John Learns To Swim Just In Time…
26 year old civil servant John badly wanted to swim before a big holiday to Thailand. Here’s his account of the process of learning.
When I told people I couldn’t swim they’d say they didn’t believe me. Of course I could, I just needed to get in the water and I’d be fine. And if I didn’t know how then I could have someone show me. But swimming’s not like that. It’s not as complex or simple as learning and practicing a set of motions. Before anything else you have to be comfortable in the water; in submerging and enjoying it. For most people, that’s something they’ve either never had a problem with, or conquered at an early age. I hadn’t ever got there.
I called Ian desperate to learn how to swim before a holiday in Thailand. I had two weeks before I flew and wanted to be able to enjoy the water as much as everyone else on the tour I’d signed up to. I wanted him to teach me how to do strokes. Ideally I wanted to look like a passable (if weak) swimmer. Ian set me straight. There was no point learning how to traverse a stretch of water if I was fearful of it. He couldn’t guarantee what progress I’d make just by chatting to me on the phone, but he could guarantee that I would make serious progress. And I did.
We started with some exercises that gently eased me into submerging my mouth, then nose, and eventually my face into the water. Ian must have done this countless times and it showed. I made more progress in this session than I had done throughout the swimming lessons I had as a child. The next challenge was letting myself go in the water, allowing it to support my weight. After a few attempts it felt natural and I started to understand Ian’s point that it can be incredibly enjoyable just to float in the water.
The rest of my week in Wales was about consolidating and building on those foundations. Being comfortable under the water meant we could have me glide through it, introducing basic movements, and swimming on my back. If I could make the transitions between different states: going from underwater, raising my head up, or onto my back for example, I could manage in any depth of water.
When the final lesson came I could submerge and explore the water. I was able to glide and swim for a stretch on my back and transition between the two. When I got to Thailand I had a completely different relationship with the water. Ian had given me a pass to a privileged club. I wasn’t swimming the Pacific like Phelps, but I wasn’t scared of it either, I’d started to enjoy the water and could do so much more than I could just a week of tuition before. I’ve got more progress to make and I’m looking forward to the journey.