Water Logged

I took my first swim class last night. Well, not my first ever. I’ve had lessons in the past, you know. Most recently I took swimming lessons at the Stewart Park pool in 1967, with my brother and this kid named Joey who must have always had a fever because whenever I swam through an area he was just in, the water was much warmer.

No, this wasn’t my first swim lesson. Just the first one with the new leg. Which will take some getting used to. I had a bit of trouble setting it to the fully extended setting in order to best swim. And once there, I had further trouble getting it go back to the walking setting. But I suppose this will get easier in time. And this wasn’t my first time in water with this leg. I did make splishy-splashy with my kids in a pool down in Florida last month. Where I promptly ripped off one of the toes.

But I got in the water and I swam. No, I didn’t. Yes, I got in the water. No, I didn’t swim. Not yet.

I learned to breathe. I learned to kick. I kicked a lot. I spent a lot of time kicking. With my arms out in front of me at first, then with my arms pressed down with my elbows in my ribs. I don’t get very far with just my kicks. I don’t know if that’s because of my leg, because of how I kick, or if no one goes very far with just kicks. I pretty much had my head in the water all the time. And I learned to make myself lean. In both senses of the word. I kicked, and I rolled, and I flipped, and I breathed. And not a single stroke was stroked.

Welcome to the world of Total Immersion swimming.

I first heard about TI* at the top of a mountain, of all places. Specifically, on top of Mt. Washington (I know, I know…I’ll tell that part soon. Promise.) by a triathlete who suggested that, should I ever want to consider doing a tri, it might be the way to do the swimming part. I assured him that I would never do one, but thanks for the information.

According to the website: “TI teaches you to swim with the effortless grace of fish by becoming one with the water. TI emphasizes the same patient precision and refinement taught by martial arts masters. We start with simple skills and movements and progress by small, easily-mastered steps. Our students thrive on the attention to detail and the logical sequence of progressive skills.”

So, I started at the bottom. Well, not the bottom. I always floated to the top. Karen–the instructor–started showing us the basics: hand position in the water, how to properly kick, how to exhale under water, how to align our head and shoulders.

It’s a lot coordinated physical movement. This is not my strong suit. I’m great when it comes to the whole left leg/right leg thing with cycling. One’s going down while the other goes up. Pretty simple. Anything past that gets to be a challenge. If I put my left hand in and take my left hand out, it’s an accomplishment. Shaking it all about is a bonus.

It’s kind of humbling to admit stuff like this. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been big on acknowledging my limitations. If I couldn’t do something well, I just didn’t do it. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of my life on the couch in front of the TV. I can channel-surf like a boss, yo.

But this doesn’t bother me. Again I was surprised at my reaction to the class. I think I was the worst swimmer of the group. Or maybe that was just my impression. I really didn’t pay much attention to anyone else. I just concentrated on my form, and accomplishing the simple tasks set out by the instructor, done in the order she gave them. How to kick. How to position my head, my arms. When to breathe in, and when to breathe out (hint: one of them you don’t do underwater).

I made mistakes, but I think I’m learning. Karen did a bunch of correcting of what I was doing, but she also let me know when I was doing it right. At one point, while she was working with one of the others in the class, the rest of us were hanging out at one end of the pool. One of my classmates looked at me and said “Well, it looks like you’re going to be the teacher’s pet!”

I laughed. “I certainly hope not!” I replied.

So I’ve got work to do. I’m guessing the mental part of the swimming is going to be more difficult than the physical part for a while. But that’s okay. I need to keep reminding myself that it’s been more than three decades since I’ve really done any swimming. I’m going to learn at the pace I learn, and swim at the pace I swim. Eventually I know I’ll be faster. I have no clue how fast I’ll end up, but I don’t care. The only person I’m competing against is myself, and since I’m off the couch, I’m in the lead.

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*Far simpler than spelling it out.

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