Swimming away from fear

After viewing my spiked blog traffic last week I felt empowered, encouraged (THANK YOU ALL!), excited, edified, eccentric … Excellent! Until a few days later when the doubts began to creep in – will I be able to keep this up or will I give up, yet again?  Now that ‘all eyes’ are on TheTearstealer, will she be able to perform?  Will she get to the end of the week and freeze up, or wait till the last minute and do a botched job?

The morning in question, I rose and began baking, a stress reliever, and managed to do a banana bread loaf and 114 chocolate chip cookies by 9.30.  The baker felt better, but she was receiving little messages that, like the sugary, floury dough, she was on a timer, soon to be scorched and hopefully not burnt.

I did know what I was going to write about this week but would it come together?  Would it be ‘liked’?  I had great intentions of writing fluidly during the day, even getting a head start on the following week’s blog …  yet my writing often gets relegated.  Life gets in the way – another classic excuse to add to last week’s

My first memory of swimming lessons was a scared little red-haired girl clinging to the edge of the pool and being ignored by the swimming teacher.  I was about 5, and I made the edge of the pool my friend, easing along hand over hand without attempting to venture even a few inches away into the unknown deep.

I watch swimming lessons  with a similar age group now before my adult class begins and it is a different scene from my own early memories.  There are two teachers and two parent volunteers, mostly all in the water with the kids and no child is clinging to the edge, rather they are confident and doing their thing.

My dad was a great swimmer.  He would take my sisters and I to the beach on a Sunday and soon after we got there he would venture into the sea and use his strong steady strokes to swim far away from the shore, my young eyes searching, blinking away the sun, trying not to lose sight of him.  I often did.  Then, just like that, he would be back.  The life-giving water streaming off his face and his smile telling it all.

It was not until my fifty third year that I decided that instead of admiring other people’s swimming finesse, I would do something about mine.  I had no idea what was involved in learning swimming technique.  A dear friend told me about her recent experience starting the said lessons, and I was quick to follow her lead with great anticipation.

So, my lessons started in August last year, twice a week, half hour or 45 minutes each session.  I wish my coach had videoed me the first time I set off to show her what I could do.  My proud display consisted of head up, arms flailing to the side, legs far apart and much more.  Those first months were tough, I could not master the body rotation for anything.  My naturally stiff shoulders, head, arms and bits in between were not conducive to the way a swimmer needed to swim effectively.  The pull buoy (that thing you put between your legs to stop you from kicking)  was a nightmare.  When Coach said, ‘Alright get the Pull buoy’, I would inwardly cringe but my face would tell the story of hatred for that thing.   My body rejected it in more ways than one, and fought the rotation over and over, with legs going every which way, trying their best to be part of the swimming journey even though they were only needed to do nothing.

When I learnt one new concept, then something previously perfected would go awry, and thus began a frustrating journey of normalcy in learning to swim with perfect technique.  Why couldn’t my brain just ‘get it’.  Swimming is not for the impatient.  The no-longer little, red-haired girl was gradually getting muscle memory which would serve her well in the future, but it occasionally felt like misery memory.  Giving up was not an option, and while I did my drills looking down at the brown line of the pool that I was supposed to be directly above, my mind would often be cast far back to the days when I was that little determined Debbie, learning to play tennis, learning to ride my bike, learning to sew, learning to do shorthand at 130 words per minute  …  This swim thing seemed harder than all of the above.

Then, one day I returned to the pool after a long break for eye surgery, and something was different.  A new resolve.  I had really missed my swimming, watching many freestyle videos during that break, and I was longing to see how I would be when I returned.  Would this be IT, at last?  It was.

My coach was very pleasantly shocked to see me doing the catch, the breathing, the rotation, the reach, the finish, etc, all coming together.  It was my technique breakthrough and  I have not looked back.  Yes, I still struggle with endurance and sometimes my technique goes off, but I know I have not lost it, and, like riding a bike, I will not forget.  This courageous muscle memory freestyle swimming journey has been a blast.  Butterfly next?  I can’t wait to swim on, flying high!

Deb with swimming attire

23 thoughts on “Swimming away from fear

  1. What an achievement Debs. Well done for facing your fears head on!! Can’t wait to read your next blog. Keep chasing your dreams xxxx

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  2. Oh wow Debbie I loved it!! This and the previous entry List the Excuses – such a relaxing and entertaining read first thing on a Saturday morning. Thanks for sharing the link with me!

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  3. Wow, so proud of my island friend. As an islander “should” know how to swim, a “northerner” should know how to skate. Next winters challenge perhaps. You are an inspiration. Xo

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  4. Debbie, I’ve just started a Pre Masters class. I am doing it 4 days a week. I so relate to this story! Everything I learned as a child – I was doing wrong – retraining my mind/muscles to do it correctly. Right now, my right arm doesn’t want to bend when doing freestyle. I’m not a fan of freestyle!

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    1. Yes and I was told last week at class that often everything looks fine above the water but underneath things could be getting done incorrectly, like the catch for me sometimes is not being done properly. Never thought a swim technique could be so technical! Have fun Vicky!

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