Describe you current swimming ability in one sentence:
“I swim like a girl that doesn’t like to get her hair wet or ruin her make-up, not because I am a vain, but because I am scared of being underwater”.
The above is how I used to describe my relationship with a swimming pool. I enjoyed a swim after a gym session to stretch off, but if anyone splashed water in my face or created a tidal wave near me I was out of there and into the jacuzzi faster than you can say ‘front crawl’ and if you think I am changing lanes by ducking under the rope you’ve got another thing coming. I will be climbing out, moving over and getting back in like an idiot.
Now, when I say scared of water, I appreciate some people have an absolute and genuine fear and are petrified of being anywhere near it, for me this was not the case. I learnt to swim as a child but never confidently and being underwater or on slides is my idea of living hell. So, imagine my sheer ‘delight’ (read: terror) when I open my Christmas present this year and it’s swimming lessons! The only saving grace was that I had been toying with the idea myself for the best part of a year and that the lessons were booked with Steph who I knew and trusted from my running club.
So far my thought process is working like this:
I think I might like to learn to swim
I will probably put it off for a while / never get around to it because I am scared
Oh yippee, swimming lessons that have been paid for, now I will have to go
At least they are with Steph. She won’t let me drown
But I know Steph and it’s going to be embarrassing letting her see me scared
Ok we’ve agreed a time, now I have to go …….
When I did eventually get myself to the pool side that day, after much pacing around the changing room wondering if I could hide my bikini and pretend I had forgotten it so I could cancel, Steph asked me what had happened to make me afraid. I couldn’t answer her and as I have progressed I think I have come to realise that I just never learnt how to be in water as a child and what my body could do. My instinctive reaction when I go underwater is to breath, making for a pretty unpleasant experience.
So far I have seen Steph for three sessions (sounds a bit like therapy and in a way it is). We have progressed from the first session in the ‘baby pool’ which I was helpfully advised by my partner afterwards is 90% baby wee, to being able to swim breaststroke with my face in the water. Each time I have been in the water with Steph I have started off in a panic, forgetting everything I have learnt but by the end of the session have come away on cloud nine having surpassed any expectations I could have had.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t materialised into an Olympic swimmer overnight, but Steph’s gentle and nurturing approach has enabled me to see that actually swimming might be fun and if I can banish the fear that lurks inside of me it might be something I grow to love.
I would definitely urge anyone who in the back of their mind thinks they should learn to swim but has reservations to speak with Steph, her patience is amazing, she has never made me feel uncomfortable or stupid even when I fail to follow the simplest of instructions and so far she hasn’t let me drown which can only be a good thing!
Milton Keynes, Bucks