I'm Trying To Get Better At Swimming

It's Florida and it's the summer time. Of course I'm in the pool.

Jul 19, 2014 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

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This is the local pool at which I spent my summer Saturdays.

My parents got me swimming lessons when I was a kid as a general safety thing. 

These swimming lessons were, I think, held at some neighbor's pool in Atlanta. The memory is kind of hazy -- because it was super terrible and terrifying. The instructor thought it was a good idea to physically force a kid's face in the water if they were nervous about it.

That method didn't really work for me. At all.

And even though I hadn't been afraid of the water before, I left pretty much convinced that I was going to drown and die if I ever put my face in the water while swimming. I could swim underwater just fine but the cognitive dissonance of that didn't really register. All I knew was I couldn't breathe while that lady held my face down.

Despite my failure at swimming lessons, I still spent a lot of time actually swimming.

Once school ended for the summer, my parents would drive me down to Florida and I would stay with my great-grandmother in her single-wide trailer. Sometimes it was so hot that we'd sleep on the fold-out couch in the living room because that's where the window unit air conditioner was.

(Granny would pull out the hymn book and we'd sing the patriotic songs in the back. This is why I know all four verses to "The Star Spangled Banner" -- they get pretty grim, y'all.)

The days were spent playing with other local kids. (Generally alone and unsupervised.) And in addition to bike riding on dirt roads and shelling peas on the front porch, we swam.

There was this swimming pool, owned by one of the neighbors -- it was an above-ground swimming pool that had definitely seen better days. Maybe the pump and filter weren't working -- or maybe there wasn't one. Either way, the water was cool and green and a little slimy.

Of course we swam in it. It was Florida, in the summer time, and we were, like, maybe 10 years old, if that. We weren't that squeamish and we didn't always make choices based on potential bacteria.

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St. Augustine has one of my favorite beaches -- watch out for hot sand, though. I actually blistered my feet there once.

The places I swam were all so different from the pool where those awful swimming lessons took place -- above-ground pools are round, maybe 20 feet in diameter. They don't lend themselves to swimming laps. And swimming in the ocean or the lake actually mostly consisted of splashing around and floating and freaking out when anything -- like a fish or a plant -- touched me.

None of that called for the kind of swimming illustrated by the line drawings of different strokes in my swimming lesson pamphlet.

And that's why I now tend to think of myself as being a strong swimming -- but not a GOOD swimmer. 

Sure, I can tread water like a champ. I can still swim underwater. I can crawl around for hours at a slow but steady pace. But the freestyle, demonstrated by everyone swimming laps ever, is still outside of my comfort zone by a huge margin.

Lately I've been going to the self-paced lap swimming hour at my local pool, in addition to the general open swim. And I'm determined to get better at this. 

The YouTube how-to video portion of this is easy. Not so easy: looking like a fool in public as I practice something I'm terrible at. 

Even so, I'm determined. As you read this, I'm most likely at the pool, splashing around and feeling some frustration -- but hopefully making progress toward conquering this whole irrational situation.

Can you swim? Have you always wanted to learn? Got any tips for me?

And what skills are you wanting to improve on this summer? 

Welcome to the weekend.