It’s one of the last adjectives I would use when describing water: intimidating. But this is how Ifeanyi (Ife) felt about it and I was ready to change her perception.
She told me, “I never learned how to swim at a young age because of my issues with poor circulation and being cold. So when I got older and was able to tolerate it better, I was 13 when I started learning. By that point the fear of water had set in. Although my teacher at the time was awesome, it wasn’t that cool being the only 13 year old in a class of 6-7 year olds. I was also too young for the class of adults. After that, I didn’t pursue more lessons and just learned to avoid water. If water was unavoidable, I used a life vest. I barely put my face in the water. My worst experience in water was right after my lessons at 13…I thought I could go off the diving board. I did and struggled quite a bit to get to the top. To the point I thought I was going to drown and panicked. I didn’t obviously but it left a bad taste in my mouth.”
Uhhh…yea. That would leave a bad taste in my mouth as well. What horrible memories to have associated with swimming! It breaks my heart when I hear people talk about such negative experiences with swimming, especially adults. I look into their eyes and see a mixture of regret, frustration, anger and sadness.
It has been rare since I have seen genuine hope and excitement- until this year with the project. Ife was nervous; she didn’t want to admit how ‘bad’ she was in the water. I had hope. She laughed as she told me, “My sister was a lifeguard.” I couldn’t wait to show Ife and her sister what she was capable of.
As it turns out, Ife is capable of a lot! She was very stiff and uneasy in the water at first, which I expected, considering her experience (or lack of it) in the pool. We did the lesson at The Swim School San Diego, which is quiet, indoors and 90 degrees. When you are learning how to put your face in the water and swim, it is important to be comfortable and relaxed.
Being comfortable and relaxed helps you stay in the present moment. Once you are in the present moment, you become aware of your breath. And once you are aware of your breath, you can actually breathe and relax. It sounds so simple because it is. We all forget to breathe. But when you are in the water, you must remember, as a matter of life and death. So, Ife worked on blowing her air out in the water and started to relax. I put FINIS fins on her for buoyancy and so she could feel what it’s like to move through the water. From there, she swam up and down the pool, stopping to smile and say, “It’s so nice not to panic.”
It was an amazing 60 minutes, which turned into about 90, when I finally had to drag Ife out of the pool, as she kept saying, “Just one more time!” It’s so fun to see participants NOT want to get out of the water, when just one hour ago, they didn’t want to get in.
Ife was pleased with herself. In her e-mail to me after the lesson she said, “I feel much better about water. I want to get back in and I want to learn better. I am determined to become a swimmer. I definitely feel like a light bulb went off during the lesson that I only want to grow and foster.” Breaking through aquatic anxiety…one swimmer at a time 🙂
* BIG THANK YOU TO Kehaulani at Wonderstruck Photography once again for capturing the transformation.
*Note- Ife remarked that her swimsuit was difficult to swim in. I’ve noticed this with other female participants. We laughed as we figured out that if you don’t swim, you typically buy swimsuits to lounge by the pool and read magazines. You don’t actually anticipate ‘swimming’ in them (unless it’s up to the pool bar). So, I’m giving you permission to go shopping. You still need sassy poolside suits, but if you want to start doing any form of aquatic exercise, grab another one that won’t fall off when you jump in or push off the wall 🙂
Click the arrow to the left to check out the video of Ife’s one hour break through…