At the age of almost 29, I decided to take up swimming lessons. I love water but have never actually been in a pool. I’m hoping this piece might help others who are skeptical or worried about learning to swim. I enrolled myself in a 10 day session and wrote down my everyday struggles, fears that I overcame, and the journey to finally becoming a swimmer. I must tell you that I could just stand or at best wade through water that was shallow, when I signed up for the classes. 🙂
I got into the deceivingly calm waters in the pool. The chill hit my senses and ran a shiver down my spine. This was going to take a little getting used to! I plunged into the water neck deep and gasped. But it was done now.
The first day, we were introduced to the guard tube. The sturdiest flotation device there is. I used a guard tube to try and swim. I was scared and although I knew it was a pool, I seemed to see just blue everywhere. Water, water everywhere not a drop to drink. The smell of chlorine was strong too.
Kelly asked me and another batch mate if we wanted to try and swim the length of the pool with the guard tube and two instructors by our side. I could not expect more safety measures to ensure I don’t drown. Yet, call it beginners fright if you will, but we refused. We managed till the 5 feet mark and back.
I faced two challenges. One was the idea of putting all my faith into the guard tube and the instructor. The other was to try raise my legs to the surface. I was asked to scoop with both my hands and try to be as horizontal as I could, on the surface of the pool so I could paddle with my feet. Scooping, I did okay. Paddling, not as much. It felt like I was trying to walk in the water!
By the end of the class though, an achievement is made. I swam. With the guard tube. But I swam. And that is what mattered. I moved in the water. Of my own efforts- not in a boat or a raft. Matt and Kelly were both very encouraging and supportive. I moved from 3 feet to 5 feet. Back and forth, back and forth.
Come, dance with me. I’m going to do a little jig!
Once chilled, you always expect a chill. I cautiously entered the pool today but was pleasantly surprised. It was not cold at all. The weather was crazy with a thunderstorm prediction and skies were grey-ish with clouds looming large. Yet, the water felt good.
I wondered if I would be able to conquer today, my fears from yesterday. I started in earnest my effort to stay on the surface and paddle and scoop all at once. I remembered what a friend said– if I didn’t learn to keep my feet straight while using the guard tube, I will never learn it on the noodle.
I tried to get my act straight. I sought help to specifically better my leg movements. Matt suggested I hold my arms around the guard tube and just focus on paddling without the distracting sway of arms. I tried that and wow, I moved better and my legs didn’t seem like they were trying to walk. I was more horizontal than yesterday.
The biggest achievement though, was reaching the deep end. 8 feet of water under me! I conquered the big blue pool. Matt was very wise in reminding me the simple truth- it makes no difference whether you have 3 feet or 8 feet of water under you. Or even 8 million, he added. That last bit was a bit scary to hear, but made perfect sense! And personally, the icing on my cake was that I was the first in my batch to reach the far end 🙂 I swam like crazy- the whole length of the pool- 4 times, with the guard tube though.
I was hoping to move to the medium noodle tomorrow. I have to admit though, that I was hoping there would be heavy rain and the class might get cancelled. But boy, was I happy it didn’t happen! It was a great day, except for the nagging pain in my muscles.
Who cares about pain, when you are an achiever? 🙂 Care for a second jig?
I decided I was going to learn to float today. Not because I wanted to learn something new but because my arms and legs and every other muscle in my body were so sore and tired that I didn’t want to move.
I had new challenges- like with every new learning. So I had to plop myself backwards and lay flat on the surface of the water. Is that even possible, considering my weight and lack of skills and the supreme fear of water entering my ears and nostrils?
Several times today I felt like I was trying to drown myself. And water gushed into my ears and nostrils like flooding the titanic. That I’m alive to share this story means it is conquerable! 🙂
Martin taught me, after a special session in basic physics, that there were 3 crucial rules to staying afloat. One, to always look straight up and keep your face parallel to the water with your ears submerged. Two, to keep your bum from tending to sink (do what it takes). Three, and the most important of them all, take a deep breath, fill your lungs with air. The bigger you are, the less dense you will be.
Over the course of the class, after many cases of spluttering, faltering, gasping and flailing, I floated. I FLOATED for a few seconds. Does that matter? Only the first two words! 🙂 Time for a third jig!
We were taught some stretching exercises to ease muscle pain and soreness. It was exhausting to work them but I felt better. Significantly better. I can go back to swimming tomorrow 🙂 especially considering another batch mate moved on to the noodle!
Yeah, I know. I’m competitive. That’s who I am! 🙂
Low turnout today. That meant exclusive attention from instructors. And focused learning. Yay.
I volunteered to try the medium noodle after the first lap (swim cycle?) to and from the deep end. Although I volunteered, only I know the plight of my little heart that firmly wanted to believe I was going to goof up.
I held on to the noodle like it was the last thing I might ever see and plunged. My head sank a little bit, as did the rest of my body- noodle provided much less support as compared to the guard tube. After fumbling initially, I managed to swim a little bit. I requested we not try the deep end today as I wanted to get accustomed to the noodle some more.
Kelly was very supportive and agreed to do horizontal laps along the 3 feet and then we moved to 3.5 feet. Slowly we moved to 4. And eventually, the last lap was along the 5+ feet. I was only a couple of feet away from 8. But I wanted to wait until tomorrow.
Laura taught me how to stand in shallow water coming from swimming position, without reaching for the pool walls. She explained when I pushed water in a forward motion, that automatically stopped propelling me and if I tried to put my feet down, I should be able to stand without touching the wall. It was great learning!
From stubbing my toe on the first day, to gulping mammoth amounts of chlorinated water, to bumping into other batch mates on my way, trying to stand up without holding on to the walls, to conquering the deep end and learning to float myself while getting my ears filled with water that stayed put overnight, I have come a long way.
I have enjoyed the sessions so far and it may be the best thing I did in recent times- sign up for swimming classes 🙂
I had an amazing day at the pool! 🙂 I hope you realize how the tone of my writing has changed over the days. From mortal fear to mild skepticism to facing every day challenges and making new milestones, I am beginning to love the classes!
Today, I used the medium noodle to swim all the way to the deep end three times. I wasn’t really scared at all. I did get some water in my ears again and gulped down some too but I was OK. I knew that wasn’t the end of it all. The more I was in the pool, the more comfortable I got.
Soon, we graduated to the thin noodle. Hard work. My head was closer to the water, which meant I had to make that extra effort to swim without the water engulfing me. I managed it reasonably well. I think I was successful because of two factors- my own effort and Laura’s persistent encouragement.
My paddling got better and faster than before, my limbs didn’t hurt as much and I could happily converse while swimming- without being short of breath. We just finished one half of the course. I only have 5 days left to learn as much as I can. I promise to myself I am going to be adventurous and bold and try as many new things as I can. I hope I won’t forget this week’s lessons over the weekend!
After the weekend break, I was worried about goofing today. When I got in the water, I was wishing for the first time, that it could have been colder 🙂 all day has been sweltering hot and I was looking forward to getting back in the pool!
I asked for the thin noodle and was a little hesitant at first but Matt was super encouraging and I started off. Once that happened, there was literally no looking back, at least not until I reached the deep end!
Today, I was comfortable in the pool, with the occasional splash of water in my ears and maybe a gulp or two. But the frequency for fumbling came down drastically. I enjoyed being able to go back and forth without getting too tired. Today’s highlight– 4 full laps, using just the thin noodle!! 🙂
I enjoyed today’s class thoroughly although my legs were cramping a bit by the end of the class. Am little sad we have just 4 classes left! 😦 I wonder if I will be able to actually swim without any help whatsoever over the remaining classes. I look around and find different people trying different things- treading, floating, jumping, elementary back stroke- I didn’t even know there were so many aspects in swimming!
So looking forward to tomorrow!
Inclement weather- Thunderstorm
I did hope for a class and I walked down to the pool. I called the pool query and Matt answered. He told me about the Thunderstorm rule. Even if there was no swimming lesson today, I thought it was good to write this down. So when there is thunderstorm, the rule is that the pool remain closed for at least half hour from the last thunder that was heard.
It was supremely depressing. We will now have only 3 more classes- provided the weather will be conducive for swimming the next few days.
Excellent progress, if I may say so myself! 🙂 I was talking to my Laura about trying to swim without any floatation device at all. And she was very supportive and said we could move on to bubbles before we tried swimming without help. Bubbles is a little flotation device and true to its name, is as light as a bubble, which means it wasn’t much help at all.
So bubbles it was. As is usual with me, I was unwilling to swim down the length of the pool with the new device. Three little squares around my back wasn’t really a lot. I requested we do the breadth of the pool a few times. I wasn’t sure I will succeed.
But I did! Definitely extra effort. And definitely a little scary. But I did it. Laura was always at one arm’s distance from me and always had an encouraging word to say. I could not even do the breadth of the pool to and from one end. I was getting short of breath and the effort was exhausting- to swim with barely any help with the bubbles.
Laura suggested we try another activity before continuing swimming and we moved to the 5 feet line and she taught me the basics of treading. I was very scared about tipping into the steep incline of the floor. On hindsight, I worried unnecessarily.
While moving my hands through water seemed easy in my head, it was much harder to put that into practice. I understood the leg movements she demonstrated, but found them hard to imitate. In a couple of minutes, I didn’t know what I was doing with my legs or arms, for that matter- but I was afloat with my head bobbing up and down. I was treading! And soon I was at 8 feet!
Laura explained to me that while the leg movements she showed me was her particular style of treading, there really wasn’t any correct way of doing it- we could all do what suited us best. An action similar to walking is what worked in my case 🙂
Today’s highlights- graduated to bubbles, learnt basic treading and reached the deep end with bubbles!
Another very eventful day! I started with the bubble and swam a little bit. I was getting more comfortable with it. Laura suggested we practice some more treading. This time we started at 5 feet and quickly got the hang of it. When she suggested I could try jumping into the pool, I understood why we were practicing treading!
Of course I was petrified by the idea of jumping into the pool and almost said no when she said maybe I could try sliding into the pool instead of jumping. Although I was hesitant, Laura was very persuasive and supportive and I agreed. The first couple of times I slid around 5 feet and made contact with the ground and that wasn’t so bad.
When we moved on to the deep end though, Laura had to haul me up to the surface a couple of times and keep reminding me to move my arms and legs to tread. But I got there eventually. This was new domain and I conquered it too! Soon I was sliding into the deep end and resurfacing by myself. I was too tired to swim to the wall though. So, I continued to tread.
Today’s milestone- Learnt to slide into the pool, resurface and tread long enough to reach the wall. I managed it in the deep end too! Excellent. We had about 6 minute left when I asked Laura would I be able to swim without flotation before the last class and she suggested we give it a shot right then. I wasn’t ready just yet to give up my precious bubbles. But I was very excited by the prospect.
So, off came the bubbles. I was standing at the shallow end. I crouched myself into a ball (or something like that), leaned forward and splashed face first. In an enormous effort, and under Laura’s constant cheering, I tried what I thought was paddling and scooping and that was it!! I was swimming! All by myself. Without floatation. Mission accomplished!! The minute I realized what I was doing though, I faltered and managed to stand up. But it was so exciting I just had to try it again! The second time around was much better. Laura is an amazing coach to work with!
Tomorrow, maybe I should try jumping into the pool. I have just one day to be as adventurous as I can be. Looking forward to my last class!
I started with bubbles and swam to the deep end and back once. Did not take much of a break in between. Laura suggested we try to slide in without flotation today. Towards that effort, she encouraged me to try and tread without the bubbles. I thought I might be a doable thing, like every hurdle I have been getting past. But it was not to be. I just could not tread without kicking off the floor every few seconds.
I thought maybe I could try to jump into the pool with the bubbles instead of sliding in. I hauled myself over the pool wall at 4 feet. I stood there, ignoring my beating heart and staring at the blue beneath me. I remembered to take a big breath of air and took the leap into the pool. I was expecting to dunk but I ended up standing on firm ground and felt rather silly!
We moved to the 5 feet mark and I tried it again. This time I dunked a little bit but immediately resurfaced and began to tread. This was exciting! Laura egged me on to jump from the deep end and today I did not hesitate. It was a now or never for me. Nate came along and said I should try make my feet touch the water first, not my face or my back. I wondered if there was a technique. I stood at the deep end, battling my inner demons, took a deep long breath and jumped! For a split second there, I thought I was going to hit the bottom- but I felt myself rising and broke surface soon enough. Treading was easier now than before and it was the most exciting thing I ever did.
Upon Laura’s suggestion, I decided to do away with the bubbles, pick up the guard tube instead and leaped into the deep end. It was very scary but when I surfaced much quicker than before, it felt comforting. I tried letting go of the guard tube and swimming to the wall. I can definitely say I wasn’t drowning. I managed to stay near the surface and reach the wall somehow.
Around the end of the class, I swam without any flotation, back to the shallow end! I just want to say that these past two weeks have been an amazing adventure!! And I can now swim. Without flotation. Even in the deep end. (We are not talking about for how long!)
(Receiving my certificate from Instructor Martin)
(The batch and instructors- Standing behind L-R: Cauvery, Rey, Matt, Martin, Nitin, Sridhar and Shahaida;
the front row L-R: Kelly and Laura)
Instructors– The entire crew, Martin, Laura, Kelly, Matt and Nate are super fun to learn from. I have learnt some very important pool lessons from each of them.
Martin- The more courage you put into learning to swim, the better you will be at it. The more you are in the water, the lesser is the effort you will have to make to stay afloat.
Matt- Practice getting comfortable with your face in the water. Even a few seconds at a time is good. Smaller paddling movements with full length scoops of hand works better than big splashy paddling.
Kelly- To get the most out of your paddling, keep your feet pointed outwards and imagine kicking the ground downward.
Laura- The best way to stay horizontal is to slightly arch your back just enough to keep your face and feet on the surface. There is no one correct way to tread.
Powow– I don’t even know how to spell that. It is just a group thing we all do at the end of every class. Participants and Instructors share the day’s learnings, battles, efforts and challenges and most of all, we all encouraged and cheered each other, learnt from everybody and enjoyed our sessions together.
The Grand Purpose
Why I wrote this piece is because if you don’t know how to swim and you are looking to learn, look no further. And do not hesitate to take that plunge. Remember I was in your shoes 10 days ago and today I can call myself a swimmer! Albeit amateur. 🙂 If you have the right kind of instructors, learning can be so much fun. And definitely age is no bar. I am almost 3 decades old! Please go sign up for a class at the earliest! Best wishes 🙂