First Day Swimming

It was a nice cool evening and I was ready to swim. Armed with my swimming shorts, one pound coin for using the lockers and membership card, I headed to the a nearby pools and fitness centre. At the receptionist desk a friendly staff showed me the way to the changing room.

Having changed into my swimming shorts and stored away my clothing, I was set to hit to the pool. So I entered the main swimming pool area and feasted my eyes on a few jolly swimmers having the time of their lives in the pool. Behold there was no sign of training going on. So, mildly confused, I asked a lady who appeared to be a life guard where swimming lessons were taking place. She aptly directed me to a room to the left.

On entering the swimming lessons room I discovered another pool with a bunch of swimmers and a nice lady who gave instructions to some apparently neophyte swimmers. “Ah, finally!” I thought. I’m at the right place. The instructor asked me to wait, that our lessons will start shortly. Taking a seat next to another first-time swimmer I chatted away as we both waited patiently for our lessons to begin.

Finally it was our turn to swim. The instructor checked off our names on her register, a POS-like device. The first thing we did was to sit at the edge of the pool with our legs in the water. There were three learners in my group. Next, we stood in the water and then walked up and down the breath of the pool both forward and backwards. I remember feeling quite wobbly as I took my first steps. I had a rather unsteady gait somewhat akin to a child taking his first steps. But I overcame that feeling pretty quickly and within minutes was walking confidently back and forth.

After a while it was time to float. At the instructor’s command we stood by the edge of the pool, stretched our hands toward the wall, turned face down into the water and let our legs float above the pool floor, float for a few seconds and then stand. I was eagerly expecting to float like a beach ball, but something bewildering happened. I sank like a rock!

Something wasn’t right. I decided to look at my fellow learners. To my amazement they floated. One of them, a fine plumpy girl, floated like she had been swimming for years. The other girl, a skinny one, also floated. I then thought “maybe the sinking was a one-off”. So I tried floating again. And again I sank quick. Several sinking experiences later I asked my instructor what was going on. How come I sank while others floated. It was at this point I learnt something crucial about swimming.

Fat floats and muscle sinks. People who have large amounts of fat in their body tend to float on water because fat is lighter than water. On the other hand, people who are skinny or very muscular tend to sink when stationary because muscle is heavier than water. I fall in the second category, so I have to do extra work e.g. kick to stay afloat.

I learnt also that in order to float in water it’s important to relax. If you are too tense you will sink. Don’t fight against the water. Rather you should feel your way through it.

Next we practised push and glide. In doing this we dived into the water, the just glided through until we were almost out of breath at which point we stood, took a breath and did it again.

After that, we learnt to kick in the water. In doing this we stood by the edge of the pool, held our hands straight perpendicular to the pool wall, floated our legs and kicked. The idea was to maintain a position near the surface of the water. Again I got optimistic, hoping this was my time to float. Lo and behold I tried this and sank! Again, my body composition was to blame. In consolation my instructor told me that the more I practised the better I will get and that I needed to kick more vigorously.

I practised push, glide and kick several more times until the end of the lesson at which point the instructor recommended that I buy swimming goggles. I thought she was just giving a friendly admonition. It wasn’t until I got home that I understood the gravity of not wearing goggles in the first place. My eyes hurt like crazy. Apparently the pool had some chemical (likely Chlorine) and my eyes were sensitive to it. So, big advice to anyone attempting to learn swimming in a pool. Buy yourself a good pair of goggles! You won’t regret it.

By and large, I’ve started learning the basics of swimming and will keep you posted. Enjoy.