Learning to Swim – Week 1

One of my goals for 2015 is to learn how to swim.  I’ve been toying with this idea for about a year now and finally decided to bite the bullet.  I have some downtime in my training right now, and to be honest, after running a marathon I’m feeling a little fearless!  I really want to learn well enough to do it for cross training once a week.

I did a lot of research and found private swim lessons through All-Star Swim Academy of Atlanta.  Leslie is the instructor and she had fantastic reviews on Yelp.  I signed up for six, 30-minute private lessons over the course of three weeks with the hopes that it will be enough to get me to where I want to be.  Leslie’s pricing is very reasonable, only $120 for the package.  After signing up, I purchased a new, sporty swimsuit from Target as well as a swim cap and goggles, and got ready for my first two lessons.

swimsuitSwimsuit from Target

Lesson 1: I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  I showed up at the pool (it’s a public, indoor pool in downtown Atlanta) and while I was waiting for Leslie, I noticed that there was some sort of practice going on in the lap pool  I overheard someone talking and realized it was the Atlanta Tri Club! Even though I have NO desire to do a triathlon, something about being at the same facility of these athletes got me really motivated and inspired.

Leslie talked to me a little about my abilities – which are kind of all over the board.  I have no problem going underwater, as long as I am wearing a noseclip.  I never learned how to breathe properly, nor tread water, which I feel like have been the two largest things holding me back.  I can float and somewhat swim with a noseclip, but that’s it.  Leslie took me into the shallow pool (about three and a half feet) and we got started.

The first thing we worked on was breathing.  I quickly realized that my instinct is to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, since that’s what I do when I’m running.  However, swimming requires the exact opposite.  We started with bubbles face-in the pool, then moved on to staying underwater.  I actually had a hard time sinking to the bottom of the pool! After a few times practicing going underwater and blowing out through my nose, Leslie pooled out dive sticks and had me fetch them from the bottom of the pool.  I enjoyed the specific challenge of getting the dive sticks, and I had flashback to playing with dive sticks as a child with my sister in the summer!

Next, we worked on floating which I already knew how to do, so that went really quick, and we moved on to kicking.  First, we practiced kicking on the side of the pool, while I practiced breathing with my face in the water.  Leslie told me to really focus on keeping my toes pointed which would keep my legs straight, and kicking from my hips and not my knees.  Next, Leslie gave me a kickboard and had me kick across the pool while practicing my breathing.  The breathing was really hard for me, I had to think very consciously about it, and I was tempted to look straight up instead of to the side when I came up from air.  We did different variations of kicking across the pool with the kickboard for several out-and backs.  Then, Leslie had me use a floaty that looked a little like a barbell (a bar between two styrofoam floating devices) and kick across the pool while practicing arm motions with one arm when I came up for air.  We ended the lesson with this and I was really surprised at how much we got through in the first lesson!

Lesson 2: I showed back up on Wednesday for my second lesson.  When I arrived, Leslie was in the lap pool, which I noticed was 6’8″ deep.  She asked me to get in, and I told her that being in the deep water made me a little nervous.  Leslie told me not to worry, we were going to start by learning to tread water.  She brought flippers for me to wear for this lesson, so I put those on and got in.  I wore these for the entire lesson.

We started with treading water, like she promised.  I was really surprised when she told me to keep my legs straight as I was treading, because I had always thought you were supposed to make a bike-riding motion.  I was more surprised when I was able to tread water basically right away using the flippers.  I was still a little nervous, but it did put me at ease.

The rest of the lesson we spent doing laps and continuing to work on breathing and kicking.  For most of the lesson we used either the kickboard or the floaty barbell thing.  We did a lot of back and forth face-down and working on breathing, and then did some on my back.  We took some breaks and treaded water for 30 seconds at a time to keep getting me comfortable with it.

Toward the end, Leslie asked me to kick across the lane with no kickboard or floaty.  I looked at her like she was crazy and she assured me that I was ready.  She said to just keep my arms straight ahead of me, and stroke one arm when I came up from air.  I gave it a shot and was so surprised when I did it!  We went back again and she challenged me to only breathe four times down the lane to really focus on my breathing.  I once again told her she was crazy, but focused really hard and kicked across breathing five times.  Leslie was proud of me, but I realllllly wanted to hit just four times so I took a couple more tries and got it.  It was then I really realized how much I am motivated by specific goals and challenges (which I kind of already knew…)

I just couldn’t believe that by the end of the second lesson I was getting very close to swimming on my own! I’m really looking forward to my second week of lessons to see how much further I’ll go!  Stay tuned for my recap next week!


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