The coolest thing is last September I could barely blow bubbles and in February I did the breaststroke for two and a half hours nonstop. My wife was ecstatic!
We’d gone on trips down to Mexico and it has always kind of been a bummer, everyone else is snorkeling and I’m sitting on the beach or I’m out there in a life jacket – I wasn’t really in the water.
My wife and I used to go to Lake Powell. There were all these coves and everybody else would be jumping off the boat or cliff driving. I was the one babysitting the boat, making sure the beer was cold.
Stigma was part of the reason it took so long – I’ll be the first to admit I felt embarrassed about not being able to swim. So for me to have to go to a swimming pool and take swimming lessons – that was an embarrassment.
I wanted to learn to kayak. One of the stipulations my wife had was I had to learn to swim if I was going to kayak, despite wearing a life jacket. I had always wanted to learn so this push helped. My wife got me a kayak for my birthday, so I researched swim instructors and came across Beth. Her website said she dealt with people who had a fear of deep water. She seemed like the one. I called her up and set up lessons.
I had a bad experience when I was a little kid. I was at the public pool and somebody pushed me into the deep end – I was close enough to the edge that I could grab on but after that I always had a fear of deep water. My parents remember I’d never go to the pool when I was a kid. My mom wanted me to take lessons, I took them one semester in grade school, but it didn’t click for me.
I wasn’t nervous or scared before my lesson. Even getting in the pool, I knew it was just four feet deep, so no worries there. She tested me and found out that I wasn’t comfortable in the water. When Beth had me try to sit down under the water and blow bubbles, I completely froze up. I couldn’t blow the bubbles at all. Beth had me do a couple drills – starting out on my stomach first, just relaxing. She had me stand up, bend over, and put my head in the water a little bit and start blowing bubbles.
I’m a perfectionist. I put undue pressure on myself, trying to do everything perfectly. After my third lesson, Beth had me describe my practice time and show her what I was doing. She said, “Don’t judge yourself – let me do that. You’re harder on yourself than I am.” It has been a great learning experience to stop putting so much pressure on myself.
A lot of learning is relaxing and trying to get comfortable with the water. We’re not all built the same. We don’t all react the same in the water or have the same mobility. The greatest thing I can say about Beth is that she adapts her teaching to what people can do. Lots of times she’ll have me do a drill and I just can’t do it. I’m tight in my shoulders or something and she adjusts the drill to fit me.
Try a couple of different instructors; the biggest thing is having a connection with your instructor. What I love about Beth is she’s very free-spirited. She’s not a drill sergeant. If you yell at someone that stresses them out – she makes it about having fun. That’s important.
One of the things I had trouble with is getting the kicks down. My wife’s a swimmer – last night we went to the pool and did a couple lengths up and down the pool. I was kicking on my back and my wife was so amazed, she hadn’t seen me swim for a while and she said, “I can’t believe you did that.”
My goal right now is to get the freestyle down. Next summer, or the summer after, I’d like to do a duathlon; biking and swimming.
The more I talk to people, the more people I find who admit they can’t swim. I’ve told people, “You’re never too old to learn.” That’s the great thing, but it’s true.
I went kayaking this summer in the lake. I would have done it before, but I wouldn’t have been very comfortable.
I’ve been thinking about learning how to ski next. Born and raised here in Colorado, everybody skis here. I’m going to try it, though right now my main focus is swimming.
Swimming is a relaxing part of my life now. If I have a hard day at work, I go to the pool. The exciting thing is going to water and being able to swim!
Dear John: Typically, I start off a new student with learning freestyle and backstroke kicks. After having you see a physical therapist, chiropractor, and massage therapist, I concluded that I had to change tactics. The tension in your hips was not ready to release. So, I taught you breaststroke first. In a short period of time, you were swimming for two hours! Thank you for reminding me that the student’s body comes first, not the lesson plan. ~Beth