I took an adult swimming lesson and I’ll do it again

This swimmer seems to have breathing down. I'll get there one day. (Flickr.com/Sir Mervs, Creative Commons license)

[Editor’s note: I’m still not ready to blog about my doctor’s visit. It’s depressing. I’ve got five more weeks in the cast. I’ll be ready soon, I hope.]

After my stab at learning to swim properly from the wonderful world wide Web, I decided to sign up for a private swimming lesson at my gym.

When the instructor, Antonio Santoro, contacted me and I — of course — Googled him and found out that he’s some sort of international swimming sensation, who also still has a standing record at SIU, I freaked out. Not gonna lie.

In fact, when we started discussing when my first swimming lesson would be earlier this week, and he said he had Thursday morning free, I started thinking of excuses for why I should wait until the following Thursday to book my appointment.

Then I reminded myself that this was something I wanted to do and that waiting another week wasn’t going to help my cause (i.e., keep working out while injured).

The big day

This morning I left my house at 5:20, which goes to show how anxious I was. I was supposed to be in the pool at 5:30!

On a normal work out day I’d have arrived 10 to 15 minutes early to warm up before my training session — I like to use my time to its fullest and get my money’s worth. Today I really wasn’t concerned with that.

I shyly entered the pool area, and Antonio stood up to greet me.

“Hi, I’m Antonio,” he said.

“Hi, I’m terrified,” I quipped. He laughed. It made me feel a little better.

In the pool

He didn’t waste any time having me hop into the water. He wanted to see how I looked doing freestyle. I crawled down the ladder into the pool and sheepishly donned my nose plug. Then I thanked my lucky stars that I forced myself to do something last time, so he didn’t have to see that version!

Down the lane I went. And again it was ugly. Here’s what I learned I was doing wrong:

  • Holding my breath
  • Exhaling it all above water then gasping for air to refill my depleted lungs (apparently above water we humans never expel every ounce of air in our lungs…)
  • Lifting my head
  • Not rotating my body
  • Kicking at inconsistent speeds (which means I slowed down my kicking when I surfaced for air, then sped back up)

There is a lot to keep track of while trying to swim. Add to that list that you’ve got strokes and buoyancy to keep track of and it’s a recipe for disaster for uncoordinated folks like me.

You know what, though? My Brazilian phenom swim coach was patient and worked with me every step (er, stroke?) of the way. And I improved. Quite a lot over the course of 30 minutes, I’d say.

The drills

What happened in those 30 minutes? Breathing drills and practice:

  • First I simply used a kickboard to kick one length and simply put my head in the water. The goal was to not hold my breath.
  • Next I did the same thing but used one hand on the board and practiced rotating my head to the side “like a robot” and again, not hold my breath.
  • Then we took the kickboard away, and I moved my head to one side to breathe every other stroke.

Then he had me swim. We adjusted when I moved my head, my kicking, my speed. I improved with every stroke.

Ready for more

By the time my 30 minutes were up, I could feel when my head was out of place. I could tell when I wasn’t rotating my body. And that was after one lesson! (Clearly I’m no pro, but I’m not a hopeless cause.)

So when we were done, I swam for 15 more minutes on my own, then hopped out of the pool and signed up for eight more lessons. Imagine what I could do with a lot of practice!

For the first time in more than a week, I’m excited about working out again.

Thanks Antonio!


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  1. Pingback: Path to becoming a swimmer: (Olympic) trials and triumphs « f my injury [dot] com