| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:11

He finds a healthy habit in the water; The 67-year-old record holder would like to see more people jump in, By Rose Sgarlato One might call Bob Hopkins a consummate salesman. Retired six years ago from a successful career in computer sales, Hopkins continues to sell, but this time he is pushing a lifestyle — staying fit. “My main motivation is to get people to exercise and live a better life. Swimming is a lifetime sport,” Hopkins said. His focus now is spreading the word about the benefits of regular exercise particularly swimming and sponsoring programs that offer that. At 35 years-old, Hopkins, now 67, had difficulty walking up a couple of flights of stairs. It was alarming. He knew it was time to take heed; so he started swimming. “When my son was 8 years old, my wife Maureen and I were bringing him around to different swim meets, so I tried it. I would swim during lunch breaks at local Y’s — wherever my job took me, there was a place to swim,” he explains. Soon after that, Hopkins became a member of Untied States Masters Swimming (USMS), a national organization open to adults ages 18 and over for competitive swimming. Today, Hopkins holds 26 New Jersey Masters state records; 24 of which are in the 65 to 69 age group. His philosophy is based on his own experience: “Everyone is inherently lazy. If I knew I had a swim meet coming up, I would train more. I had to keep on adjusting my suits — it felt great. I realized only that which is self-experienced changes behavior. Therefore the challenge is to get people to start swimming so that they see the benefits and continue it the rest of their lives.” So upon retirement he said “let me try and sell this to someone else.” And he does this by volunteering a great deal of his time to various swim programs most of which are offered at the Sussex County YMCA in Hardyston. He is also the stroke coach for Pope John High School swimming team where he does underwater videotaping that allows for stroke improvement sessions, also a volunteer position. “When the Sussex County Y opened about four years ago, it was concurrent with my retirement. I worked with people there to create various programs for adults,” he said. “The challenge is to get people to start swimming so that they can realize the benefits and continue it the rest of their lives.” Hopkins has about seven different programs highlighted on his Web site; one of which is a swim clinic on the fourth Wednesday of every month open to anyone over 18 who knows how to swim but wants to swim better. For many of the programs there is a small fee, but you do not have to be a member of the Y. Presently he is planning the third Swim Strong nLive Long Adult Mini Swim Meet to be held on April 4 at the Sussex County Y. “In general, it is a low key, non threatening, fun, fast swim meet that caters to first time adult competitive swimmers as well as those who have been doing it a while in a pleasant environment with swimmer friendly people who are there to help the swimmers,” Hopkins explains. But what Hopkins is most excited about is SWIM Inc or Specialized Water Interest Movement, which is a water exercise program for adults with muscular impairments such as polio, multiple sclerosis, stroke, heart disease and other causes. A new chapter of SWIM Inc was started at the Sussex County YMCA last December where about 30 people participated. It is volunteer based, and the Y donates the pool time. “About 15 years ago, I saw this group in action. I saw wheelchairs at the pool and couldn’t believe it. My mother had a stroke and couldn’t walk, but in the water she could move,” he said. “Water is the ultimate exercise machine. It holds you up — every movement you make is resistance.” Hopkins who loves the outdoors also fits in skiing in season everyday at Mountain Creek. But he emphasizes that his priority always remains with his family. Above all, Hopkins and his wife Maureen who have lived in Sparta for 40 years enjoy visiting their two children and four grandchildren. “The only thing you get when you quit your job is time. So I have put my energy into this,” he concludes. And as a result there are more healthy people walking around. To participate in the April 4 adult mini meet or to volunteer or find out more about SWIM Inc, call 973-729-3686. DILL POTATO SALAD 2/3 cup mayonnaise 1/2 tsp. dill 1/2 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp. pepper 4 cups quartered red potatoes, cooked 1/4 cup sliced scallions Mix mayo, dill, salt and pepper in large bowl. Add potatoes and onion; mix lightly. Cover. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.