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Fifth lesson: Breaststroke practice ends in disappointment
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Jumping right in

Times summer intern Audrey Williams never learned how to swim. She’s one of many adults who lack that skill, but thanks to some classes with the Red Cross this week and next, she’s learning how and sharing that experience in daily columns on and occasional columns in The Times.

Day 1
Day 2 
Day 3
Day 4

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.

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