Daily Archives: August 27, 2010

Learning to swim. At 35

Me and swimming? We have a tortured history.
I learned as a little kid, like most people, but really didn’t like it. When I was first taking lessons my Mom and I would go together and I sort of was bored, and then the whole class would go over to the diving board and we’d each take turns jumping in, while the instructors were in the water to catch us.
I was terrified, so I used to cut the line backwards, letting other kids go six or seven times while I hoped no one would notice. (Eventually, someone did).

When it came to summer camp, my friend Marc Feigelson and I would “cut” the instructional swim period and go hang out in the locker room. Neither one of us can exactly remember what the hell we did in there, but it sure beat instructional swim.

As I became an adult, I pretty much forgot about swimming. I knew I could do it passably enough (i.e., I wasn’t going to drown anytime soon), so who needed any more than that?

Then I moved to Florida, where you can swim year-round. I loved the exercise of swimming, and of testing my endurance. Unfortunately, my swimming skill had faded even more (how can you fade from nothing? I wondered.)

My form was awful. I didn’t put my head in the water for fear of getting water up my nose (I really, really hate water up my nose). I could barely kick. I swim in sort of a herky-jerky motion that doesn’t look much like swimming. More like I’m spasming, actually.

I wasn’t getting any better, I was exhausted after only a few laps, and I think i hurt my shoulder at one point.

So finally, at age 35, after a lifetime of being embarrassed, I’m learning how to swim. For real. I’ve signed up to take four 1/2 hour lessons, and last Saturday was my first one.

A friendly lifeguard named Caroline (who was born when Nirvana was big, I sadly realized) first taught me about breathing. My whole life, I never knew you were supposed to exhale underwater. We worked on that for a while, and then on some kicking (man, did my hip flexor hurt), and then tried to put three things together at once (arms, breathing, and kicking) and it didn’t go so hot.

But hey, it was my first lesson. I’m super excited for lesson No.2 this Saturday. Finally I will be able to channel my inner Ryan Lochte and swim like a regular grown-up person.

If I get this swimming thing down, maybe next I’ll tackle staying calm during Jets games.

Nah. That’d be way harder than swimming.