Monday, April 14, 2008

Adult Swim

I've been taking swimming lessons once a week, hoping to learn some new strokes and get better at the stroke I already knew. I really enjoy swimming at the gym, but I don't think I am a strong swimmer, and I get bored sometimes, doing the same stupid clumsy crawl up and down the lane. Most of all, I wanted to learn how to do the breaststroke. Ash has been trying to teach me how to do this off and on for the past two years, with no success. But it looks like so much fun when I see other people do it! I want to swim like the cool kids!

The classes have been so much fun. The ages and skill level covers a broad spectrum, and they take the lane markers out of the pool, which makes the hour a glorious mishmash of techniques, everyone swimming at their own pace, small groups forming and breaking up as the instructor holds small workshops on different strokes. One week, several of us learned a basic dive technique-- such an incredible rush to feel yourself plunge into the water like a knife, speeding down toward the bottom, catching yourself, and then breaking back through to the surface, ready to refill your lungs.

Anyway, about a third of the way through the course, I finally learned the breaststroke. With the instructor carefully watching and analyzing my flailing limbs, I put the pieces together a little at a time, until I accidentally did it right. Then I did it wrong for a while, got a few strokes in that were right, and kept plugging away at it. Two weeks later, I sort of got it down, albeit with some trouble doing all three pieces-- stroke, kick, and breathing-- at the same time. But I've gotten slightly better at it each class, and now I'm working on the timing of the three pieces, trying to improve the flow between pull-kick-glide. I was also pleased as punch to be complimented profusely on my crawl, which I've worked very hard on, concentrating on the angles of my hands, the trajectory of my arms, sometimes to the point where I suddenly realize that I've forgotten to keep kicking, and am chugging through the water by sheer force of my arms.

The other students are an interesting bunch. There's a very old man who can't swim at all. He's working really hard to master the flutter kick. Something just seems to go astray between his brain and his legs when he tries, but he comes back every week and spends an hour plugging away in the shallow end, patiently going back and forth. Another older man and his wife are occasional students in the class. He reminds me of a walrus, but a really friendly one who tells funny stories about his brother the beach bum in Hawaii. One guy about my age has spent the entire course talking about his dogs, and then in last week's class, he casually mentioned that he has three kids, surprising us all. A young-ish couple comes every week, and the girl wears a tiny bikini, as though she were headed for a sun-soaked spot on the French Riviera, instead of the ice cold waters of the high school swimming pool. A middle-aged woman brings a young woman with her most weeks. The young woman is blind in one eye, and seems to be mentally retarded. She's afraid of getting her face wet, and so she has learned to do the breaststroke without ever putting her head under the water. She likes to splash the middle aged woman, who I think is her mom (but I'm not sure) with her kicks. It makes her giggle and snort a little, especially if the other woman acts like she's all indignant at getting wet in the pool.

I'm really starting to love the smell of chlorine. This week is the last lesson for the Spring session, then there's a break for summer. I'm debating about taking a yoga class after this. But I'm definitely going to sign up for swimming again next fall.


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