Saturday, 19 March 2011

Teaching an old fish new tricks

You know that kid at school who was last in all the sports races? The last to be picked at team-picking time?

That was me.

Swimming was the worst. It would completely exhaust and humiliate me. Other children would glide through the deep end with ease, whilst I stayed at the shallow end with a couple of girls who cried every week and another who was slowed down considerably by wearing her full PE kit.

I avoided swimming for a good few years after school.

About 15 years ago I learned how to do breast stroke properly from a magazine article. It transpired that the stroke they had taught us in school, where you stuck your head out of the water and bobbed along, was old news. It was reserved for those middle-aged women who chatted whilst swimming and kept their perm dry and all their make-up intact.

With my cutting edge skills I was the New Generation - goggles and all - and I overtook all the elderly women in the pool. Whoosh. It felt amazing. I thought about learning front crawl, but I was already too mightily impressed with myself to find the motivation. So I rested on my laurels for a bit, and finally stopped swimming altogether.

Then the Littlest Latte started to learn to swim.

The Littlest Latte is a natural. She jumps straight into the deep end and splashes off as if it is as natural as walking. Watching her joy in the water reminded me of my abandoned plans for front crawl.

So I convinced my mother to buy me a 10-week course of swimming lessons as a Christmas present, and since January I have left the house every Saturday morning at 7am to go to the sports centre. In the early weeks, it seemed insane - leaving a warm bed to chip frost off the windscreen in the dark whilst my children were still asleep. I went from a freezing cold car to a freezing cold pool, and didn't really warm up until lunchtime.

However, I am proud to report that I can now jump straight into the deep end and swim half the length of the swimming pool in a deadly slow front crawl.

And now the morning skies have started to look like this, I am really wishing I had a few more lessons left to enjoy.


  1. Goodness - you weren't having your swimming lessons in an outdoor pool were you?

    My swimming is more about floating around, gazing at the ceiling or sky than actual stoke technique, so I am deadly impressed that you have Been Learning New Things.

  2. Me too with the last-to-be-picked thing (and to be honest, I can't blame them, I was appalling). I had a big lightbulb moment when my husband explained to me in my 20s that when people said 'watch the ball' they actually meant to watch it and continue to watch it all the way to the bat (ok he said racquet), and bring the bat to meet it. Honestly, it made such a difference as I previously thought you were just supposed to watch the ball as it drifted past you.

    Well done on the swimming triumph! I am properly impressed as I haven't even attempted front crawl since the age of 14, it looks a bit like hard work to me!

  3. You have more drive than I have unmanageable hair. Seriously? You got up before dawn to do swimming in the middle of the winter? Bl&&dy hell woman. You're like that geezer who sat on top of a pole for three years. I have no such stoicism.

  4. Must get back in the pool. I do that head out of the water breaststroke but quite fast. I have to wear my specs when swimming -feel really disoriented otherwise.

  5. CL!!?? Did you do all this before or after your morning coffee?

    I was also a non-swimmer in my school days and I swore that I'd make sure my kids could swim with perfect technique. Sure enough, in true Aussie tradition, they went to weekly lessons forever and actually enjoyed their school's Swim Carnivals.

    A couple of years ago I found a video in the library by John Konrads and I went to the pool once a week and practiced. Woohoo!!

    This is it, now in DVD...hehe
    Awesome. Cannot recommend it highly enough.

    Can't wait for Eurolush to read this post. I feel a swim-off coming on.

    E x

  6. Oh good for you to take swimming lessons, especially when it was soooo cold. My girls have been swimming since they were 5 and are both good swimmers. It is such a fantastic skill to have. The 17 year old swims every Saturday morning for an hour and the 20 year old has just taken up swimming twice a week again.
    See if you can get some swimming in once a week to keep up your new found skill.
    Have a great weekend,
    Anne xx

  7. I'm so impressed. I bloody hate the swimming pool. It's not the swimming part (I have plenty of natural buoyancy!), it's the scuzzy changing rooms and pervy fellow pool users that get me.

  8. I wonder if I can find that magazine article somewhere on the net?

    And also?

    Were we separated at birth?

  9. Good for you! Swimming is a great life skill, practical and fun. I believe you should be referring to your new skill as your Australian Crawl however.

    I keep saying I never wanted to oversubscribe my kids to after-school activities but at last count it was Tennis on Monday, Swimming on Tuesday, Soccer in winter and cricket in summer plus Tap on Saturdays. My way of justifying that is that I don't really count the Tap-dance as I'm teaching it and that Swimming is a Basic, not an Extra.

  10. I am so impressed! I love swimming, but I don't want to get up at 7 AM on a Saturday even if Jesus is meeting me at Starbucks.

  11. wowo hurray! I had lessons to learn front crawl too when Miss K asked me why I couldn't do it... I had to go out at 9 at night, when a glass of wine was sooo much more tempting than a swim. no lessons here, can't decide if it's a shame or not....

  12. I've always enjoyed swimming but as for the rest yeruch! Especially hockey in the frosty mornings (it was Aberdeen) in navy shorts and t shirt. The teachers always seemed to be wrapped up like eskimos. It was probably child abuse before it was thought of.
    Good luck with the morning swims, the local pool probably opens at 6

  13. Well, swimming/floating IS natural.
    in fact they're doing the whole water birth thing. Want to know how I thought my son? Threw him off the boat around 2 or so, turned it into a game and he loved it. Obviously there were the occasional despair faces with gasping but in a few attempts ... voilĂ .

  14. That's fantastically impressive, at 7 am! Must feel great though, to learn something covetable like that..
    I do the fake-crawl, the one where I do breast stroke and switch to 2 or 3 crawl strokes to reach the side - I can't for the life of me do the breathing-under-your-arm thing.
    Eldest does it impressively. Hmm, maybe I could try and learn it this summer, 'cause it sure is something I would like to be able to do..

  15. I'm so jealous! I never learnt to swim as a child (not part of the curriculum in Ireland) and now as an adult I've had several attempts at swimming lessons to no avail. Maybe that can be something for the Summer months... VERY WELL DONE. From someone who knows. C.x

  16. Oh very well done. I learned to swim when I was over 40 after someone told me how to breathe whilst doing the strokes; previously I'd been holding my breath. Such a simple thing.

  17. 7am? That is determined. But I suspect its definitely worth it - I was taught to swim at school but do regret not going more often these days. Its the thought of being cold on the walk home that does me in!

  18. I can empathise with being picked last for sports.i can remember wailing to my mother because I couldn't skip either. I love reading your blog.

  19. I am the next generation of old ladies who hold their heads up to stop their blue rinses from getting wet. The only thing to complete the entry qualifications is a blue rinse.

  20. Well done for braving all those cold mornings! I LOVE swiiming, as its nice to feel weightless, as I abhor nearly all forms of excercise.

    If I won the lottery I would have one in my back garden, what bliss having a dip every day, with the sun on my face... Good luck with your progress:)

  21. Berlimey, I'm impressed. I can swim, well enough, but certainly can't dive in and swim. Maybe if I had goggles and a noseclip ...

    My two put me to shame. I have to let Mr DC take them into deeper water so that my ridiculous nervousness doesn't transmit to them.

  22. go you! floating about in the water is so relaxing, and remember to put on your swimsuit and get into the pool with the kids to just play sometimes. from Pixie who lurks here, and swims about 8km per week, including early sessions at weekends.;-)

  23. I'm very very impressed.


    I can swim. My mum is a swim instructor and we HAD to learn the whole shebang. (I still can't do that silly somersault underwater to turn around... forget it, I can live without that skill). I hated it though. Most boring thing in the world.

    Did I tell you I am very impressed?

  24. I'm Crayon - Jesus goes to Starbucks? I'm very disappointed. I thought he'd be more of a Neros man.

    Helen - don't get me started on hockey. Those sticks weren't made for the smaller girls.

    Paola pfft. Natural for SOME. I would like to throw my kids off a boat sometimes but not for educational purposes.

    Jannette - it does feel good. It's easy to forget that it's not just the children who need the opportunity to learn new skills.

    Toffeeapple - yes, suffocating can be a barrier in itself.

    Mum of all trades - Thank you! I was very lucky with regard to skipping, because there was someone in my class who was so spectacularly bad at it that even I felt good.

    Ruby Slippers - I don't know where you live, but there would only be one day in July when it would be feasible to swim in my garden.

    Pixie - swimming with my particular children is a whole nother post. It is not in the least bit fun.

  25. Brava! for learing new things! I empathise with your schooltime aversion for swimming, but guess what, later on I got picked to join a Masters' swim team ...and boy, did I improve! :))
    Right now, I'm playing calcetto ("tiny soccer", should be 5 against 5,but we are often 3-3) one night a week. We run hard, laugh hard and pray not to brake a leg!

  26. I'm not sure whether I envy you more because you are still trying to learn new things or because, your kids are still asleep at 7 in the morning!

  27. tinotino - that sounds like it requires hand/ eye co-ordination. I don't have that.

    Helen they do sleep a little later at weekends - but they also go to bed later as they get older, so all that time I used to have to read a book or watch a film is being gradually eaten away...

  28. Girls Chosen Last To Be On Teams UNITE. Shudder. But I could always swim, and well. There must be some watery thing in my astrological chart.

    Now diving? That's another matter altogether.

    (Most impressed with your dedication.)

  29. My two are now in lessons and I have to say I would be jealous, but, uhmmm, it's winter and while they swim I get to knit...

  30. I love this ! Actually I really like swimming, my children are always pretty amazed that I can swim at all - my 8 year old already beats me at tennis...x

  31. I do a pretty good breaststroke but my crawl is rubbish: I never seem to find a way of breathing without taking huge mouthfuls of water. Well done for taking on a new skill! I like to swim once I'm in the water, but the whole changing (particularly in winter) and lousy showers is a real off-puter! I'm joining Lynn on the Girls Chosen Last to be on Teams UNITE... always rather heart breaking, even when you had no interest in playing the game!

  32. I think having swimming lessons as an adult is a great idea. I always say I will take lessons when my kids are older to learn how to swim on my back. My younger child just started her lessons ater 10 months on the waiting list and was gently pulled up and down the pool by her teacher last saturday monring shouting "I am swimming" over and over again.

  33. Go, you! I am very impressed. The only thing that could make me swim first thing in the morning would be if drowning were the alternative.

  34. ...or if I were on fire. Or being chased by angry bees. Just thought I should add those contingencies, in case they should come up and I'd have to explain why I was, indeed, swimming early in the morning.

  35. 7 am. I'm torn between being impressed and thinking you're nuts! Let's go with impressed. Good for you!

  36. Great idea! Am mightily impressed you managed to get out of the house at such an early hour, not to mention learned to swim a stroke I thought had to be learned when you were four for it to stick. (That's been my excuse ;-).

  37. Congratulations.
    I was the one who cried.
    I learnt eventually to swim at the tender age of 38, swam a mile, picked the brick up off the bottom and inflated my pyjamas, but never mastered the front crawl...I mean, breathing is just not possible under water is it?


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