As I emerged my head out of the pool water and breathed, sank in again with my arms purposefully pressured the water to push my body forward, I reached to the pool side and think to myself – I have the first time in my life mastered the skill of swimming, at an age of 41!
Swimming has always been a fearful thing for me all my life until now. The choking and frustration from swimming stayed in my memory from an early age of my life. Thinking back now, the very early memory of the fear for swimming was from my teenage stage, in the late 80th of China, people’s life just start to improve under the modernized communism government. Swimming just started to become some young people’s social event, for boys to show off their physical strength and impress girls with their muscles, and for girls to showcase their slim legs and perhaps a courage to not be afraid to be seen in public in their swimsuit. I was the latter only the swimming technique never really kicked in and I was never REALLY swimming in the pool, struggling and joking more likely…… I tried to practise regularly at a period of time and had a professional friend to give some training (I was never fortunate enough to have any swimming lessons as a child back in the 70’s) but still no improvement. Apart from the obviously reasons that many of my friends then were non-swimmers, the main one, I realised now, is that I never really understood my own body strength when it comes to swim. I copied and practised aimlessly and always ended up failing miserably after each attempt.
I abandoned swimming a few years until my first child reached her 3 year of age, and taking my girl to swimming had given me much insight to swimming. Not any specific techniques, but a inspirational encouragement, if a child can do it, I can do it, too!
Did I do it then? No still the same choking through inadequate breathing, and aimlessly stroking in the water, followed by the feeling of exhaustion and failure. In the meantime, I managed to muddle through my career path, got qualified as an AAT accountant and changed job twice and secured a good job in a media company. So I can progress, but just not swimming?!
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The thinking now is, I was not totally committed and I had never really understood my physical strength and limit. I had an aim in my mind, but never set up a goal and plan to achieve it! At least there was one thing positive about the whole swimming thing, I DIDN’T give it all up!
When I had my 2nd child the swimming fear didn’t go away but not affect me as much as it did before. I just pop along with husband and kids at our family gym Total Fitness without any complaint. Each time I try to figure out my breathing issue and try to correct it a little at a time. I was making progress before realising it and I also started to notice swimming was not as terrible as it used to make me feel. So what’s the change? The pool water temperature helped, at a comfortable 22 Celsius, my body felt more relaxed than the freezing pool water I used to swim in. I realised how much this affected me and I never noticed my body has so little tolerance to cold temperature. I started to hold breathing better under the water – I could never hold my head up out of water while swimming (I know it sounds weird for you lot swimmers), which caused the major issue of me not able to swim longer distance. When my breathing pattern failed to accommodate my body’s balance, I choke badly and subsequently my body had to respond to the stop and then I panic, and it followed by fear, the vicious circle…
So that’s the no. 1 lesson learnt – KNOW YOUR STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS
At the same time, I had started yoga for about 2 years. In yoga, you use breathing technique and you always listen to your own body’s limit. I had a better understanding where my body limits are and how to progress a very tiny bit at a time. Pushing hard doesn’t get where you want to be, you will end up some where, just not the ‘where’ you want to be.
So the 2nd lesson – LEARN TO BE PATIENT
I think the realisation from yoga taught me do things at a steady pace one step a time. No rush and no pushing. This golden rule only just enlightened me now and it was this particular moment, I felt free and relaxed in the pool, pushing the water, breathing steadily with peace, body supported by my arms movement while I aimed my final destination – the other poolside, I DID it then! I could proudly say to myself “I can swim now”!
Not a happy-ending yet, it got me thinking what I’ve been through my life. Isn’t it every time when I pushed hard, trying to get somewhere far from reach, I ended up getting defeated by my own device? Then rather than sitting back and read myself to understand what I really am, took the time and be steady and be myself, I tried to fight aimlessly for the sake of a fight, so that I could be seen by other people that I was trying. Failure and defeat was the only memory…
The last but not the least of my lesson – NEVER GIVE UP
Yes that’s right. I know once I set my eyes onto something, I will always try everything and anything to get there, I know I might fail, but taking on a challenge to make it a worthy fight, I know I get to smile at the end of it. I want to succeed in whatever I do. Guess this is the fighting spirit I was born with, regardless the light weight of 7 stone, petite height of 158 cm, I want to see an equal me standing among the crowd…
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That’s me now, hope what I have put here today is of some use of your life challenge. I’d love to hear from you about anything and everything. So long, it’s a sunny Sunday here, I’m going to get my boy to the sunshine before it disappears!