Friday, October 06, 2006

Float, Damn It!

It's official, I can't float for jack.

Ever since I was a child I've had an intense fear of going underwater. I could never stand getting water in my ears. At my worst I couldn't even cope with having ear drops put in them. As a result I never learned to swim, and hardly ever go near the water. If I did go in I would stick to water that was no deeper than my waist.

That was all well and good until Duck and the approaching multisport season. Suddenly restricting myself to running and duathlons seemed like a copout. So, to my family's disbelief, I found a swim instructor. Last Thursday, to my own disbelief, I found myself walking around the waterfront to Freyberg Pools, pulling on a pair of togs, and sitting by the poolside to wait for my lesson to begin.

Despite nearly bursting into tears when we first started talking, things went surprisingly well. For most of my half hour my instructor, Lesleigh, had me aqua jogging up and down the pool. For that first lesson I couldn't work up the nerve to jog all the way to the end - which was well over my head. Even going halfway was deeper than my real comfort level. However I managed it, and even managed to put my face in the water towards the end of the lesson and blow bubbles. I left feeling pleased but like my true mission had not yet been fulfilled. I had not yet put my head under the water.

On Wednesday I went back to the pool to practice. This time I jogged all the way to the end, and on the return journey had to move away from the side of the pool to accommodate other women jogging along behind me. I played around with blowing bubbles and kicking while holding onto the side of the pool, but had no earplugs on me, so still no ears in the water.

Last night I had my second lesson. More aqua jogging, more putting my face in the water, and this time a few dismal attempts at floating. I got my ears to within milimetres of being immersed, but my reluctance to go any deeper meant that I didn't relax. Without relaxing I couldn't float. I could have been frustrated, but as Lesleigh and I chatted while I warmed up in the spa pool afterwards I experienced a sudden sense of elation. Sure, I still hadn't gone underwater, but I'd felt comfortable enough to do all but. Even better, I felt comfortable enough with my new earplugs to feel certain they'd keep the water out if I went a few milimetres further. I knew that I would be going back to the pool to practice, and that by our next lesson I would be under the water and hopefully even managing to float.

I was still amped when I went to bed, and spent the whole night dreaming. In my dreams I saw myself in the pool, over and over again. As the night went on I eventually accomplished my goal. I experienced the tranquility of being immersed in the water, and the joy of floating. I woke amazed at my mind's ability to use positive visualisation to accomplish a difficult task.

Buoyed on by my mental state I was at the gym this morning before 6am. I did my glut exercises, some ab work, and then had a stonking RPM class. I'm only running 45 minutes tomorrow so wasn't worried about my legs needing to be fresh. I think I'll follow up the run with another quick trip to the pool.

I asked Lesleigh whether I was her most neurotic client yet. She replied that I was actually one of her dream clients because I was very motivated. Damn tootin... I'm as motivated as I've ever been about anything. I am Pip, see me swim....


Michelle Fry said...

I am quite impressed by your motivation to swim. I am deathly afraid of being underwater as well and have yet to conquer my fear. I have a hard time floating because I can't relax in the water. Private lessons sound like a good way to go.

Pip said...

Thanks Michelle. I think private lessons definitely are a good idea, but they're pretty expensive. I'm going to enjoy Lesleigh while I can, and switch to a squad when I get up the courage! Good luck conquering your own fear. It's amazing how many of us there are.