I grew up on a farm in eastern Colorado. We had a well for crops. Water came out of a big pipe and went into a rocky, sandy area. That was fantastic because it was so hot in the summer. As kids we used to go and play in it, but I never learned the art of swimming.
For a number of years my time and energy was devoted to taking care of my elderly father. After he passed away, I remember thinking there’s one thing I really want to do — I want to get comfortable in the water. I want to be able to snorkel and not have fear. Throughout the years I had built up a big wall, a tough obstacle. I needed help.
I didn’t want to do group lessons again where they all launch into the freestyle. Or I’d start off floating really well and then the rest of the class would just leave me in the dust. It was always the same thing. The instructors never gave clear directions. I called around and sent some emails and was eventually referred to Beth.
I wondered, “Is this going to be the same old thing?” But I read Beth’s profile and thought, “ Wow, she is a fifty-something woman, maybe this is what I need.” Beth’s background and accomplishments were very physical. I liked that. I kept telling myself, “I can do this.”
I arrived 45 minutes early for my first lesson. Before when I would go to the rec center to swim if I pulled into the parking lot and it was full, I would say, “The pool is going to be packed so I’m not going in.” It was a good excuse.
I went to the wrong door, the opposite end from the pool — but I kept thinking, “I need to go, I need to go. I need to be there.”
I found the locker room, got into my swimsuit, and felt like everyone was watching because I was an adult and didn’t know how to swim.
When Beth said, “Hi,” and asked me how I was feeling – immediately I thought she was a good fit for me.
Beth didn’t know at that point how great my fear was. She does a good job reading body language. I could float and swim on my back but I didn’t know what to do on the front. I could float for a couple of minutes and then I had to stand up. As we went on – being in the water face down and breathing bubbles — I was holding back. I thought I wasn’t afraid because I could put my feet down, yet I had an inclination to pull away.
I had never learned how to relax in the water. Beth could see my fear. My reaction showed her this wall of fear. She helped me overcome that. She taught me to work on relaxation, to go with the water and not just wear myself out.
I’d go to the shallow end and practice, acquainting myself with the feeling of water in different ways — under the water, having fun with it, looking at people’s legs as they were swimming or doing water aerobics. I had skipped playing in the water other than in farm ditches.
Sometimes the concept comes to me much later. I woke up one morning and thought, “You know what? My practice feels like somebody is chasing me.” Practice is not supposed to be like that. I love going to my lessons with Beth. She’s so calm and she doesn’t rush me through it — and that’s how practice should be. You are not supposed to be going crazy and trying to be a master swimmer.
I don’t know how long it took before I felt confident enough to take a lane. It was huge. I would tell the lifeguards that I was learning and ask if could they watch me.
Some days I still lock up, I’m out of sorts, so I’ll go back to blowing bubbles under water, jumping off into the five-foot area, floating face down, and turning over. I’m working on freestyle, on the breathing piece. I always finish with my trusty backstroke.
Beth has a great voice, soothing and even. I stop and think, “What did Beth tell me?” I can hear her voice. She gives you time to make a mistake, then tells you how to fix it and gives you time to fix it. I go through my body pieces to re-connect, to make myself work as one instead of Pinocchio-style. Beth taught me that.
Beth recognizes when I’m ready to do something new before I do.
After each lesson I write everything thing down to help me remember. I laugh at some of the things I used to do. No wonder I didn’t go anywhere in the water.
I always thought the door was shut, that swimming was the one thing I couldn’t do and the one thing I really wanted to do. Beth uncovered so many things, has opened so many doors — over time the little things add up to a lot. She’s done an excellent job of peeling the onion.
Learning to swim is such a breakthrough for me, such an achievement.
Dear Cindy: You taught me the value in having students keep a log after each swim lesson. Your diligence and dedication to your swimming continue to amaze me! You are someone who has never been comfortable in deep water, yet the pool where you swim has a 10-foot deep end. You will not let anything stop you from reaching your goal. ~Beth