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Fifth lesson: Breaststroke practice ends in disappointment

POSTED: July 15, 2014 12:14 a.m.

The first class of my second week of taking adult swim lessons at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center was more of a sink than a swim.

On day five, I was practicing the breaststroke, but I was flailing like it was day two.

My frustration was evident to my classmate, 61-year-old Miss Cornelia, who kept reminding me I was doing just fine. With every failed attempt at a breaststroke, she’d cheer me on.

“That looked good! You’re doing great,” she said.

To help me refocus, my instructor, Max Sumner had me go over some of the basics I’d mastered last week. I could still hold my breath under water and float, but they weren’t as easy for me as last week.

Sumner, a wise 16-year-old, doled out some advice when he noticed I was about to give up.

“I can see you thinking about it,” he said. “Don’t think about it so hard. Relax. You can do this.”

It was his motivation that got me through the rest of the lesson, but just barely. I still didn’t have the breaststroke, a fundamental swimming move, down.

“We’ll try it again tomorrow,” Sumner said.

I left Monday’s class doubting my progress over the past week.

Maybe what they say is true: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Then again, I’ve seen a dog swim, so there may be hope for me yet.


1 comment
melondash: July 16, 2014 8:45 a.m.

It is to be expected that you would be struggling. The progression you are being given is not correct for someone who is afraid in water. It is far too much information far too soon. Though they tell you you look fine, they cannot feel what you feel. And what you feel--out of control, unsafe-- is not what they care about. They care that you LOOK like you're doing breaststroke.

They think that if you look like you can do breaststroke, it will take away your fear. It doesn't work that way.

This is what I was referring to last week in my comment. A person who's afraid in water first must learn how to BE in the water in a way that feels safe and calm. If you know you're safe and you know how the water works, you'd have attention to spare for stroke mechanics. You are not being taught what you need to know. This is why traditional lessons do not work for half of the American population. It only works for the half that is already comfortable in water. What a PERFECT EXAMPLE!

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