What I Learned During Private Swim Lessons

Four summers ago I had just finished the my second half marathon, Seattle RnR. I was on a high and looking for my next challenge so I signed up for adult beginners swim lessons. Learning proper swim technique was something that I had always wanted to do and decided that it was time to do it. I completed two 2-week sessions and learned the basics of freestyle. This summer, inspired by myincrediblyinspiringtriathletefriends I signed up another 2-week session, but this time for private swim lessons. I had two very specific objectives that I wanted to address and felt that private lessons would be more suitable than a group class.

Objective 1: Learn how to kick again

Since initially learning how to swim I've swam casually, mostly as recovery workouts after long runs. Because of this I became very dependent on a pull buoy and essentially forgot how to kick. Whenever I tried not to use the pull buoy I would panic and either sink or not move at all. It became my crutch and I wanted to get rid of it.

Objective 2: Learn how to breath on both sides

Last summer I attended an open water swim clinic hosted by the Mermaids. I found that swimming in the San Francisco bay was pretty gross, but I kinda loved it. I guess the advantage to growing up in Hawai'i is that I'm used to being in the open water and it didn't scare me. However what did scare me was being told that in order to complete a triathlon I needed to be able to breathe on both sides. It would be a matter of survival. I was registered for their Sprint Tri but after hearing this and being terrified of my road bike I dropped the race. Since then I unsuccessfully tried to teach myself how to breathe on my left side. It was time for more swim lessons.

Swim Lessons 2.0

Joinville Pool
Joinville Pool

I signed up for private lessons at the county parks and recreation pool. Each session would be 30-minutes long and held from Mondays - Thursdays for two weeks.

My first session started on Mon, 7/29. We started off in the kiddie pool which I was more than fine with - feeling comfortable in the pool was half the battle.

Well Objective #1 was completed in about 10 minutes. My kick came back to me in no time. It just took a couple of pointers from the instructor to make adjustments to my form and technique.

Objective #2 would take a bit longer. I got the gist of it during the first lesson but it would take practice. Eventually I got comfortable enough with it and graduated to the big pool (25 meters or Jr Olympic size). So for the past two weeks I've practiced and practiced and ingested enough chlorine to bleach my insides.

To my surprise and delight my instructor also had me learn other things that I never expected to learn like:

* Directional swimming * Backstroke - which is so much fun except I can't swim straight for the life of me * Dolphin kicks - so you know if i ever decide to learn Butterfly * Breast stroke - still a lot of work to learn this one

And last but not least flip turns! Well sort of.

Let me preface this by saying I have never done a cartwheel in my life. I avoid inversions during yoga classes like the plague. And I have never done a somersault in or out of the water. So when my instructor said we would work on flip turns sheer panic set in. I explained to him that I don't do flips or tumbles or anything remotely close to it. But he pushed and pushed until I relented and consented to give it a try.

The first attempt was a complete disaster. Water up the nose and no flip to show for it. So he gave me a few other pointers like - tuck your chin and your knees, then paddle your arms in the opposite direction of the flip.

I gave it a try and then just like that I did my first somersault ever! The flip happened naturally, just like he said it would so then he made me practice it a few more times. I can't say its my favorite thing to do but I felt a real sense of accomplishment by facing a fear and doing it anyway.

I've found that swimming with my entire body, not just my upper body, uses so much more muscles than I imagined. Although its a non-impact sport, the amount of effort required from my legs is tremendous. Its a perfect compliment to running in so many ways and truly is a total body workout.

One of my first motivators to start running was from an article that I read in a fitness magazine that said "running will change your body." Well after swimming for four days a week for two straight weeks I can honestly say that swimming will too. I can feel changes in my body - it feels stronger and leaner in different ways that my regular workouts make me feel.

I've always enjoyed swimming and now I'm looking forward to doing it on a more regular basis and practicing what I've learned.

I was so sad to learn that the pool isn't open year round. In fact, it closes in just a few weeks. Swimming outdoors is so much more fun than indoors. I compare it to outdoor running vs. on a treadmill. Luckily I still have the pools at my gyms to swim at, but I am already planning to take private lessons again next summer!