Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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Swimming is introduced to many of us when we are children. I was enrolled in the Red Cross swimming program, which I looked forward to attending each summer until I passed all the badge levels. I lived in Pittsburgh, so we had very little winter time swimming. We did occasionally go to a YMCA with an indoor pool that was open at night somewhere in the ‘burbs of the ‘Burgh. I remember my hair freezing after those sessions, but it did not bother me at all. My friends and I were big fans of the water, and our parents used going to the pool as the supreme bribe/reward.
When I was 30 I trained at the YMCA in Tucson to teach parent/infant swimming classes. After I was certified my friends with lots of kids asked me to teach at their private pools at home. I did this for many years, teaching groups organized around the convenience of the families. This very good deal for both the parents and for me finally ended against the wishes of some, but I was truly fried by the sun and ready to leave the pool deck. My skin and hair were begging me for a break.
I still taught aquatics and swimming at spas, but to adults. The adult swimming lesson becomes a greater challenge than the children’s class. If a person has not learned to swim by a certain age, it becomes a greater obstacle with every passing year. Some people were directly frightened by a water incident at some time they remember. Most don’t recall a specific reason, but have been afraid of water since they were young.
It is appropriate to fear water if one does not have the skills needed to survive in it. Of particular danger are natural bodies of water with currents, undertow, or strong surf. Even strong swimmers are subject to injury or death in torrential flash flood conditions. Caution is always a good idea in or around water. Being a good lifeguard for yourself and others is all about prevention. It is not a good idea to swim alone. Get out of the water during a lightning storm. Use common sense to keep everyone from falling or slipping around the edge of the pool.
Learning to swim well enough to swim laps for exercise has multiple benefits:
I believe the last one is the best. Nobody can interrupt you, call you, ask you for anything during your lap swim. Especially if you learn to flip turn, your obvious determination to move across the water will be respected. Nobody will mess with you until you are finished. When your goggles and your fins fit just right, and you groove into the sound of your own exhalation under the water, all is bliss. Once a good level of competence is achieved it is easy to increase stamina in the pool without risking injury. In fact, I can think of no negative side effects associated with learning to swim. Are you a strong swimmer, gentle reader? How did you learn?
I was born with ample bossiness, and raised to rebel. I entered professions in which people paid me to tell them what to do. In travel (in the old days) clients planned trips with the advise of agents. I was an outside sales travel agent, meaning I worked for and found my own clients outside the agency. It was a perfect job for me because I have travelled extensively and don’t mind at all sharing my opinions. Agencies were full of very well-travelled agents because the suppliers used to treat us like royalty. If I had not been to a destination I had only to ask around the office to find someone who knew the place. It was a very cosmopolitan place to work. Everyone was very jolly until the airlines cut commission, signaling the end of supplier/agency relationships. It was very good while it lasted, and I am glad I was there for the gravy train.
I taught fitness and swimming in fancy spa settings. This required a different kind of bossiness, which required very little encouragement to bloom. The guests relinquish entirely too much power and responsibility in the spa atmosphere. The real key is not making them mind you in your presence (which they are paying big bucks to do). Success can only be measured after the student has returned to home/work/family and all the habitual triggers that exist there. When they try to integrate what they learned at the spa into real life, if they whip out the hand out you provided and do something (anything) they learned, you have succeeded in the mission. If they mind you back at home, then you are a boss.
I like the current fad to label things done with confidence “like a boss”. I agree that taking charge and speaking one’s own mind can be the difference between success and failure, and even between happiness and depression. Finding ones voice as a boss is valuable and must be done with respect and caution. Do not surprise unsuspecting members of your family or workforce with your newfound authority. Practice safe bossiness with appropriate subservients. Use your head.
Remember the fall of Rome when Caesar obviously just took on WAY too much dominance over the Romans. Don’t let things get out of hand with your bossy self. Use discretion as you boss your way around this world.
At the end of summer when I teach kids to swim I like to hold a show off party so they can impress themselves and others. I had two students this year who worked hard, and came to lessons almost every weekend day all summer. The mermaid blue belt was awarded and the official last call for swimmers to enjoy a dip took place. Conquering fear of water is a metaphor for all new environments that will face these young ladies for the rest of their lives. Being safe and cooperative are the key elements of water fun. Performance skills are not as important as the news that practice works and changes everything. They are in the deep end with appropriate safety measures having a good time, which was not possible in June when they began.
Floating is a pleasant sensation that requires letting go of the edge. Floating has a lot to do with breathing;if you think about it it is obvious. Inflation of the lungs floats the thoracic cavity. Body fat floats very nicely, so having the right distribution is helpful to effortless floatation. Tension will sink the body, so this effort to attain emptiness and nothingness is impossible to fake. Most people reflexively hold their breath in water, and are unaware of their breathing altogether. Athletic muscular people often can’t swim very far because they exchange very little oxygen with shallow breathing. Tension and fatigue set in quickly when you have no air to use during an aerobic activity. Fully exhaling underwater is the first step to doing everything else you ever want to do in water for the rest of your life. Once you know you can exhale, and have changed your reflex by blowing bubbles each time your face is in the water you have begun to take control of the situation. Since there is a natural fear factor, this is not so much an intellectual practice as a physical one.
Teaching a young child to float, blow bubbles, and eventually swim is a chance to instill confidence and self esteem. Both parent and child develop confidence and build trust during this important introduction to a dangerous environment in which they can easily drown. Fear is entirely appropriate for non swimmers around water, no matter how old they may be. A parent or teacher’s job in showing young children the pleasures of swimming and water sports is to draw clear safety guidelines. Adults must set boundaries, define rules, and perhaps for the first time in a kid’s young life, assign appropriate punishment for violating pool or lesson rules. Even if kids are good strong swimmers they can potentially be injured or injure others if left without any supervision or guidelines. In order to preserve the joy and fun in visiting the pool or lake use common sense:
The same rules apply for adult swimmers. Pace yourself and stay safe. Doing nothing but floating on your back in the water taking deep breaths can become easy, but it requires complete focus. Start in shallow water and work up to going deeper. Like the backbend in yoga, the trust fall into water requires a level of confidence that can only be acquired through practice.
This woman not only put the roof over the swimming pool, she branded swimming as a sport. She stood for healthy, powerful female business ethics. She had some deep understanding of the flow of commerce. She is my idol. Thanks, Esther, for all that you did.