The Anniston Star

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December 28, 2014

One on one with ... swimmer Bob Couch

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Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 7:14 pm | Updated: 10:12 pm, Wed Jun 11, 2014.

If there’s one place someone wouldn't get burned out, you’d think it’d be in water.

However, getting burned out on swimming is the sometimes the case, including Bob Couch.

The 67-year-old president of Couch’s Jewelers is originally from Anniston, where he began swimming competitively at the parks and recreation pool and YMCA when he was 11.

Couch attended high school at Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he swam, then went on to swim at Alabama for two years before graduating in 1969.

However, after that, Couch didn’t swim competitively or even laps until he started U.S. Masters Swimming at age 33. It includes local, regional and national meets, and Couch has participated in about 100 to 110 competitions since joining.

“Masters swimming is pretty amazing,” Couch said. “Just like age group swimming, people keep breaking records. Like, the times I posted 10 years ago in the age group I was in would place around 10 places lower if I was currently in the same age group that I was then. You keep wondering, ‘Where’s the ceiling?’ It’s a lot of fun.”

When not swimming, Couch enjoys gardening and reading. He also spends a good amount of time at Couch’s Jewelers, where he’s officially worked since 1973, but he’s done work at the family business since he was 12. His brother Bill helps run the stores.

Couch has been married to Mary Ann for 22 years and has two children — Robert, who lives in Georgia, and Natalie, who moved back to Anniston late last year.

Recently, Couch sat down with Anniston Star sports writer Brandon Miller and swam through 10 questions:

Question: When you’re swimming, what do you do to keep yourself occupied?

Answer: I’m generally thinking about what I’m doing and my stroke technique and my pace. We do interval training and sets, and I’ve always got a goal for the set, so I’m thinking about the goal and if I’m meeting my goal. It actually takes a lot of concentration to keep your technique just right.

Q: Where is your favorite place to swim?

A: We work out at the YMCA, but most any pool that’s good and is a fast pool is fine. People wonder what that means, and it’s if a pool has gutters on the outside edges of the pool that creates minimal splash back from the waves while you swim. A good pool would have water to the edge of the gutter and the water would wash down through the grill and be recirculated back into the pool. Obviously, the smoother the water, the less resistance there is to swim against.

Q: What’s an event you’d like to compete in?

A: I’d love to go to national championships. In Masters, they actually have two national championships a year. They have a short course, which means it takes place in 25-meter pool, then they have a long course, which means it takes place in a 50-meter pool, which is what the Olympics competition is in. Now, instead of being the short course, it’s the spring national championship, and the long course is the summer national championship. There’s also the world national championship every other year.

Q: What brought you back to Anniston?

A: The family business. I decided to go into the business.

Q: How often to you swim?

A: Anywhere from three to five workouts a week. There are three other guys that I’ve been working out with for about 27 years now, which is great because we keep each other accountable to show up. We do a one-hour workout and usually swim about 3,000 yards. We do interval training, which, for example, we might do 12 times 100 yards on a certain sendoff, and if the sendoff is 1:45 and we’re swimming the 100 in 1:15, then we have 30 seconds rest before starting the next one.

Q: Have you always loved swimming?

A: I’ve always liked the water. I grew up water skiing at the age of 9.

Q: Do you prefer indoor or outdoor pools?

A: An outdoor pool is great, and I like an outdoor pool because of the fresh air, but having a fast pool is what’s important. It’s about having a pool that’s good for training.

Q: What’s the best way to cool down from a swim?

A: We usually swim just a couple of 100 yards of easy swimming.

Q: What time of the day do you like to swim?

A: 5:30 a.m. It’s great and gets the day going. Very few times I’ve tried swimming after work, and I’ve been too tired and would rather go home. Swimming in the morning really sets the day up.

Q: Have you ever swum in a lake or ocean?

A: I have done a few open-water swims in lakes and oceans, but not that many — maybe less than a dozen. It’s really different because you’re not swimming in a pool and in clear water you can see a lane line on the bottom and a line on the wall so you can make your turn. In a lake or the ocean, you cannot see through the water, so you have to raise your head every so many strokes, whatever your pattern is. They’ll usually have buoys and you have to go around a certain side of the buoy, so you shoot for the buoy, or, if you’re headed back to the shore, you pick a tree or something that’s tall.

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