Learning to swim

I started swimming lessons a month and a half ago, and there were several driving factors which led me to jump from the diving board (well actually, I’m still in the shallow end, but that was meant to be a witty metaphor).

1. I’m graduating from university…I’ve gotta do something extravagant!
2. I’m going to be 23 in a few days. My original deadline to learn to swim was 5 years ago…I’m quite overdue.
3. Memories of previous family reunions where all of my family members except me could swim. I noticed how embarrassed my dad was of my intense fear and unwillingness to be pushed.
4. My brother is a source of inspiration because he taught himself to swim a few years ago, and recently went into the deep end without the intense psychological fear that I, the worry-wart sibling, entertain.
5. Swimming is excellent for your joints – I want to benefit from that.
6. When getting over a failed relationship, focusing on self-improvement will build your confidence so you don’t feel the need to impress others since you’re self-fulfilled. “As soon as you and somebody break up, kill that person they remember and evolve” (JaystarXXVII)
7. “But I don’t know how to swim” is such a useless excuse to me now, nobody can learn for me, it’s all on me. So let’s do this!

During my first lesson, it was clear that my fear was and continues to be psychological. Instinctively our bodies know how to swim; even babies born into water know how to swim. In fact, when justifying my fear to the lifeguards, they admitted that it’s easier to teach young-uns how to swim because their minds aren’t overwhelmed with fear, young-uns are fearless!

The whole 55 minutes of that lesson was spent with me trying to get my head under the water, and overriding that fear of water entering my ears, nose, and body. I feel overwhelmed in the water because there’s so much of it…I just don’t know how to act. I feel claustrophobic, so powerless, and I don’t trust myself to stay in control.

Then I became fascinated with why I’m so scared and how to overcome this. Whenever I go to the pool to “practice” (ie. repeatedly dunk my head under water while alternating holding my breath and blowing bubbles, in addition to my current stage of trying to hold a float without grabbing for the wall), I wish I could swim like the lane swimmers, swimming for fitness or leisure. I wish I could be comfortable and JUST SWIM! So instead of becoming discouraged, I decided to work on my personal obstacle – my mind.

In addition to ransacking the amazing google database and requesting every book at my local library regarding the physics of swimming and learning how to swim, I came across an e-book devoted to addressing the universal fears of learning to swim: “Conquer Your Fear of Water: An Innovative Self-Discovery Course in Swimming (1).

I was so desperate that I would purchase any video or book promising that it’s approach would teach me to swim, guaranteed. I really appreciate Melon Dash’s outlook regarding swimming, and the testimonials won me over. I’m only 1/3 through the book, and still don’t know how to swim yet, but she addresses some important concerns:

  • in order to learn to swim, you need to be in tune with yourself, and feel in control. Swimming’s supposed to be fun – otherwise, why would you want to learn? This is also in line with what my swimming instructors are constantly telling me: you need to relax in the water because the moment you panic, your body will become tense, you will begin to sink, and your lung capacity will shrink as you’ll be taking shallow breaths
  • go at your own pace. I chose to enroll in group lessons, and since I’m sharing the class time and the instructors with a group of individuals, I’m not receiving my ideal amount of attention. I knew that would be the case upon signing up, and I also knew that the classroom skill levels would differ. I used to feel pressured to advance faster than I was since I was, and still am the most novice in the group. But, if I continually let that bother me, I wouldn’t progress at all. So to compensate, I try to go to the pool on non-lesson days to “practice,” allowing time and exposure to help me become comfortable.

So far this is what I have learned, but I have no doubt that I will continue to learn more as I read this book, and complete the second half of my lessons. I may not master swimming after my first set of lessons (11 weeks), but I will continue to go to the pool, become more comfortable, and progress naturally based on following book lessons. As with life, we learn one step at a time – missing steps will only lead to a gap later that’s harder to overcome. Right now I’m building my foundation, and I don’t care if it takes me months to learn how to swim, I will eventually make it!