in the swim of things

Another recent adventure has been learning to swim! Well I should probably say re-learning, since I did have lessons as a kid. But I never really took to it. Part of that might have been the fact that I’m so nearsighted I always felt a bit lost without my glasses on. And I never really cared for putting my head under water. And apparently I’m a sinker, which doesn’t help matters.

So I wouldn’t have said I was scared of water, just not very comfortable. I would go in it, as long as I could put my feet on the ground and keep my head above it. Even that I felt like I generally avoided, but apparently not to the point that people thought of me as a non-swimmer. Go figure.

However it’s always been in the back of my head as something I’d like to revisit, not necessarily a bucket list item, but something to do. Partly to feel comfortable enough to try various water activities, and partly as another activity option in and of itself. Last year when my knee was jacked up and I was getting a bit restive from inactivity the physical therapist said that swimming would still be OK to do. Uh, yeah, if I knew how to.

So here I am, in the pool at the JC in a community education class. There’s 20+ of us, almost all women, wide age range, probably the largest ethnic group are Hispanics. In the first class several admitted they had never/were afraid to put their head underwater. By the end of that session we all had. By the end of the second session everyone had swam. Wasn’t far and wasn’t pretty, but everyone had done some feet off the bottom, head in the water, moving sort of thing approximating a front crawl. Wow!

People are very encouraging and supportive, and the teacher and her assistant are really great. Very patient, yet no-nonsense in a humorous way. Yes, you are going to swim across the pool. Yes, that means you too. All of you. It’s really fantastic the progress we’ve made. In the most recent session almost everyone was in the pool before the stated start time and practicing swimming!

I probably do have an advantage, having had lessons in the past, even though that was years and years ago and I haven’t used much of what little I did learn in just about as long. Also being fit from other activities probably helps too, I don’t think some of the other ladies get much exercise. Even so, I’m really glad I took this class because I have really learned a lot. And I’m still surprised at what a work out the swimming is! Just one way across the pool (25 yards) and my heart is pounding and I’m breathing hard. Part of that is probably some adrenaline too – although I am more comfortable the slight panic reaction is not completely gone, and I still don’t get the whole breathing thing down all the time.

Yeah, that relaxing thing. Ongoing life lesson. Not that I can do it all the time, but when I do I can for sure tell the difference. MUCH easier! I can see it in other students as well. One session we swam to the halfway point, where almost everyone can still touch the bottom, then to the “deep” end, which is fiveish feet. One of the women did really well the first half, smooth even stroke, regular breathing. Then the second half was very tense and the breathing got a bit panicky toward the end.

Another big a-ha! was the counterintuitive point that keeping my head more in the water actually makes it easier to breathe. The instinctive thing is to want to lift up toward the front, but when I’m trying to do the front crawl that gives mostly a mouthful of water. If, however, (like the teacher says), I keep my head flat in the water and just turn to the side hey there’s sort of a trough there and my mouth is out of the water with very little effort, and if my arm is in the right part of the stroke so out of my way and I’ve breathed out (like the teacher says) then I can get more air. Hey what a concept.

So yeah, there’s a lot going on. I’m trying to remember it all. Ah yes, the joy of learning something as an adult, all the thinking about it that happens. Just do what the teacher says, she knows what she’s talking about! Stop thinking so darn much!

I’m not quite to where I’d unequivocably say it’s fun, but there are glimmerings, and I’d like to keep at it.

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