One stroke, two stroke, three stroke, cough

One more early morning swim lesson, one step closer to being able to swim!

I have to say, I’m doing stuff in the water that I NEVER thought I’d be doing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not swimming freestyle, but I’m making progress.  My instructor said that I’m getting more comfortable in the water.  The first thing she had me do today was 10 “bobs”, where I go under and exhale and come back up.  Sounds simple enough, but to me this was a big deal.  And still is a big deal.  I had to  psyche myself up to do it, but I did it and I felt okay doing it.  Progress!

After my bobs, I had to do a lap holding the kick board and just kicking.  This was my warm up.  After that she had me jump right back into where we left off last week, which was the one-armed freestyle stroke including putting my face in the water and exhaling.  Yikes!  Nothing like easing back into things after the holidays!  I mean, it wasn’t even 5:20 in the morning and she’s having me get right back on that horse.  I didn’t really even have a chance to think about it; which is probably good for me.

I did a few one-armed laps and I did okay, nothing great, but definitely okay (for me!).

And then the shit got real!

Abbie wanted me to do a full stroke.  Actually in my mind it seemed more like a stroke and a half.  So for my non-swimmer readers, what I had to do was (with my face under the water – this can’t be forgotten!), with both of my arms outstretched in front of me and hanging on to the kick board, I had to bring my right arm down into the water, back by my side, up in the air and back to the kick board and then I had to do the left arm the same way AND THEN I HAD TO DO THE RIGHT ARM AGAIN!!!  H.O.L.Y. S.H.I.T.

I actually sat in the water silent (which is hard for me) and stunned when she told me what she wanted me to do.  I truly couldn’t wrap my tiny brain around what she was asking me to do.  I physically didn’t know how to do it.  While it seems logical and natural because we’ve all seem swimmers do it millions of times, there was nothing logical or natural about it for ME!  I had to have her show me how to do it – twice!

And I have to process things and understand them before I can do them.  So while I was trying to process this task I realized my, blow-the-air-out-of-my-lungs-quickly-so-I-turn-my-head-to-breath technique I had been doing during my one-armed drill wasn’t going to work for me.  I couldn’t exhale quickly because I couldn’t turn my head for 3 strokes (2 on the right arm and 1 on the left) and if I couldn’t turn my head I would basically run out of air and panic.  So I realized very quickly that the trick to the success on this step would be for me NOT TO PANIC, but instead to take my time and exhale slowly so I wouldn’t run out of air before it was time to come up and take a breath.  The whole, not-panic-thing, is much easier said than done.  Yikes!

But I had to do it… here goes nothing….

Floating.  Holding on to kick board.  Face in water. Right arm. Left arm. Right arm. Turn my head and breathe.

Holy fuck I did it!!!!!!!!!  I did it.

It wasn’t pretty and I kind of rushed it.  BUT I DID IT!

When I got done with my lap, she wanted me to do another. This time I had to do two in row.  AAHH!!  Are you kidding me?!?!  That is 6 arms strokes and two breaths!  AAAAHHHH.

But I did it!  Again, it wasn’t pretty.  And I took a longer “break” between strokes 1 and 2 than I should have, but I did it.

And then the shit got real.  AGAIN!

This whole two-arm stroke thing is HUGE for me and I thought I’d be concentrating on doing more of that for the rest of the lesson.  But apparently Abbie had other ideas.

You know what she did next?  She took away my kick board!  Abbie, you descendent of Satan… how dare you take away my kick board!

You know what happens when a person who can’t swim doesn’t have a kick board to help?  They sink!  I kid you not.  I was sinking like a fricken rock.  So much for progress!

Abbie had me float with my arms out stretched in front of me and then she wanted me to try to do a few strokes.  But you have to remember, that as I move the 25 yards of the pool, I don’t do strokes the whole time.  I do 1 or 2 and the rest of the time I am either freaking out, recovering from freaking out, trying to calm my breathing, etc.  So when you’re not actually doing a stroke and your arms are out in front of you and your head is above water and all you really have to help power you forward are your tired legs, you have a tendency to sink.

And then survival mode kicks in and you just try to do anything to stay afloat.  At this point all bets were off and all the tasks Abbie gave me to do were thrown out the window.  Abbie wanted me to do a one-armed stroke and then swim on my side for a bit.  But this is what actually happened.

Arms out stretched – I start to sink.  So I kick harder to stay afloat.  Not doing well, but I’m determined to keep my nose above water as not to drown before the New Year.  Kick. Kick. Kick.

Dear lord, this is hard.

Kick. Kick. Kick.

My nose is just barely above water.

Crap, I forgot I have to try to do a stroke.

I put my face under the water and try to exhale.

But I’m already so tired from trying to keep my head above water that my form is not good.  I don’t exhale and turn my head as much as I put my face under the water and I do “something” that may or may not include exhaling, then bring my face above water, I forget all about going on my side, I also don’t have my arms outstretched because this doesn’t keep me afloat and instead I do some weird sort of half-freestyle/half-doggie-paddle-stroke as I swallow a crap load of water and then I cough and choke it all up.

I try my best not to stop swimming but I realize things aren’t going well. So I stop in the middle of the pool and I cough it out.

Well that sucked!

And I’m not to the edge of the pool so I have to keep going.  Shit.

So I repeat this again.  Seriously, the whole damn thing.  The floating, the sinking, the nose above water, the panicky face in the water, the half-ass exhale, the coming up, the swallowing water, the coughing and choking.  Fun times!

And I had to do one more lap like this.  This girl is a sadist.  I think it’s her way of getting back at me for scheduling my lesson at 5:15 in the morning!

At one point as I was trying to survive – I can’t say I was swimming – because I was literally just trying to survive at this point and in my one-armed stroke/doggie paddle madness, I actually used both arms and did a full stroke!  Completely by accident.  I was just “flailing” trying not to sink and both my right arm and left arm happened to go up and over (and no my face was not under water at this time – it was positioned nicely above water enjoying free flowing oxygen!!!).  While Abbie was excited and said, “your body wants to do it and wants to swim”.  In reality my body wasn’t trying to swim, it was self-preservation and my body’s way to survive and to keep from drowning.

But maybe that’s it.  Maybe somewhere deep, deep, deep in the recesses of my subconscious, I already know how to swim.  Maybe the key to swimming is simple – do whatever it takes to ensure self-preservation and survival.

Sounds simple enough.

So here’s to self-preservation and doing what it takes to survive!

Until next time,

Gotta Run (or swim)



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