Finding Fiddy: Determined to Finish What I Started
I went into Week 6 of swim lessons knowing it was crunch time. I gave myself eight weeks to learn to swim and I only had three more lessons to do it. The only thing standing between me and my goal was a tall, sturdy wall called side breathing.
I barely started working on side breathing the week before, but since I swallowed more water than air, I asked Kathleen if it was because I was rushing it or if it was because I wasn't rotating my body enough. She said it was probably both and explained that your body is on a sort of axis when swimming, so you have to learn to realign it when you rotate so you can grab a breath and keep your hips up.
To help improve my rotation, Kathleen had me try a drill in which I went forward on my belly for a few kicks, turned onto my back for a few kicks, then turned onto my belly again. I failed miserably the first time — "It usually takes someone four tries to get a drill right," she said — but the third time was the charm.
I worked on that drill for the rest of the lesson, going farther down the lane each time. I called it a day as soon as my lesson ended because my quad still wasn't anywhere near 100%.
I was back at the pool the next weekend for my seventh lesson. With my quad still on the mend, Kathleen had me wear fins to keep my legs from working too hard. She had me start with a freestyle swim to work on my side breathing, but I made no progress there. I told her I felt like I was too low in the water, so she brought out her video camera so that I could see what she saw.
After watching the footage, Kathleen determined that I'm where I should be, but that the problem is that my right arm shortens when I go to take a breath. She told me to start my rotation earlier in the stroke, but most importantly to slow things down to remain in control.
We focused on fixing those two issues for most of what was left of the lesson, and decided to end with underwater swims to help me learn how to press into the water and understand the role that head and body positioning plays in swimming.
I stayed for an extra 20 minutes afterwards to work on side breathing. Kathleen, who was still in the pool working with another client, noticed that one of my swims was exceptionally good.
"That was magnificent," she said, even though I confessed that I swam the entire lap without taking a breath, made possible by the fins. "It's OK. Your body was long and your strokes were perfect and under control."
That boosted my confidence, so I exited to pool before it all went downhill.
Left: My eighth and final lesson at ClubSport San Jose. Right: I liked swimming with fins so much that I decided to buy my own pair.
For my eighth and final lesson, Kathleen shifted the focus to feeling more relaxed and confident on my back. She had me grab a kickboard and told me to gently rest my hands on it to keep my body up, and to kick as if I was showing off my pedicure. I kept sinking, so she held me up until I got the hang of it. The funny thing is that the only support she gave me was putting her fingers under my feet, but apparently that was enough contact to fool me into thinking she was actually keeping me afloat. Kathleen also pointed out that I was so tense, I resembled a rooster with its chest puffed up.
I started to feel more comfortable and Kathleen eventually took the kickboard away. We worked on that exercise for the rest of the lesson and I was actually able to wade the entire length of the pool a couple of times. It might not sound like much, but for the first time in eight lessons, I felt at ease in the water and a great sense of accomplishment.
So with that, my eight lessons came to an end. Kathleen asked if I planned on continuing with swim lessons and I promptly responded yes. While learning to swim has been a much greater challenge than I expected, I know I'm close to connecting it all together and I'm determined to finish what I've started.
As for Kathleen, she's an amazing instructor and I definitely appreciate how attentive she was during every lesson. She really listened, watched closely to see what I did right and what I had to improve upon, explained and demonstrated everything in a way that's easy to understand, and challenged me without overwhelming me. Most importantly, she gave me the tools I needed to go from complete beginner to actual swimmer.
All in all, I am proud of the progress I made. I went from someone who didn't want to leave the edge of the pool to someone who really wants to reach the other end of it. I hope my experience has motivated at least one other person to go out there and take the plunge to learn to swim (or brush up on their skills). Thanks for following along — maybe I'll see you in the pool!
ClubSport has various swim programs for children and adults. For swim lessons at ClubSport San Jose, contact the Aquatics Office at (408) 574-2405. For swim lessons at other ClubSport locations, contact your local club's Activities Desk.
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