Fergus Falls woman learns how to swim, trains to be a lifeguard in her 50s.
Joan Klooster of Fergus Falls loved to run. It was her main source of exercise and something she loved doing since she was a young girl. She even competed in three marathons in five years during one stretch (Chicago Marathon in 2004, Detroit Marathon in 2007 and Boston Marathon in 2009). But when Klooster started having problems with one of her hips, she was encouraged to try water aerobics. It would be easier on her joints and still give her a great workout. She started taking classes in the summer of 2010. Only one problem… she never really learned how to swim. “I didn’t grow up around water,” said Klooster, who is a native of Pennsylvania. “I raised my children near Lake Michigan and they all learned how to swim . . . but I never did.” In September, 2010, Klooster attended a water aerobics class at the YMCA in Fergus Falls. The class was working with light barbells, and started moving into the deep end. Suddenly, Klooster started getting tense. She started to panic. “I wasn’t in danger of drowning, but I was really panicked and I needed to get out of there right away,” she recalled. “The instructors quickly pulled me into the shallow end.” When things calmed down, the swim instructor encouraged Klooster to take swimming lessons to strengthen her swimming and help her conquer her fears. “And she said, if you learn how to swim, take classes from Inga (Nelson),” said Klooster (See Inga’s story…Water Warrior). Shortly after this episode, Klooster began swimming lessons. “I thought, why not do it now?” she said. For the next nine months, she made regular trips to the pool and made slow and steady progress. By May 2011, she was feeling comfortable and confident in the water. “Inga takes each of us on as an individual and knows where we are at as a swimmer,” said Klooster. “She immediately knows what we need to do to correct a stroke. She has an eye for perfection.” Klooster was feeling good about her progress and thought her training was coming to an end. “Then Inga approached me and encouraged me to try becoming a lifeguard,” she said. “And so I started lifeguard training.” On the first day of lifeguard training, she looked around and noticed something right away. . . her age. “I felt a little awkward,” said Klooster, who was then approaching her 51th birthday. “I was taking the class with 10 teenagers.” Klooster thought swimming lessons were difficult. She hadn’t seen nothing yet. “I had run three marathons, and this (training) felt like I was running a marathon every day,” she said. “There was so much studying and so much to remember that I had to immerse myself in lifeguarding.” After hours of practicing techniques and working her way through the skills needed, Klooster received her lifeguard certification in June 2012. She started her first shift as lifeguard at the YMCA the next month. “I never thought I would be doing this,” she said. And what did her three adult children think of mom become a lifeguard. “They loved it,” she said. “They all thought it was very cool.” Klooster is now a regular lifeguard at the YMCA. She oversees recreational swim and lap swim. She is thankful for the trainers who believed in her and kept her going through the hard days in the pool. “Inga (Nelson) was such an excellent mentor through all of this,” she said. Outside of the pool, Klooster works for Home Instead, an in-home senior care giver. She and her husband, Butch, live in Fergus Falls.