Everybody in the Pool!

I would be a terrible tri-athlete.  I can run – and with proper training (which I have decidedly NOT been doing this summer) am not that bad at it.  Not so bad so far, right?

Then there’s the bike.  You see, I haven’t had a bike since I was 10 (they kept getting stolen in Camden where I grew up and so we just stopped buying them.  Really).  In college and grad school, I always walked or took public transportation, and in my adult life, I had tennis and running and racquetball and so never bothered.  I would be a perfect test for that adage about “you never forget how to ride a bike”.

And finally, there’s swimming.  You see, when I was a kid, we never had a pool, or had access to one.  When we would want to cool off from the summer heat, we’d play in a fire-hydrant sprinkler — think slip-n-slide except that it has to be turned on by the cops and you slide by accident because you slide on asphalt.  At least it's right there to wash out the scrapes.

Anyway, fast forward through the years and nowhere in my education was “learning to swim” required for anything.  And so I never did.  Always stayed near the shallow end of the pool.  Always wore my life preserver on boats.  I’d tell people that I couldn’t swim and they’d look at me funny – though not as funny as when they do when you tell them you haven’t ridden a bike since the Ford Administration.

Well – this year for my birthday, a gift from one of my friends was a series of private swimming lessons, and today I had the first one.  It was very cool – we had it early in the morning to protect my skin.  My instructor Jerry (a super-fit guy in his 60s who says he’s been competitively swimming for 50 years) asked me to swim halfway out into the pool and back.  I did my best and was happy that I could indeed at least do that.  His appraisal: Don’t fall out of a boat.

The lesson was really fun.  He learned I was a scientist and we talked about the biomechanics of swimming and hydrodynamics.  I learned the basics of keeping my head in the water and breathing on one side.  By the end of 45 minutes, I could do 6-8 strokes without a) sinking, and b) inhaling any water.   Jerry seemed pleased and said that I’d be wanting to get a dolphin tattoo very soon.  I told him that I’d settle for a turtle.

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27 thoughts on “Everybody in the Pool!

  1. Yay to you for taking the lessons! My mom never learned how to swim, so her whole life she's been afraid of water. I'm betting you'll really enjoy all the different ways to swim. Have fun!

  2. Yehaw, a dolphin tatoo would look sooo good on you!
    It depends on where you live – but when I was little it was unheard of to not take swimming lessons. As an adult I was quite surprised by my friends who never learned. Not because it was "unfashionable" but because it just seemed dangerous not to know. Ironically the one stroke I can't do is the one you were describing (the most important one); the butterfly or breast stroke, maybe….? I'm just not coordinated enough.

  3. I hope you enjoy your lessons! I did not learn how to swim until I was in my 20s. The only reason why I took the plunge was because two of my flights during the same attempt to get across the Carribean ended in emergency landings. In my terrified and slightly illogical mind: if those sharks were going to eat me, they'd at least have to chase me a little bit. So I learned how to swim. But I do not enjoy the pools, lakes or oceans like people that learned earlier in life. To me swimming is more of an exercise and work rather than pleasure. I wonder if this is true for all people the learn later.

  4. Never to late to learn. I've always felt that everyone should know how to swim. Even if you don't enjoy it, you never know when it will come in handyNow about that Triathlon

  5. What a great gift. I echo Hannah, what's next? I remember taking swimming lessons when I was little. I remember it being freezing cold jumping into the outdoor pool for those lessons. I guess I learned something. I can swim, but not very well; maybe enough to keep me from drowning.

  6. That's fantastic, Steve! My mom made me go through all levels of swimming lessons so that I could save her since she can't swim.
    I had several bikes stolen as a kid, too, and that's in a tiny town in MT!

  7. Hannah — I don't know that I think of myself as a life-long learner, though I made some really important changes in my life about 10 years ago that makes me feel like I have a "second wind" to try some of these things!

  8. AKK — I think I'm too pale to ever really enjoy being out in the water for too long, but having some confidence in the water — and finding an exercise that won't pound my knees is a pretty good thing.

  9. Thanks Katie — I think the one thing that has made these things easier is that with getting older, I've lost that self-consciousness about "not being any good at such-and-such" or the "what will people think if they see I'm not good"… that's really empowering.

  10. Ellie — I knew at UNC (where I was a grad student) that all the undergrads had to pass basic swimming. It was a requirement that dated back to the Second World War b/c of boys being sent to the Pacific.

  11. Thanks Amy Sue — I think like with a lot of things I'm just really curious and will undoubtedly kick myself with the "why didn't I do this sooner?" refrain! No time like the present!

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