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Fitness | Adult Swimming

If you’ve been following me on Twitter lately, you know I’ve started taking adult swimming lessons.

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Although I took plenty of lessons as a kid and spent many summers playing in the pool at a hot springs in Montana, I wouldn’t have ever claimed to be  a strong swimmer.  And somewhere along the way as an adult, I realized I had developed some anxieties around swimming in deep water.  It mostly manifests itself in a panicky feeling, with my lungs constricting and having a hard time breathing.

So whenever I find myself at the ocean or a lake, I have mostly stayed on the shore and watched others swim.  I suppose I could live the whole rest of my life that way and be just fine.   But where’s the fun in that?  Who wants to admit they’re giving in to fear?  Not me, for dang sure.  Plus, how great would it be to be able to swim on a regular basis to balance out my running?

After reading how both Caitlin and Page conquered their open water swimming anxiety and went on to rock Ironman races, I knew it was something I could certainly learn to overcome.  So in January, I did something I’ve been mulling over for the last three years: I signed up for adult swimming lessons.  Forty-five minutes a week for 10 weeks at a local swimming pool.

On Tuesday I’ll be half way done with the lessons and I’m so glad I finally convinced myself to do this.  So far I’ve been working on learning the breaststroke (no crawl stroke for these Germans!) — improving my form, increasing my endurance, and trying to incorporate the proper breathing technique into the stroke.   Coordinating the inhaling above water with the exhaling below the surface is definitely not my forte.  That will take some time to get right.

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Most of the lesson takes place in a shallow swimming pool where it’s possible to stand.  But after the lesson my swim teacher takes us to the normal, deeper pool and has us swim laps to build endurance.  I love that, but apparently only when I can swim next to the side of the pool.  Last week, he had me try to swim some laps in the middle of the deep pool, where there is nothing to grab on to.  I panicked.  It’s not like I ever actually needed to grab onto the side of the pool before, but just knowing that I wouldn’t be able to caused panic to set in.  I made it through my lap, but was having a hard time breathing and was generally just freaking out.

After taking a break, though, my swim teacher didn’t want me to give in to the fear — he kept repeating that I can swim and there’s nothing to worry about.  So I agreed to try again.  To keep me calm, he swam right in front of me the whole first lap and watched me the entire time.  Once I saw I was able to do that, he swam right behind me on the next lap.  And so it goes.

Emotional swimming

It still kind of freaks me out, quite honestly.  I didn’t enjoy those laps at all, but now I know in my head that there’s nothing to be afraid of.  I hope this will help keep the panic at bay next time.  I was utterly exhausted after that lesson and couldn’t wait for it to be over.  But I’m so glad I have six more to go so that I can keep proving to myself that I’m capable of so much more than I think I am.

Do you like to swim?  What’s your favorite swim stroke?  Have you ever tried to conquer some of your fears?

Want to hear how those swimming lessons turned out?  Check out this post:

8 comments

  1. Frau Dietz says:

    I absolutely *love* swimming and am really, really missing doing it at the moment (see: baby). For me, there’s absolutely nothing like it for de-stressing and clearing my mind – as well as making me feel well and truly worked out.

    I hope you are really bloody proud of yourself, what an amazing achievement! You’ve already come so very far – and it sounds like you have a great teacher. Good on you for taking such a scary step to overcome your fear and I hope that you can gradually come to enjoy it :)

  2. Debi says:

    Wow! So cool! I’m not a strong swimmer either and get panicky about running out of breadth and not being able to see….maybe I should practice too since my office is on the same floor as the university swimming pool!

  3. Vanessa Blackman says:

    This is so cool. Two years ago I said I was going to learn how to swim for the same reasons that you listed. I bought a one piece swimsuit and goggles at the Hamburg Triathlon Expo, watched a bunch of Youtube tutorials, went to the pool once, and that was it. This post motivates me to give it another try.

  4. Riayn says:

    I am so proud of you for getting out there and conquering your fears. I really hope at the end of your adult swim course you start to feel at home in the water, no matter what the depth.

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