Friday, June 17, 2011

Little fish, little fish, swimming in the water

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, we were fortunate to have a boat and ample access to watery destinations to enjoy that boat. I took my first swimming lessons at a wee age. Lessons were enjoyable to me and only slightly less so for my Mom who walked in one day to see me, at age four, leap from the high dive. Ballsy? Indeed. But at age five there was a bit of an incident. I jumped off a diving board only with the promise my sister, already in the pool, would swim over to me pronto. Apparently I didn't pack my daredevil pants in my Muppet Show lunchbox that morning.  Instead of going in smoothly, I went too far out and landed on top of my sister. The impact pushed her under, and frightened me. When we both surfaced, my fear only intensified as did my grip around her neck. I also had my scrawny legs wrapped around her and while I may have weighed 30 lbs, I was prohibiting her from being able to tread water OR propel us. This skirmish was not going well and ultimately the lifeguards had to come in and intervene. But I wasn't set back a bit and still had no fear about the water.

In high school, sophomore style antics ensued between a male friend and I one summer afternoon we all played at the lake. What began with towels being thrown in the water turned into a bit of a scare with repeated dunking and my inability to catch my breath. I think it frightened all of us. When my parents found out, they calmly informed me he was never welcome in our home again. My Mom had water fear already and she was livid.

It did surprise me however I have never swam again since then. Oh, we have pool and beach time galore. I will get in the water and I can breaststroke with the best of them but I have not put my face in the water and done a freestyle swim since 1988.

Because of our proclivity towards water-based vacations, MiniMac has been in and around water since he was an infant. This past spring, he spent 12 weeks taking swimming lessons. He is agile in the water, a bit daring but not quite ready for the underwater world. When we are working with him, his favorite activity is to "race" and by "race" I mean, don't actually race him but allow him to win at all times.

Last weekend,  as we played in the water, he asked me if I liked to swim. Yes. He asked if I liked to swim under the water. I felt the conflict immediately. NO, I don't like to swim underwater but YES, I want you to swim underwater son. So I asked myself, how hard can it be when you can teach toddlers to swim freestyle? Mission: Swim. I went early Sunday morning applauding myself because isn't swimming just like riding a bike? I  tell myself I would only do 20 laps.

Really? A mere 20? Lets churn it up a bit, Shirley Babashoff. I glide into the water and start with the breaststroke. Our pool is about 50 feet long. After 2 lengths I am beat. And I mean BEAT. WTH? I work out EVERY day? How can a simple paddle through the water be fatiguing me so? I struggle to complete 6 lengths. I scoff at myself and what was apparently a lofty 20 lap goal.

My great friend Wendy, a competitive swimmer and former swim instructor, laughed with me as I explained my situation. She also informs me that breaststroke is one of the most fatiguing and it is actually easier to freestyle. Hmmm. 

The next day, I take swim goggles and attempt to freestyle. I freely admit it was an attempt because it was awful. It was like watching someone who is doing a combination of a windmill and a jumping jack. Under the influenceAnd since I neglected to tie my hair bag, every time I came up for air, I had more hair on my face than Chewbacca. Day 2: Still swimming. Still suck.

Wendy than suggested a swimming cap. Really? An ugly skintight swimming cap? But my friend AB had one to loan so I opted to take her up on it. Goggles and cap are only part of the solution. How about the part where you don't know how to swim freestyle anymore? I had to address my breathing technique. Or complete absence thereof. I did what any innately athletic person would do when faced with a competitive dilemma. I googled it. And then watched a swim instructor demonstrate on YouTube! Well played.

The swim instructor on YouTube indicated the freestyle stroke is just as important as the bilateral breathing. For in fact, the stroke is comprised for four parts: the reach, the hook, the pull down your side and the push away. Hmm. I thought it was more like Arm above the water. Arm below the water. No Danielsan, its not like wax on, wax off.

So my third attempt, with bright red cap and goggles, and concepts of breathing and stroke, I was ready to master it. And it started off well. Except when I would forget to breathe and my sideturn to get air was more like a whale with a blowhole. Breath out IN the water! After about 8 laps I said aloud, "WOW you SUCK at SWIMMING!" Thankfully, no one was there to witness my anti-pep talk. But I am tenacious. And I like to be good at everything so back in the water I went. And within a few more laps, it was a bit less blowhole. And a bit less ugly. But thankfully, any one who could spy me in the pool would never recognize me since I looked more like a Baywatch version of a Conehead than JennyMac. Whew. Vanity still has a role, even when one is sloppily flouncing in the water. By the 14th lap, I could tell I was improving. Day 3: Still swimming. Sucking slightly less.

BUT, it only proves we can learn or relearn anything at any age.

17 comments:

Jenn @ Youknow...that Blog? said...

Good for you, JM. I am a fish from birth (so my parents tell it), but I do have friends who are different levels of scared of the water, and can only imagine what a feat it is to overcome obstacles like that. MM is a lucky kid to have a mom who will don a red swim cap just for him ;)

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

Good for you getting back in the water.

McKenzie said...

Sounds like you can swim a heck of a lot better than I can! I have to plug my nose under water, and I still tend to dog paddle. No fancy freestyle or butterfly swimming here! Sounds strange to say that I grew up and still live in the great Pacific NW & suck horribly at swimming.

singedwingangel said...

I am one of 4 girls and the only one in my family who can swim. Literally. I terrify my mom. She hates to watch me swim and even more the kids to do it. I think it is great that you are pushing past the fear to do it for your child.

ajm said...

We have a pool, and my son is on a competitive swim team. But I am just like you in the water! I've watched his lessons and tried to replicate what his coach says, but I've finally resorted to using a SNORKLE to breathe if I want to actually swim laps. It's so humiliating. So I applaud your efforts! And while you're giving me some hope here, I'm afraid it may actually be too late for this old dog.

Eva Gallant said...

I never had lessons. I taught myself to swim. When we had a pool years ago, I used to do a mean dog paddle for 75 laps around a octagon-shapped pool. I still dog paddle, but not as far!

Kristina P. said...

I am impressed by your tenacity!

Mommy Lisa said...

My dad learned how to swim finally when he was in his late 30's because I was on swim team. I taught swimming lessons forever and was filmed for our local Red Cross for instructor courses because my strokes were so perfect. Yeah, I am showing off today.

Pricilla said...

Good for you for doing this for yourself.
I learned later in my teen years when we moved from the city to the shore and my mother insisted we were going to know how to swim. I took to it like a fish. I am one of those odd people who would rather be in 100 feet of water than two. I hate to touch bottom....heh

webb said...

You go, Girl! It's great exercise and mastering your "concern" about face-in-the-water is a real feat. Proud of you. By day 10 I predict you will like it, too.

Maria said...

I totally understand...I am learning to swim now as an adult after 2 near drownings...googles and swim caps rule, sister; breathing in water sucks...Proud of you for going in there and trying!

K A B L O O E Y said...

Good for you! I can usually shame myself into doing something if I hink of the example I want to set for my daughter. (Well, sometimes.) I'm chagrined to admit I bought a kickboard and short fins today because I want to swim for exercise, but cannot do the breathing. I've also never even stepped off a diving board, yet I'm a scuba diver! I can go down 140' with no fear but only because I have air hosed into my mouth. Time to do a JennyMac and take a lesson, even if by Google. Thanks for inspiration.

Baloney said...

As I read this, I'm thinking - so what if you can't swim laps?! I'm just amazed you have time to work out every day.
I'm feeling all sorts of wimpy right now.

Ed said...

Good for you!

Next: Gum & walking at the same time.

HalfAsstic.com said...

I remember a similar swimming experience with a family friend and I never would come clear and admit that I felt like I was about to drown. I seriously feel like I almost didn't survive that. And no one watching knew. It was all horseplay. Just having fun in the water... almost like splashing.
So Not.

Intense Guy said...

Being around boats and water all my life - my mom had me take swim lessons before I could walk.

I need to thank her.

B.o.B. said...

Make sure you learn the proper freestyle kick too or you'll tire out your arms in 30 seconds.

since summer is back i have been helping all sorts of people in the pool. mostly those who want to complete a triathlon. i commend you for learning for your son and for your own accomplishment.

it takes time, but you'll get better just as with anything else - practice makes perfect.