Lesson One

On Thursday night I went to my Former Fancy Gym! The lovely Lainey goes there and kindly invited me along with one of her guest passes. Oooh it was spooky being back there after twenty months away. Not that I’ve been counting. My favourite shouty instructor was still there, and so were the comfy couches and giant changerooms and sprawling fields of cardio equipment.

There were still the same Ladies of Perfection in the changerooms too. I couldn’t help gawking at one woman who had a flawless all-over tan, carefully landscaped nether regions and gravity-defying boobs. Not to mention the arms that had that perfect blend of muscle and slimness. I know it’s wrong to stare but she WAS standing there butt naked with the hairdryer, it’s not like she was shy. As much as I miss the fancy facilities and Body Jam classes, I must admit I feel more at ease at the Girl Gym and Council Gym I go to now, where there’s saggy tits and stretchmarks galore. Much better for one’s self-esteem πŸ˜‰

Lainey has admitted that our jaws got more exercise than any other body part. Hehe. But it is great to be able to gab about Fat Busting Issues to a real live person. Not that we’re incapable of talking about other things, mind. But it is always hilarious talking about Blog People in real life, as if they live right down the street. At one point I said, "How bloody foxy did Kathryn look today?". As if I’d just seen her at the shops five minutes ago, and not just referring to pictures I’d seen on her blog.

Lainey of course knew what I was on about and said, "Oh I KNOW, she looks so good!"

And then later on Lainey said, "We should try an aqua class. Sue does aqua classes." And I said, "Sue who?" and she said, "Smaller Sue!" and I said, "Oh Smaller Sue. Derr!".

I really love that shit.

. . .

Lainey also mentioned there’s only 14 weeks til Christmas. I dunno about you, but I am totally Going For Gold between now and Christmas. I failed in my Five Year Plan to be at goal by the Dietgirl 5th Anniversary (15 January 2006), so I’ll be damned if this caper is going to take any longer than SIX bloody years. So there.

. . .

Swimming Lesson Report. I did not drown!

I very nearly called up the teacher and cancelled. An hour before I almost threw up, which is my typical response to extreme nerves. I put on my swimmers and examined myself from all different angles in the bathroom mirror, alarmed at the sight of myself naked but for a flimsy bit of lycra. I’m so used to living in Scotland and cowering behind layers and layers of clothes, and that’s the way I prefer it.

Then I needed to pee about 27 times, my second most typical response to extreme nerves. I’d forgotten how complicated that is when you have swimmers on, having to take off your jacket and t-shirt and trackies then peeling off your swimmers over and over again. Arrgh. And the smell of the rubber swimming cap was making me even more nauseous. Yeah, I was panicking big time.

But it was too late to cancel. So fifteen minutes later I stood by the pool, waiting for the teacher and literally shaking like shitting dog (one of Gareth’s favourite phrases). Just looking at the water and all those memories I talked about in the last entry were on replay. I cursed My Stupid Website and my Stupid Public Declaration of Intent. WHY did I have to tell the world I relearning to swim? These plans always look so exciting and brave when they’re just words, but then when the moment of actual action rolls around… well frankly, it sucks.

Then my Teacher arrived and she was lovely. She spoke in soothing, encouraging tones that were no doubt most often used to calm hysterical toddlers, but they worked just as magically on a trembling 28-year-old.

We stepped down into the pool and without thinking my hands shot up in the air and I screwed up my face, expecting the water to be freezing. But it was perfectly tepid, being an indoor heated pool and all. Oh yeah. It was funny how my body automatically assumed the Australian Open-Air Ice-Cold Pool position.

"So Shauna, just start swimming and let me see your technique."

"I don’t have any technique!" I protested, "I haven’t done this for about fifteen years."

"Don’t worry, just have a go!"

Dammit. So I started hacking away at the water in a pseudo-freestyle, or front crawl as they call it here. I managed about two strokes before I was swallowing and snorting and on the verge of drowning.

When I surfaced I looked up at the far end of the pool. It was only 25 metres long but my heart just sank, it seemed like a hundred miles away. How did I ever do endless 50 metre laps at school? I looked at all the tiny kids and puffy old ladies happily lapping away and just felt so cranky and jealous and bloody hopeless.

But the Teacher was positive and reassuring right from the start. I explained that my basic problem was that I just didn’t remember how to swim. I know it sounds dumb, but I just didn’t get the basic concept of how you breathe with your face in the water and propel your body in a forward direction at the same time. So she broke it down to absolute baby steps. First how to let your breath out under water. Then what to do with your arms. How to hold your hands. What to do with your legs.

We worked on one tiny bit at a time. I’d do one tiny thing, two or three tiny strokes, then she’d get me to add one thing, and then another. We used kickboards and foam noodle thingies. I’d swallow some more water. She’d explain another thing in extremely simple language. I’d thrash about some more. I’d readjust my googles. I’d cling to the side of the pool and gasp for air. I’d accidentally kick her in the boobs. Twice.

But she was just such a positive lady and she made me want to do well. This was what was missing at school. Pure encouragement – no mocking, no bullying. I was too busy concentrating to be self-conscious. I was making an arse of things left right and centre, but I loved being in the water. I loved paying attention to her instructions then eagerly trying to replicate. I grinned when I got it right. I frowned when I didn’t and immediately tried again. I was acting like an over-sized over-excited five year old, so desperate to please and ridiculously happy with every word of encouragement.

By the end of the hour she had me doing proper laps of messy breastroke and even excruciatingly slow laps of front crawl. Suddenly the end of the pool didn’t seem so far away. Sure, I had to stop halfway because I kept forgetting when to breathe, so I’d do about ten strokes without a breath then  surface, gasping and groping for the edge of the pool. But I was actually MOVING! Forwards!

But I have soooo much work to do! Aside from my lack of freestyle breathing technique, my legs are a mess. My left leg has a mind of its own, and when I attempt to breastroke it just sort of drags along behind me, smacking the surface of the water. Apparently it’s a common problem but the loud THUMP THUMP THUMP is embarassing. It made me laugh so hard as I did my laps I’d start gulping in water which of course made me stop and thrash about so I didn’t drown. Hmmm. Also with the breastroke, my butt sticks up too high in the air, so I need to learn how to keep it down so I don’t look like a demented caterpillar.

Overall my lower body is really, really weak. No doubt all these long months of knee injury and limited leg work have taken a toll. It’s going to be a hard slog to build up some strength there. At one point I had to do a lap while holding the kickboard and just use my legs only, and I was barely moving! My legs were kicking away but I just wasn’t getting anywhere. Old ladies were zipping past me in a blur. Oh dear.

But my teacher did say my upper body is really strong. There’s something to be proud of. Finally my honking huge shoulders will come in handy for something!

She says I will need a couple more lessons then I should be fine to go lappin’ all by myself. Wow. I am so excited. Soooo excited. I had such a blast. Once I was in the water not once did I think about my fat. I just wanted to learn and get better. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it. I really shocked myself with how hard I concentrated and picked up on her instructions. She’d tell me do another lap and I was all, "Woohoo, okay!". I actually wanted to do it.  There was no moaning and excuses like I used to pull with the running. I was just raring to go. I was actually sad when our hour was up.

I will admit, it was a battle at first to not panic, to shut out the Old Doubts and force myself to listen to this lady and learn. I tried to tell her about my History of Crapness, but she’d just say, "You can do it". So I started telling myself, "Why the hell not".

Of course I realise now that I was probably never as crap as I thought I was, all those years ago. It’s amazing how easily you can convince yourself that you’re rubbish, especially when other people are telling you so. But now? I just want to keep at it. I like how I felt in the pool. I liked learning a new skill. I think this is something I could stick to in the long term. I was deliciously sore the next day but my knee wasn’t troubling me. I know I have a loooooong road ahead to learn to breathe and to strengthen my wimpy legs and to not drink the water and to move faster than a geriatric turtle… but I can’t wait. In your FACE, Swimming Fear.

29 thoughts on “Lesson One

  1. Well done DG!!! Overcoming those fears feels great and certainly motivates you (and others) to do more of the same – congratulations!!!

    14 weeks til Christmas – now there is a countdown. I am going to set some goals and work my hardest to stick to them – especially as the weather is going to get better over here and walking/swimming/exercising will be a lot easier now.


  2. Swimming is wonderful. I swam competitively for years, and loved it. Don’t worry about slow kicking! Us slow kickers end up being long-distance swimmers. πŸ™‚

    Shauny the Shark is in da pool!

  3. Sounds like your Teacher was using the same Psychiatric Services voice I use to get clients to press pass their print jobs at 2am!
    Your swimming story is great. You’ll be cutting the the water like Norvin the Great White Man Eating Shark in no time.

  4. Hey I wanna Go For Gold too! I reckon I can get this stubborn belly fat moved in the next 14 weeks if I work at it.

    Foxy? me? I’m blushing.

    Last but most definitely not least, woohoo for swimming lessons. It sounds like so much fun. When my son was younger, he’d set up a stool in the middle of the lounge rooom and practice swimming on it, complete with googles. I don’t know if that helped him swim but it was hella funny, esp when he fell off and “drowned”.

    What a champ you are for going ahead with it. If I did live just down the street, I’d make you a big CHAMPION medal to wear πŸ™‚

  5. Right on!

    I just recently re-learned swimming too. I went through all of the “I suck hard” moments as well since I hadn’t done a lap in about 15 years.

    Keep up the good work!

  6. aargh – is it not winter over there? i love swimming – and the other day i saw some swym wear – a cross between gym wear and swim wear – so u don’t have to wear costumes anymore. Yay! FInally! The seventies as well – wuch a grand time to be you hey?

  7. U know what they say about developing; growing always happens on the non-comfort zone. My respects for you not to avoid them but to challenge yourself again all the time. Also for being so honest. ThatΒ΄s what makes it so easy to relate and thatΒ΄s what makes a talented writer. Keep up the good water work!

  8. Well done on the swimming Shauna! Relearning to swim is something I have been wanting to do for years. I never learnt to swim properly. We had lessons at school from year 1 upwards (I think) (once a year). I missed some years as we went away on holidays. I have always hated swimming and missed pretty much every single swimming carnival throughout school. I had a friend with a pool in primary school and her Dad used to make us do laps before we could swim in the pool, I absolutely dreaded it!
    I want do the diving course, but avoid it because Im scared to swim the 50m (100m?) they make you do.

    Again, well done!!


  9. Fourteen weeks to go for the gold. I love this, Shauna. I’d be remiss if I didn’t add my cheers to the others on your swimming lesson, but what really hit home for me was the 14 weeks. Plenty of time! Heh.

  10. Whoo hoo! That’s fabulous! I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself. And I’m sure the wonky knee is going to love the pool. Good for you for finding yet another challenge for yourself and plowing right through it.

    As for the 14 weeks. Yikes! But a good reminder that there is still time to cross off some of those New Year’s Resolutions. Thanks for the kick in the butt.

  11. Yay you!!

    Isn’t it amazing how hard it is to learn that we are amazing, able, talented women? You have tackled dieting, running, writing, interviews, marriage, and on and on–yet, swimming seems insurmountable.

    You are so going to rock at swimming–because you have determined to do so.

    And if you decide you hate it, move on… you have plenty of fabulousness in other areas.

    Gina ;~}

  12. Yay for you, it’s great you got swimming!

    You will notice a big difference in the strength of your legs after a while and you won’t get that knee pain if you don’t overdo it right away.

    Secondly, your arms will get super toned! I used to swim allllll the time (I really do need to take it up again) and – I used to have the sleekest legs and the tonedest (it’s a word, really!) — I can still to this day spot a swimmer in the crowds based by their arms!! Swimmers have SLEEK muscles and not BULKY muscles and you’ll definitely notice a huge difference.

    Try to get to the pool to practise on your own inbetween lessons. If you’re afraid, just jokingly say to the lifeguard to watch you every now and again to make sure there’s still movement. You wouldn’t be the first one to ask & they really don’t mind. πŸ™‚

    Happy swimming shauna of the sea πŸ˜€


  13. Woo hoo – well done!!! I’m so proud of you for getting in there and doing it. (not to mention jealous that you get to meet other lovely bloggy people)

  14. I am so proud of you πŸ™‚ You stared your fear in the face and did it! You really are an ispiration to me. To us all!!!
    I also find myself talking about my blog friends more and more. I think my other friends and family think I am mad πŸ™‚ But I LOVE fatblog land… I don’t know what i’d do without you guys.

  15. I’m very proud of you. Very.

    I can’t believe that so many people can make one person so frozen with fear. It saddens me that you were ever surrounded by people like that.

  16. Well done, well done, WELL DONE!!!! I only learned to swim in my 30s (after having been literally thrown in at the deep end as a 4 year old by my big brother) so I totally know how you feel. I’ve learned to love it – I can swim a mile now but very slowly – my only problem is breathing in through my nose at the wrong time and inhaling water and then doing a lot of coughing and spluttering!

    14 weeks to Chrimbo … oh dear! Time to get serious with this lard.

  17. πŸ™‚

    cheers you guys!

    unfortunately my teacher had to reschedule this week but i might pop along for a solo paddle.

    hope yer all well πŸ™‚

  18. I can’t find your Amazon wishlist anywhere. How are your beloved readers going to shower you with gifts when you reach your goal if you don’t let us know where to send them?

  19. och sarah, i feel kind of embarassed that i ever had a wishlist link up there! i was such a whore… hehe πŸ™‚

  20. Not at all! When I think of all the money I’ve spent on books that were not nearly as good reading…if you want to be a writer you’re going to have to get used to be paid πŸ™‚ Now asking for money…that would be kind of tacky πŸ™‚

  21. Hi DG, thx for sharing yr swimming stories.
    I would have been the girl hiding in the changerooms so that I didn’t have to get in the pool.
    I hated my body, felt that I was sooo much fatter than everyone else and that they MUST all be looking at me.
    Looking back, it was nothing but baby fat – something I WOULD have grown out of if handled correctly (I won’t get started on THAT issue!).
    I’m so proud of you for showing that 9 yr old girl (and all of us) that all is not hopeless, just take a chance and “ye will be rewardeth”.
    You’ll be swimming in the Olympics soon!

  22. Huge congratulations! sounds wonderful, Shauny πŸ™‚ I do hope you go back to the pool by yourself this week. I’m jealous – I’d love to be swimming, but there’s no pool nearby! Pretend that you’re the only one there and get back into the concentration zone where the only thing that matters is you and the water – and the water is your friend! You’re already an Olympic star to us – after all – you’ve got more people out here barracking for you than the Thorpedo πŸ˜›
    PS. I am loving lastFM, thank you! and you have inspired me to jump on the fatblogging bandwagon as well πŸ™‚

  23. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say Smaller Sue MEANS to do aqua – I don’t seem to have made it much lately!

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