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The Amateur Learns to Swim

I’ve never been much of a swimmer. I took lessons as a kid, wearing goggles and nose plugs and water wings and hanging onto a foam noodle. I learned to make it across the length of a pool and not much else. We had a pool in the back of our townhouse complex when I was in middle school in California, and I remember being a decent swimmer then. But I gave up the practice and haven’t looked back. I doggy-paddled my way through the rare beach trips and pool parties that have been scattered through my last 20 years. However, my last trip to the gulf a couple months ago gave me a bit of a scare. I was powerless against the slightest tug of the waves and the tide. If I couldn’t feel the bottom of the shore with my feet, I panicked and quickly waded 5-10 steps inland. Not the man-beast-liest thing to do.

So, much like all those other skills I’d like to learn during my all-to-brief time on earth, I told myself I was going to become a swimmer. Now, don’t let this seem like I’m going to spend all my days in the pool, or suddenly start putting in 50 laps a day. But if this works out, I have some interesting options for sprint intervals, slow-and-low-intensity cardio, and a great 5K substitute that’s much nicer on my knees and hips. The Y gives me 6 30-minute lessons for just under $80, a pretty sweet deal, and I had my first lesson a couple days ago.

My trainer was a nice college kid, about 19 or 20, who looked like he had been through 4-5 too many keggers and pot-induced munchie sessions. Just looking at the two of us, you’d think that *I* was the state-champion swimmer and *he* was the guppy. But the fat boy could *move*. Streamlined and sleek like a manatee. I got in the water and gave him a sample of my skills. I was a thrashing, leg kicking, neck-swinging arm-slapping mess. Halfway across the pool and I was *gassed*. And you know me. I’m in pretty good shape. I eventually got the arm motions down, but I couldn’t catch my breath and keep my face down in the water for more than a second before needing to arch my neck back up and inhale. I *think* I improved a bit, but I kept getting water up my nose and in my throat. Nobody said this was gonna be easy.

I have a few more days to practice until my next lesson. Yesterday, I had a bit of a revelation – I never breathed out while my face was in the water. I merely held my breath. No wonder I had to get my face out of the water so quickly and so often. So here’s my big drill for today: get a rhythm with breathing. Inhale, face in the water, blow bubbles, face out of the water, and repeat. Once I get that down, I should be able to work in the arm movements, and then I’ll be ready to go! Right?

Tomorrow: I switch training/diet strategies all over again! It’s all about Crossfit Football! I’ve done a lot of reading on John Welbourn’s site and I have a detailed battle plan for the next 3-6 months (if I stick with it…)

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