“I’m living my dream life” Sea swimming at 66

It’s being a child again

Click to see this  lovely film about swimming in the sea. People always think you are mad when you talk about swimming in the sea in the winter, but what she says here, that after three seconds you don’t feel cold, is absolutely true. Afterwards you feel wonderful.

 

Vimmii swimming

Vimmii came to me a few weeks ago. She told me that she could not swim at all and that she was very frightened of the water.  Here she is during our third lesson. She is continuing to make fantastic progress.

She told me that she had taken I think six different courses of lessons at various different pools in London and abroad. She was in despair of ever learning to swim although it was something she very much wanted to do.  One teacher had even told her that she was a hopeless case and would never learn to swim.

I often have new pupils who tell me that they have tried to learn to swim but have given up. Some like Vimmii have tried many times and had lots of lessons with little or no success. I don’t really know what the teachers are doing in these lessons but whatever it is not working. I think that the main barrier for adult learners is fear and it seems that this is the one issue that many teachers do not or cannot address. Learning to swim is not a matter of moving your arms and legs in a particular way, it is about learning how to let go and feel comfortable and in control in the water.

This video is of Vimmii’s third lesson with me.  She is 49. It turns out she could swim after all, just no-one had shown her how.

 

Patience

waiting

I have been teaching a little six year old girl for several months now. She comes right across London to get to the lesson. I think it takes her parents about an hour and a half to get to me. It is a long drive for a swimming lesson but the parents were in despair of what to do as their daughter had developed a real phobia of water, a deep seated fear and although they had tried with many different swimming lessons, including one to one, the fear seemed to be getting worse.

At the first lesson her whole body was rigid with terror as she approached the water. She was caught in a dilemma: she wanted to be able to swim but her fear was so strong that she could not allow herself to relax and trust either the water, or the adults teaching her.

We started very, very slowly, just walking round the pool, playing with a few toys and talking about her cat. Gradually she was brave enough to walk to the centre of the pool and after a few lessons she could start to let herself float a little bit, with buoyancy aids. She absolutely did not want to put her face in the water, which is more or less a requirement for learning to swim. Just the thought of it was frightening for her.

She was a delightful little girl and did make great progress but the face in the water thing was a real stumbling block, the more I tried, gently, to persuade her to do it the more resistant she became. We had one very frustrating lesson where she seemed not be listening at all and would not engage in even the usual games.

I felt that the reason she was being less cooperative was that she could feel me trying to persuade her too much. I decided to back off completely, never to mention putting her face in the water again and just to play. I worried a bit that the parents would feel they were wasting their time and money on coming all the way across London but I knew it was the only way we were going to keep things moving forward.

‘She will do it eventually’ I thought to myself: almost certain I was right.

With my change of approach she was immediately back to her usual cheery self. She could sense I was not going to push her and she could relax and enjoy being in the water.

When it was time to get out the next little boy climbed down the steps to start his lesson. I focused all my attention on him as he is much younger and can’t put his feet down in the pool where we work.

I glanced very briefly over towards the little girl and to my amazement she had submerged her whole face including eyes nose and mouth into the water . She came up grinning, and did it again, and again.

‘I really like it!’ she said.

She must have been coming to me every week for at least six months nothing I could have done would have persuaded her to put her face in the water before, but when she was ready, she did it.

We were all delighted; me, her parents, the little girl herself. She will be a swimmer now, probably for the rest of her life. It took time and patience, more than even I would have believed, but we got there in the end.

It taught me once again to remember that sometimes, in life, progress is very slow, but that there are things that are worth the wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fears that stay with us

© Bah69 | Dreamstime.com - The Deep End Photo

© Bah69 | Dreamstime.com – The Deep End Photo

Today I gave a swimming lesson to my oldest pupil to date. She is eighty nine. After a cautious start she performed a careful and graceful backstroke. She told me that although she has always enjoyed swimming she doesn’t  like to put her face in the water. She said that when she was a child a swimming teacher pushed her into the water because she didn’t want to jump in. The fear that she may never reach the surface stayed with her.  I wonder if that unkind and thoughtless teacher realised the damage she was causing all those years ago.

Hidden depths – the natural world

One of the lovely things about swimming outside is that you are submerged in the natural world. It doesn’t even have to be in a lake or river. O???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????nce when I went to Parliament Hill Lido I found myself at eye level with a pair of ducks swimming along beside me.  I think in our increasingly technological and connected age time spent alone, away from the phones and machines, is important.

When I learned to scuba dive the instructor said to us,

‘The thing most people are afraid of is the marine life, the fish, sharks and jelly fish but in fact these are the least dangerous aspect of diving’.

It is the same for swimming outdoors. When I tell people I  swim in the wild lakes of Sweden they often say things like  ‘What about the fish?.’

I believe this says more about our fears of hidden depths and monsters lurking waiting to get us than any real danger. At least I think this is true. Some of the pike you can catch in those Swedish lakes are quite enormous and they do have lots of very sharp teeth but I don’t think a pike has ever bitten a person. I have never heard of that anyway. Have you?