NAC Masters: Getting to Know Eric Tesdahl

NAC Masters:  Getting to Know Eric Tesdahl


What brought you to NAC? 

I had known about NAC for a while, but having never done any organized swimming, it seemed to me like it would have been only for very high level swimmers.  I grew up in Minnesota surrounded by lakes but I never learned to properly swim until I was in college. As a kid I was a wrestler, a runner, and spent a lot of years playing ultimate frisbee.  Once I did learn to swim, I was (before the days of YouTube) always checking out library books that explained technique and how to design a swim set, and honestly kind of badgering my friends that did have organized swimming experience to teach me things. After a lot of years of swimming on my own I decided to at least give a masters workout a try, and that was that. I signed up right away.

Where are you from? How did you end up in Nashville? Tell us about your family?

I grew up outside of Minneapolis, went to college at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and spent two years in the Peace Corps in Senegal (West Africa). In 2007 I came to Nashville to get my PhD at Peabody College/Vanderbilt. I had the good fortune to meet my wife Carissa after a few years here, and we have two little girls Caia (6) and Novali (4).  I've tried to be pretty gentle with getting them to get into sports and activities, but swimming was certainly number one on the list and before COVID they were doing lessons at NAC. They've been chomping at the bit to get back in the water, and I'm looking forward to COVID getting under control and bringing them back.
I’m an applied statistician. I trained in grad school as a social scientist and then fell in love with doing quantitative work. For the past five years I've been at a healthcare company called SpecialtyCare where I head up the statistical work behind our clinical research and quality improvement. I also still get a little time to do work with academic teams doing research on social networks. Working as an applied statistician is really great for me because I get to help answer a lot of very different kinds of interesting questions which hopefully, in the long run, contributes something helpful to the world

Why do you swim? How has it changed your life? What does it bring you ?

There are lots of reasons that I swim: It happens in water. It generally restores/improves my general physical function rather than breaking it down. It combines strength, endurance, and technique - which for me means there is always something to figure out and work at. Like climbing and running, when I'm swimming I don't think about anything else, so it's a great mental timeout. Plus, you get the giddy endorphin rush when you're done.

How do you feel when you jump in the water?

That depends on the relative temperature of the outside air and the pool water. If it's hot out, jumping in and starting a workout is about one of the best things ever. Of course when it's cold I do question my life choices just for a minute until my heart rate goes up and I get warm.

What are your goals?

That's an interesting question. Some of my long term goals relate to seeing people in their 70s that are still agile and active. At the moment I'm working toward being able to do the A workouts without any little, uh cheats, and getting better at butterfly and backstroke. It'd be great to swim a 100 freestyle under a minute.

How important is Ashley? NAC?
Ashley is such a great leader for us, we're lucky to have her! From day one I've been impressed with how much care she brings to cultivating this NAC community and helping each of us to be the kind of swimmers we're looking to be.  The first time I showed up to try a NAC practice at 5:00am (before COVID hit) I was blown away to see so many people there at that hour - this whole community of swim folks. Ashley and all of the coaches that support us deserve so much credit for making it the kind of place so people want to be, even at 5:00am! 

Tell us something we may not know about you or may be surprised to learn?

I have a tattoo of a fish on my back but it didn't have anything to do with swimming when I got it. It's a salmon, which I had learned when I was a kid was used by native folks out west to symbolize endurance and fortitude. Coming to love swimming so much really added a new dimension to that for me!

What’s been the biggest surprise about learning to race and swim with Masters?
That you don't have to be a current or former record holder of any kind to get a LOT out of swimming with all of these great people.

How important has swimming been during Covid?
Swimming during COVID has been a lifeline. When we were shut down at the start of all this I started running again and promptly ended up with a case of plantar fasciitis. This year would have been twice as difficult without having swimming to help round things out.
How has Covid impacted your life?
My family has been really fortunate to stay healthy so far, and we're thankful for that. Being close to home for so long has had some really great side effects - more time together as a family, getting to know our neighbors, and working together with the few families in our pod to support each other. It's been such a hard year, but seeing relationships in our network grow and flex to meet the needs of all this has been a really important silver lining to me. 
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