This blog recounts my fitness journey into the sport of triathlon and the gifts God has blessed me with while on it! May the movements of my life boldly proclaim that the sparks we encounter in scripture will kindle hope in our lives!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Learning to Swim

That's right! I had to get out and purchase a swimsuit before I started my swimming lessons!

Charis and I braved the task together. We located a swim shop where we knew we'd get quality suits we could SWIM in. Not the cute suits we typically ordered from Land's End.

It was great fun.

The problem I found was that none of the fast, "sporty" looking suits came in my size. Only the polyester grandma looking suits did! I purchased a women's size 16 polyester lap suit. It was a size smaller than the one I'd been wearing over the summer! I've had to downsize that suit 2 times. You know what? Even now, I still purchase that same polyester suit. Polyester holds up really well in all the chlorine!

I grabbed a pair of goggles and a swim cap too. I just chose them based on color preference. Pink. I had no clue what I should be looking for because I'd never worn either in my life.

The day finally arrived for my first swim lesson. I had paid for 3 private lessons at a well known swim school in our area and showed up determined to get my money's worth.

I went into the changing room and got ready. I wrapped my big beach towel around myself and eeeeked myself onto the pool deck, goggles and swim cap in hand. At least I looked the part. I felt myself holding my breath and reminded myself to breathe normally. The pool deck was lined with doting parents watching their children's lessons. Gulp. Breathe. I talked myself around the to the far side of the pool. "Keep walking, you're doing this Jesaca. You've already paid for the lessons. You've always wanted to learn how to swim. Your kids have had lessons. It's your turn. You're going to be a triathlete!"

I met my instructor at the end of a lane. She seemed awfully young.

She first had me attempt to swim and kind of show her what I could do. She started tweeking from there. She showed me how to put my hand in the water and what it should be doing when it gets into the water. She showed me the timing of how my arms should move. She showed me how to turn my face out of the water, when and how to breathe out the breath after I put my face back into the water. She had me use a kickboard and practice with my arms and I was doing really well. "Hey," I began to think, "I can do this!"

Then she took away the kickboard.

I tried not to think about the other adults along side the pool watching their children - yeah right. I slapped my way down most of the lane without stopping. I only choked on the water twice. She had me come back down the lane. Success! I didn't choke at all!

She told me to start breathing on every 3rd stroke.

Bilatteral breathing! Was the woman crazy? I had just successfully (using the word loosely, of course) completed one lap breathing just on the right side. Was breathing to both sides truly necessary?

She explained how breathing that way would help me swim straighter in the water and that I'd develop more balance in my stroke overall if I learned to master it. She insisted I try it.

It was not fun. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe to the right, stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe to the left, sink, choke. Repeat. She insisted that I do two laps like that. By the time I left I was not looking forward to the next lesson!

As I walked onto the deck for the second lesson I found it was a little easier. I was determined. I got some practice in before that second lesson. It didn't help, however. I threw a temper tantrum half way through. It just felt like my efforts were so futile. I felt bad for the instructor, but I had just one lesson left.

As I drove to pick up my girls, I was reminded of something my dad would always say when I was dealing with a difficult physical feat of some sort. "Jes," he'd say, "Ya gotta get MAD at it!" I needed to remember to focus the energy of my frustration on figuring out this swimming thing. As I picked up my girls, my girlfriend's sister asked me a question I had already asked myself. "Don't you feel stupid learning to swim with all those little kids around and their parents watching?"

And I found myself answering, "I want this too badly to care!"

"Wow!" she responded. I thought, "Yeah - Wow!"

And I did. I wanted it too desperately to care how silly I felt, what anyone thought, or what anyone might say.

Guess what?! By the end of the last lesson I was swimming!

Oh, I've had some lessons since and I still have plenty to learn. But now I can say, "I can swim."

It was one of the most difficult things I've learned to do as an adult. Ultimately I learned because I tried, I got frustrated and mad and focused. Mostly because I wanted it too badly to care about anything that could be an excuse to keep me from learning.

I'd have plenty more opportunities to draw on that determination.


  1. So great, Jes! Love hearing this story. The polyester suits DO hold up longer!

  2. Oh Jes, I love reading what you have to say. I love your Dad's insight about getting "mad" at it. That is really true. There have been so many things I have literally wanted to scream at, out of anger, only to turn around and succeed.
    BTW, how is the bi-lateral breathing going? I finally have it about 90%. Much better when I am using my pull buoy and doing it as a drill. Wish I could swim in IM with that dang buoy! HAHA
    Love you.

  3. I had no clue about the bi-lateral breathing thing, that's pretty neat when you think about it...
    Anyway, I've been reading your last several posts (I have no idea how I didn't know about your blog until recently. Especially with how many people in the family knew, you'd think the info would've been leaked to me), and I must tell you: I've laughed, I've cried (uncontrollably), and I've come to a better understanding about many things (some may not even seem related to what you wrote). You're doing such a good job, Jes, and sharing your story is doing even more!
    I still plan on paging to the beginning and reading from there, but you give a lot to take in, girly :}

    Lots of love!


I just love hearing everyone's feedback! Please keep it coming!