One of my goals this year was to learn to swim. I wasn’t taught to swim as a child and rarely went near pools. In high school, I was invited to a pool party, and gladly accepted. While standing with a group of girls close to the pool, one of the boys pushed me in, clothes and all. I had a panic attack. I thought I was drowning and if I wasn’t saved in time, I probably would have. That fear has never left me and intensified every time I saw a pool.
Since I have osteoarthritis in the knees, and battle with running injuries, I was advised by my physio to consider swimming as an alternative sport. The mere thought of facing the pool set my anxiety racing. But I had to give it a shot, to be open to the experience, and not allow fear to cripple me.
I contacted Cyberswim and enrolled for swimming lessons in January. Lessons were conducted in a heated pool in Century City. Needless to say, I was the only adult with all the small children learning to swim! My first lesson was nerve-racking. The pool was filled with children, their Mom’s waiting in the wings, and coaches in the water. Fear cloaked me, causing extreme tension when I set into the water. Even with the support of a noodle and a coach, I battled to feel safe.
The lesson that followed the next day was somewhat better. Although the unease was still there, I followed all the instructions and tried my best. I had two lessons each week, on consecutive days and it really assisted in growing my confidence in the water. Swimming lessons encompasses learning all the styles like freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. Each style requires proper technique and if not mastered correctly, won’t be done efficiently.
Swimming did not come easy to me. Since I was exposing myself to the water every week, I had to find ways of letting go of my anxious thoughts. I found that if I took things slower, it calmed my heart rate. I was able to concentrate on form and get a breath of air. I try to be in the present moment, not to be bothered by others, to focus on getting a particular style right. I also praise myself for doing well.
In less than three months I was able to swim unaided. The breaststroke was the one that got me to cross the pool 🙂 The freestyle requires stamina, proper breathing and is incredibly taxing. I found the backstroke unnatural. Even though one breathes easily this way, laying on the water, as if on a bed, takes much practice and confidence in yourself. The butterfly is the hardest to master and I haven’t yet succeeded, but I hope to in time.
Swimming has opened a whole new world to me. I am excited when I see a pool and can’t wait to get in. I have the best workout in the water and feel happy there. It may have taken me years to face my fear of the water, but I promise myself I won’t stop swimming. Ever!