Thursday, September 15, 2005

Surviving Water Induced Morbidity

Here's my current standing joke. I was late for swim class ..... by 20 years. Yes, me of the ocean lover yuvak sangh, resident of Washington state which is ripe with water bodies, me of the glorious visions of rains and water and mist and dew, the quintessential lover of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen … never learnt how to swim. I couldn’t swim to save my life. Somehow in the multitudinous extra-curricular activities that I indulged in, swimming never featured. No rational explanation. None is required. It doesn’t matter. Or does it. People say that once you learn basic skills like swimming and cycling, you never forget them. On the other end of the spectrum is also the theory that the older you get, the tougher it is to pick these skills up. Some of it makes sense. I guess you are become more aware of your own fear as you become older. In that sense, swimming does sit in a different categories of skills. There is definitely something to worry about. I mean, its not tennis. I won’t wither away and sink into the ground if I miss a couple of shots. But swimming, that’s a different ball game.

I started lessons last week. It is a group of six people in a basic beginner’s course. The lessons are 30 minutes in duration and I have had three so far. They taught us some basics like how to breath out through the mouth inside water, how to propel yourself with kicking (can’t do anything without floaters, or noodles, as they are called), how to float on your back and move yourself with kicks. Now, I have a general belief that I am good at picking sports. It is true upto an extent. I have seen that in the past with table tennis, badminton etc. I can pick up the basics well, improve rapidly and then plateau out. This one seems a tougher nut to crack. Perhaps it’s the fear factor. My instructor has told me that my body is too stiff, that I should relax a little more. I also find doing multiple things: kicking, breathing out inside the water, doing strokes with the arms, and then breathing in by taking my head up and looking sideways quite a handful. More often than not, my feet find the bottom of the pool quickly (it is a four feet deep). The funniest and the most frustrating part is that I just can’t seem to move in water. I keep kicking all the while, whether it is on my back or trying to push myself forward, I barely move anywhere. More often than not, I am carried by someone else’s wake. Aah, it is frustrating. I think it’s a mixture of slight phobia and a lot of technique deficiencies that is making it tough to pick this up. But I am not going to give up without a fight. It will be an epic battle with these forces. And then shall follow a post titled S.W.I.M. (Surviving Water Induced Morbidity) recounting that.

While on the subject, here’s some excellent advice from someone I should have learnt from when I had the chance at TAMU. A man tailored for the teaching profession if there was one.

“Parth, Having read your description of your attempts at swimming it seems u are trying to punish the water. :-) Don’t do that. Stretch out your foot and leg fully behind your body and try to think that the flat portion behind your leg fingers is a paddle. Kick so that u splash water AS LESS as possible, ie. smoothly. As a general rule, the more splashy u are the more the water will resist u instead of helping u. U will tire quicker. Plus remember that this motion only allows u to stay afloat. to move u have to use your hands. As u progress try and keep your head under water. This makes your profile in the water more spearlike than the flat board of your shoulders and chest. It reduces drag no end.”


TTG said...

Another suggestion: I have trouble opening my eyes underwater. ot being able to see what's going on definitely doesn't help you to learn to swim. If you also have this issue, then you should buy a pair of goggles, if u havem't already done so.. they helped me tremendously!

Sikhar said...

Well, have some experience of trying to learn swimming :). After one or two weeks I managed to swim for about 10 meters. But it is true ; its like cycling; you dont forget what you learn; Tried to swim recently after almost a gap 1 year; and yes I didnot drown; I still can swim almost the same distance

sd said...

I learnt swimming when I was a kid. For the first 3-4 month I went to the pool 3 days a week and and the end of this period I was not even floating properly (despite been coached by a ex-navy coach). One day an uncle of mine then took me to the deeper end of the pool and left me there. I learnt swimming in a week from then on!

RTD2 said...

I once saw on TV that newborn babies can swim! As we grow older, it becomes more difficult for us to learn some things.In my case, it was more of Severe Water Induced Mortification! I love the water, just not trying to learn to swim in it! You've analyzed this beautifully..I have nothing more to say.

OMG said...

You have to relax in water, that is the only way you enjoy the experience and once you enjoy something you will def. excel at it.

Take the above gyan with a pinch of salt. It comes from a person who survives in 4 feet of water. I have been trying to learn to tread water and havent succeded. Yet :)