“My wife cut out an article on your swimming lessons “40 for 40”. I would love to learn how to breathe properly while swimming. I am 51 and native to San Diego…my best swimming is when I keep my face under water but I can only hold my breath so long. I also have been told my legs & hips drag under the water when I hold my face above water.”
The e-mail was from Marty, Project Participant #21! The article she is referring to was written by Nicole Larson, Project Participant #6 in March. I cannot believe how many individuals have contacted me since the article came out. Who knew that when Nicole shared her story about overcoming her fear of the water, so many people would relate and connect. It has made my project even more special, as I have so much respect for everyone that has been moved so much as to share a personal story with me. This is how I met Marty.
I never know what I’m in for when I schedule a Project Participant. I typically don’t meet the individual until she shows up and trusts me with her life. Well, Marty was ready to go and clearly determined to “swim like a fish.” I knew exactly what needed to be done.
SOLUTION: Don’t hold your breathe! Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles. Blow your bubbles. I know it sounds so simple and silly, but it makes a HUGE difference. Would you hold your breath if you ran 25 yards? No? Then why would you hold your breath if you swam 25 yards? It’s natural for us to breathe in, then breathe out. Inhale, exhale. Breathe, breathe, breathe.
OBSTACLE #2: “I also have been told my legs & hips drag under the water when I hold my face above water.”
SOLUTION: Drop your head and breathe to the side. This is common for just about everyone because when your head goes up, your feet go down- then you’re fighting to get through the water. Focus on a horizontal body position. I usually use Finis long floating fins for this, which are buoyant and bring the feet up, helping swimmers achieve proper body position. Marty had a bad ankle and wearing a fin was painful, so she decided to just wear one. This was actually quite interesting because she was hyper-aware of her legs and hips.
Marty is an excellent student! She focused, listened and did things properly- she was putting her face down and breathing and blowing her air out and reaching on her pulls. She was so determined and focused; she even self-corrected a number of times. As she adjusted her stroke, her body automatically moved into the right position. Marty noticed this and commented on it. She was really in the zone.
Her wife, Kera, came to watch and sat by the side of the pool the whole time. She was so supportive and happy for Marty. At the end of the lesson, the three of us were talking and Kera asked Marty what was wrong and if she was okay. A teary-eyed Marty shook her head. “For so long I haven’t been able to do this. All of a sudden, I’ve found the missing link in my swimming.” Of course my response was, “I’m your missing link!” And that’s how I feel. Marty just needed someone on the outside to guide her and give her encouragement- someone that is an expert and a professional, but has empathy and patience- someone that is NOT a good friend or a family member. Then there’s no emotion to get in the way. I’m a random person that enters an individual’s life and spends an hour completely focused on her. All I wanted to do was help her and get her as far as I could in one hour. It’s amazing to be able to do that- to be fully present, completely focused on a participant, and see how far we can take it.
An emotional Marty continued, “I just can’t believe that something so simple like blowing bubbles has stood in the way of me feeling like this my whole life.” When asked about her relationship with water after the lesson she said, “I feel enlightened and more in control and love being in the zone with water. Now I have a better understanding of the oneness with water and the passion that exists when you are master swimming or surfing when explained by others.”
I received the most wonderful check-in e-mail from Marty a few days later. I smiled as I read, “Swimming is my new found happy place, joy, and peace. A love that allows me to return to my inner child that loves to play and explore the world around me. Thank you so much for teaching me how to breathe so I can continue to become a better swimmer and making it possible to experience the inner joy that comes with playing in water. Who knows what I will try next: surfing & scuba?” Anything is possible, Marty!
Notice in the video how she improves each time and self-corrects: