Hello, and welcome to my blog.
Today was the second of my swimming lessons. This week I had a new teacher, Jo. And before you say it, my teacher last week has not resigned due to stress caused by my ineptitude in water. She is on holiday, and will return the next week.
I had to wait a few minutes to Jo to get to me for my lesson, so I had a quick go at “Sculling”. Sculling is where you lie on your back and control yourself in the water by moving your slightly cupped hands in the water in a motion that gently propels you (if both hands are moving in the same direction), or keeps you stationary (hands moving in different directions). Much to both my delight and equal frustration, I was happily able to Scull quite well this week – as opposed to last week, when for some unknown reason, despite my best efforts I was only able to propel myself in the opposite direction intended; if I tried to scull backwards, I ultimately would end up serenely moving forwards, which was very annoying.
It was good having a different teacher this week, because although Jo went over the technique just like last week’s teacher did (have you guessed yet that I can’t remember her name?), she also added some snippets of info that added to my learning. For example, I was taught last week that when kicking as I swim, my leg should be straight with the kick coming from my hips. There should be very little knee bend. This was echoed by Jo this week – but she also added that my feet should be floppy as if I was trying to shake off a sock. Nuggets like this will help my technique no end.
So, I did a few half lengths with the new and improved technique, and my swimming was indeed improved. I have purchased a pair of swimming goggles – at the exorbitant price of £20 (£20! For swimming goggles!) so I can now see clearer underwater. That is, of course, when my “anti-fog” goggles didn’t fog up. I have spoken to my partner about going back to the shop to complain, but she suggested rubbing my spit on them first. I’m not sure that is necessary; I’m quite capable of telling the shop manager how I feel without stooping to those depths.
Later in my lesson, we moved on to breathing – and when to breathe when doing front crawl. Jo told me that she has a way of remembering (apart from the feeling that your lungs are on fire) when to breathe, and that is ‘Bubble…Bubble…Breathe’. On the ‘Breathe’ is when to turn my head so my mouth is out of the water and take a breath. So it’s head facing downwards for the ‘Bubble..Bubble’, and then breathe. Now I’m sure that Jo is a very qualified teacher, but in my head, I did wonder if saying “Bubble” underwater was the best thing to do, as an open mouth lets in more water than a closed one does. In the end, I decided to think my bubbles.
I ended up swimming an entire length of the pool with my new technique. In fact, after a prolonged rest each time, I was able to swim a length back to the shallow end. But then the tiredness kicked in. I cannot tell you how exhausting swimming is when doing it properly (or as properly as an uncoordinated person can do). Remember that when I am swimming, I am trying to recall all the technique I have to do:
- Stretch my body out to maintain a streamlined body position
- Kick from the hips – maintain a straight leg, with minimal knee bend
- Have floppy feet – like I’m trying to kick off a sock
- Rotate my body as each arm stroke happens – but keep my head still, facing downwards
- Keep my head on my arm when turning my head to breathe
- Remember “Bubble…Bubble…Breathe”
- Alternate my breathing from side to side each time
All of the above takes huge amounts of concentration and physical effort, and as I was pushed hard by Jo (I’m still the only one in my class, so no respite) I flagged – and flagged spectacularly. Twice!
The first flagging came as a result of my goggles. Wearing them, as I have mentioned before, gives me clearer vision under the water. So, as I approached the two-thirds mark of the pool, I saw that the bottom of the pool sloped away from a stand-uppable 1.5 metre depth, to a Jules Verne-esque 3 metre depth. Instantly, I was out of my depth – one of my biggest fears, and one of the reasons for taking up swimming lessons – to build my confidence in the water, and especially when out of my depth.But this was only my second lesson, so when I saw the bottom of the pool far below me, I panicked – and my tired body threw technique out of the window as I resorted to my default setting; head up, gasping for breath and thrashing about like a cat in a hot-tub.
The second flagging came as a direct result of my swimming shorts. I was at the deep end, clinging to the side of the pool like a limpet with abandonment issues. I was still recovering from my first flagging episode, but wanted to keep trying as I knew what I was learning was good for me on so many levels. In my lessons I have started my length swimming with a “push and glide” – that is where I push-off from the wall of the pool with my feet and glide for as far as possible in the stretched out, streamlined body shape. In theory, being just under 2 metres tall means that a good push and glide could allow me to cover a considerable length of the pool before having to think about technique.
So, with grim determination and still slightly out of breath, I pushed off from the wall of the deep end. As you might expect, my swim shorts are not streamlined and so cause a little bit of drag (I’m not ready for speedos just yet – and I’m damn sure the young families at the pool will never be ready for that image! Or you, for that matter). My tired legs did not give me the greatest momentum, and yet I immediately felt the effect of the drag on my shorts and they slipped to just half-way down my bottom. In amongst the techniques that my brain was recalling every nano-second, a small voice chipped in, “Your shorts are falling down Larry – everyone can see your bum. Best pull them up”. So as my right arm moved forward to help propel me forwards, my left arm shot back and began tugging at my shorts to pull them up.
Of course, less than a second later, my left arm was meant to be moving forwards to continue the stroke – but it was still grappling with my shorts. My forward motion was maintaining the drag on the shorts and holding them back, fighting the efforts of my left arm to raise them back to decency. So I had both arms back along the sides of my body – the right, maintaining the streamlined body position I had been taught, and the left frantically pulling at my swim shorts like a fisherman trying to haul in a full net by hand. All this meant, that my head didn’t have an arm to rest on when I turned to breathe, so when I did open my mouth it was still below the surface of the water, and I gulped in water and then stopped abruptly coughing and spluttering – thankfully just inside the 1.5 metre mark so I could stand on the bottom.
Fortunately, at that point my lesson was up. I regained my breath, and swam on my back to the side of the pool, and got out.
Jo said I had worked hard and had made improvements since the beginning of the lesson. I don’t know about the improvements, but I know I worked hard: my body aches from my shoulders, to my core muscles, down to my quivering thighs – and even the soles of my feet. But I’m still glad I’m doing it – it is such a good work out, and as I get better technically, my confidence will grow. And that must be a good thing.