This morning, I ran into one of my former coworkers at the pool. He asked me what was new.
“Oh, just getting back into swimming,” I replied, like it’s possible to “get back into” something you haven’t done since you were a Tadpole or Seahorse or whatever the swim-class code name is for kids who’ll be entering second grade in the fall.
Yes, it has been almost 20 years since I learned to swim. Unfortunately, the only thing that stuck with me was the ability to not-drown in water that’s deeper than I am tall.
And, even more unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until I attempted to take an intermediate swimming class in college—intermediate because the beginners class was for people who were “afraid of the water.” I wasn’t afraid of the water. I could not-drown, dammit!
“Give me your best freestyle,” the instructor said on the first day. My classmates dove in, front-crawling like bosses. I doggie-paddled.
“You need to put your face in the water,” she told me. I complied, inhaling every time I turned my head and exhaling…never. I made it halfway across the pool before I had to stop to tread water and let out all the air I’d taken in.
The instructor pulled me aside as I was leaving. “Perhaps you should be in the beginners class,” she said. Embarrassed, I shuffled back to my dorm room. I was relieved to receive an email a few days later saying that, due to scheduling conflicts, the class had been canceled.
Because of this experience, I was afraid to even try to relearn to swim for years. At our company pool, I’d be the one weirdo aqua-jogging, and I was cool with that.
But a few weeks ago, thanks to some overeager training, my IT band was giving me grief. And swimming is the only cardio activity that doesn’t aggravate that kind of injury.
I went to the pool with Paul, planning on kickboarding the morning away, my head safely above the water. He was borrowing my goggles—yes, the ones I used during the Swim Class Incident—and once he took them off to do some kickboarding himself, I put them on.
I practiced breathing out into the water while using the kickboard, like a Tadpole or Seahorse might do. It felt awfully awkward at first—and sounded louder with my head submerged than I expected—but I pressed on. By the end of the session, it was all coming back to me.
The next time I went, I decided to try a lap of breaststroke. I’d been watching Paul do it, and it seemed the most familiar. Success! I swam down and back with only minor sputtering.
I’ve been going regularly for a few weeks now, and I’ve worked up to going down and back twice before having to take a break. And today, I did that eight times, for a total of 16 down-and-backs (laps?), for a total of 1600 meters (right? It’s an Olympic-sized pool), which is about a mile. Breaks and all, I’ll take it.
Being a newbie is kind of fun. But that’s a topic for another post.