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.