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swimmers stories

Gail W. - the experience of a first lesson

When I was asked if I could swim my answer was I can get to one end of the pool to the other with my body in a horizontal position, flap my arms and legs a bit, stop for a chat at the other end, then return… however I am not entirely sure what I do would be defined as swimming. I am a personal trainer, and I consider myself to be fit. I have enjoyed surfing holidays, and water sport activities, amazingly I am also a qualified rescue diver but have never really felt confident in the water. I taught myself to swim, having never had a swimming lesson, water always went up my nose and I didn’t know how to breathe properly and being a fitness professional I felt that I should have learnt to swim properly years ago. I was embarrassed to try to learn to swim properly.

One of my friends persuaded me to enter a triathlon and having left it until the very last minute with 8 weeks to go I have decided to finally take the plunge (forgive the pun) and have swimming lessons.

Apart from feeling like an idiot and suffering massive embarrassment by not being able to swim at my age and also having to endure the response from others, ranging from light hearted jibes, general disbelief that I couldn’t swim properly and the comments about the cost of the lesson, I was really nervous generally about the lesson. I thought that I would never be able to get through an hour of swimming as I have not been in a pool for that amount of time since I used to go to the local baths and throw myself on and off of a giant inflatable whale-(I didn’t think that hanging on to the pool side cooling myself down with a cocktail in my hand would count). I also wondered if I would be bored, cold or overwhelmed. I had no idea what to expect and wondered how Nick would keep me occupied with a float for an hour!

Before the lesson I could not believe the amount of anxiety I felt. Needing help to put on my swimming cap didn’t fill me with confidence at the beginning of the lesson however Nick made me feel completely relaxed and went through everything at my pace - slow.

We started off with posture and body positioning in the water and not a float in sight. I had difficulty learning the very first drill and wondered constantly how terrible I was, I felt awfully frustrated that I was unable and generally incompetent at the very first thing that Nick showed me and immediately felt that I was useless. However Nick was extremely patient, calm and composed. He worked with me, and adapted the drill until I felt comfortable with it. After my confidence grew in my ability and in Nick’s ability to be able to teach me, I began to feel a difference in my progress.

Nick has a calm and relaxed manner and he was extremely respectful of my space and feelings of inadequacy in the water. He didn’t even laugh at me when I had to take my goggles off so I could hear him better.

When I started to relax I started to notice a huge difference to how my body felt in the water. I have always wanted to swim, but have found it the most effortful of all exercise. Whenever I was to leave the water before my shoulders and neck would ache, and there was little pleasure in dragging myself through the water. The way that Nick taught me to hold my body in the water and glide through it made such a phenomenal difference for the first time in my life I believed that I was actually making some progress. I felt light and held by the water, it really made sense.

After working on my body position and posture in the pool, Nick then taught me how to breathe out of my mouth under water. Hey presto, no water goes up your nose. AND when you stop worrying about water going up your nose and breathe out of your mouth you are generally much more relaxed in the water. Genius!

The way Nick made me understand moving in the water was that it should be graceful. The idea is to glide through the water, displacing as little water as possible. All the drills naturally moved on from each other and all geared toward the goal of function in the water. With that grace naturally followed. I was left with a massive sense of achievement.

At the end of my first session I was grinning. Not just a small grin, but a genuine I can do this out loud grin. It felt fantastic. So good in fact I dragged my boyfriend to the pool the very next day to show him the drills. He now too is a convert.

The frustration and information overload that I felt at the beginning of the first lesson are slowly dissipating every time I get in the pool to practice. In fact I can’t wait until my next lesson.