, let alone breaking two records in it! Breaking these records has given me more confidence and motivation to continue this path and trust the process.
At Para National Championships in December 2022, I won a bronze medal in the 200 breaststroke and got fourth place in the 100 breaststroke. Going into that meet, I committed to believing in myself and trusting all my hard work to unfold into best times. And it all paid off!