So, I had to face the challenges outlined in my last post. I was very determined to ace these challenges. Why? Well, obviously I wanted to pass the course. More importantly to me, however, was that I felt that if I was to become a dive leader and if I was to teach and mentor new divers, then I needed to be super confident in all of my skills, swimming and water skills included.
The problem was that I had never really been taught how to swim. Even though my swimming had strengthened with my diving, I still had no idea what I could do to improve. Particularly, what I really needed to nail down was the crawl (also known as freestyle). In fact, I needed to learn it from scratch, because I had never been able to do that particular stroke. I set to the task.
First stop, the internet. I searched for swimming lessons in Toronto. Let me just say that there are a lot of people who are willing to teach kids how to swim!! Not so many who want to teach adults how to swim. That may have changed by now, but a number of years ago, it was tough times for an adult trying to figure this stuff out. I popped into the local YMCA and signed up for swimming lessons. The lifeguard (who, bless her, was all of 17), tried to give me some pointers, but gave up.
Back to the internet. And YouTube came to the rescue….well, at least somewhat. I watched a few clips on the dynamics of the stroke and one particularly helpful clip that broke the stroke down into its individual components. At my local pool I started putting those pieces together.
I think the reason why so many people find swimming easy and particularly the crawl, is because they learn as children. A child doesn’t, they just do it. As an adult, our brains interfere, making it a damn sight harder to get all of those small parts to work in unison.
Lots and lots of practice and a one-on-one lesson with a future Olympian helped slowly bring the pieces together. My technique is certainly not clinical, but with perseverance and about six or so months of at least thrice-weekly swimming sessions, I gradually improved.
Did it help? Well, I scored the maximum of 5 points on the 400m swim and even beat the times of most of my peers, who already knew the stroke. It may seem silly, but it is one of my proudest accomplishments, post-degree education or not. Let’s just say this is what I looked like after improving my swimming (sans the speedo outfit) ;)
So why is this something I think you need to hear about? Is it to boast? Certainly not. Yes, as I said, I am proud of my achievement, but why I am raising it here is for an entirely different reason …. which will be set out in the next post …