Swimming for fitness, sounded simple enough when I started this journey. Despite having a father that was a swimmer in high school, and ultimately part of his profession, and a nephew who is a high school swimmer and water polo player, I did not know how to swim. Well, I knew the strokes, what I didn’t know is the breathing technique. So I could swim, as long as my head was out of the water. Hence why my back stroke is so good.
However, if you have read my past blogs, you know I genuinely hate exercise. And sweating. But when you are trying to lose weight, not much of a choice. I wanted something that would be easy on the joints, not getting any younger, be a great calorie burn and not be dripping in sweat. That basically left swimming for fitness purposes.
And for the past year, I made it work. Breast (with head out of water) and back stroke. I could do one mile in under an hour. As expected though, muscle memory, lack of good technique, and I was no longer progressing. Time to admit, I needed a lesson, or two, or more.
Our gym, Good Samaritan Health & Wellness Center is geared to older folks and has a great pool facility, which is extremely helpful when you are in your 40s and don’t know how to swim. They advertised an “Adult Basic Stroke” class that I attended this fall.
Nothing like being in your 40s and admitting you don’t know how to swim. The first thing they teach you is what they teach a child, blowing bubbles in the water. Also, standing at the edge of the pool, they have you do the arm and head motion with your head out of water, then in the water. Again, just as they do with a child. My classmates were working on endurance. Meaning they knew how to swim, but wanted a workout that would help build their length and speed. Here I was, older than any of them, learning the basics.
And for six weeks, I progressed. From blowing bubbles and standing at the edge, to using a kick board, no arm stroke, but head motion, to floating dumbbell, swimming sideways to get my alignment on the breathing technique, to a full stroke holding onto a floating dumbbell, to actually swimming.
After every lesson I told my husband “I didn’t drown!” But every class I got better. And even on my final class I was able to do 1/2 mile, with a mix of full swim, using the leg buoy so only arm strokes to using the kick board for only kicks.
Sounds pretty easy, right? You want to do something you don’t know how to do, you sign up for a class, ask a friend, etc. Well, not easy for all of us. I like to know things. I like to investigate how to do something. Most of the time I will turn to a book. And in some cases that works, when it is a non-physical, low or no interaction activity. When it is a physical activity, or requires interaction with others, a book does not always cut it.
But, it is hard for me to say I don’t know how to do something. I took a golf class several years ago because I had never touched a golf club (not even in gym class). I, again, was embarrassed that in my 40s I had no experience with something. Same with swimming.
However, there was no one judging me but myself. In fact, many people applauded me for 1. Admitting I did not know and need help and 2. Seeking out that help. And so, the first step in this process is admitting I don’t know something, and that is okay to do. In fact, it is more than okay to do, it is what I needed to do.
Overall, what I found is seeking out the right person, in this case an instructor/coach propelled me further than any other method. People had tried to teach me the breathing technique or how to swing a golf club, but none of it worked for me. First, I am in a whole different mind-set now in my life, so I’m sure that helps. But working with someone who teaches things for a living, makes a big difference.
I went from being uncomfortable in the water to swimming a 1/2 mile in under 30 minutes within 6 weeks from a once a week class. Never thought it was possible, but my coach did. My husband spent several weeks with me over the summer trying to teach me, which didn’t get me far. But after my classes, I’m swimming better, stronger, longer and faster every day.
Sometimes we all need a bit of “professional” help. Someone that has done it before, knows all the elements of the skill and can break it down (think forest/trees concept), and will not only be our cheerleader, but hold us accountable.
So, whether it is swimming, golf, life, career, health/wellness – whatever that you are feeling you either are unfamiliar with or not excelling, admit the lack of knowledge, stop judging yourself and seek an expert and invest in yourself.