When Ingrid Hagan first stepped back into the pool in 2016 to seek respite from the aches of pregnancy, she also reawakened a passion for swimming.
“It was the only relief I got from hip pain in pregnancy,” she explains. “Swimming is the only thing that has never hurt me. I used to run long distance, and I was always hurting in my knees, my joints. But with swimming there’s no impact, and I always feel good afterwards.”
After having her baby boy, Beauden, in 2016, Ingrid says she still wanted to do some exercise. “I remember I was home with the baby and I was very emotional watching the Olympics; I felt so inspired watching Michael Phelps and others, and I thought, why am I not swimming more?”
Ingrid’s enjoyment of swimming was fostered at a young age – she started swimming competitively when she was seven years old.
“My whole life was about swimming,” she says. “I would sometimes even do twice-a-day workouts in the pool, and I was pretty serious about swimming right up until I found music, so about 13 or 14 years old.” Ingrid says she realised that once she discovered her interest and talent for music (she started on the flute before taking up the bassoon) she realised she couldn’t do both activities seriously.
“I guess it came down to the fact that one had a career path for me, and one didn’t,” she says. “I probably couldn’t have gone far with swimming – maybe as far as college if I’d kept it up, but I knew the dedication that athletes give is the same as musicians – you have to give 100 per cent if you want to go to the next level. So, I gave up swimming around 14 years old.”
When Ingrid decided to start swimming again, she says it was a case of the right place, and the right time. “I’ve always known about Masters Swimming, and it just so happened that a Masters team trained right around the corner from where we lived, and they trained from 8am-9am which fitted in perfectly with orchestra rehearsals,” she adds. “I started coming and fell in love with it all over again, and I remembered why I started swimming all those years ago and what it meant to me, it became that sort of release again.”
Masters Swimming is competitive swimming for over-25s. When Ingrid started in August 2016, her goal was to compete in the World Masters Games, which was held in Auckland in April 2017.
“I started with my first Masters meet in November 2016, and my second meet was the World Masters Games,” she says. “In my first meet, my goal was pretty much ‘I want to finish this race and go as fast as I can’. And then the next meet, I just wanted to beat that time. Now that I’ve done three or four meets I have even more specific goals.”
Backstroke is Ingrid’s best stroke; she placed fifth in her age group at the World Masters Games, and is the stroke she’s assigned in mixed medley relays. “But I really like the fast sprints, like the 50m free; even though it’s not my best event I really enjoy that exhilaration,” she says.
One of her coaches is Rick Wells, a former triathlete who won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1990. Ingrid trains several times a week with her squad at the Olympic Pools in Newmarket, with varying training regimens including sprints, paddles and pull buoys, and drills.
Ingrid says that swimming has wide reaching benefits in her life. “Swimming is so meditative. I think it’s helped me be a better musician too – not only because it’s expanding my lungs which is helpful as a bassoon player, but because I come to work having done an hour of basically just breathing. It’s an hour when I don’t think about the craziness of my life, and all I’m doing is focusing on breathing, there’s no music or chit-chat in my head. I spend that hour cleansing, and so when I turn up to rehearsal, I’m ready to go.”