Remember #32 Maximo and #33 Finbar? Well, #36 is their mom, Colleen and she has a very interesting story. She had expressed interest in being a project participant early on, so I was very pleased to hear that she was available. She talked about her experience with swimming: “My paternal Grandmother, “Grandma Katherine”, was a professional athlete. She swam a lot in open waters including “the cold Sound” on the East Coast. She used to take me to swim practice and take me swimming herself. If I went to the edge to hold on and rest she would step on my hands. She would also make me tread water for 30 minutes at a time. If I complained she would make it longer and tell me to think of the poor people that died after the Titanic sank.”
Seriously? People do that? I have had people tell me that they learned to swim by being thrown into a pool or a lake. That’s one approach, but I prefer a more mellow, fun introduction to the water. I want to make people comfortable and teach them how to relax and enjoy their new environment. The water can be intimidating at first, but once you learn to respect and trust it, it really is magical.
Colleen uses the pool as a safe place. I really enjoyed hearing about her respect for the water. She told me, “Swimming is a time to reflect. At times as a child I was sad and overly stressed due to issues with my parents. Swimming helped me to cope. If I had to cry I learned to never do it in person. I could cry in the pool briefly in a private manner and then that was enough. As an Asthmatic crying is not comforting due to the impact on breathing.” I could relate to Colleen, as I also remember using my swim team practices to cry when needed.
She went on to tell me, “Swimming has always been therapeutic for me. Whenever I have had an injury or am recovering from surgery as soon as I can get into the pool I begin to heal rapidly. I swam almost everyday when I was pregnant with twins. I swam the day before they were born. During the C-Section one of the surgeons reached over the curtain and said, ‘You are a swimmer.’ I will never forget that. Swimming was instrumental in helping me to lose 60 lbs from pregnancy.”
I was so pleased to learn about the wonderful relationship Colleen had with the water. (Especially after hearing about Grandma Katherine and The Titanic!) I’ve talked to many women who swam throughout their pregnancies as well and they all say they love feeling weightless in the water. I find this with carrying extra weight as well- It’s so much easier to get in the water and move, rather than running or lifting weights.
Colleen plans to use her new swimming skills in the very near future: “During 2014 I am working up to losing an additional 20 lbs. It may take me longer than one year. Swimming will be a key part of it. Someday I’d love to be strong enough to be in the Master Swim program.” What I found was that Colleen was strong enough to be on a Masters Team. She just tired out easily from swimming with her head up all the time and holding her breath. Back to the basics: BREATHING. We practiced inhaling and exhaling, using the kickboard, and getting into the correct body position to get a good breath. Fins did wonders for Colleen and she wondered if it would be ‘cheating’ if she used them while swimming for exercise. Well, here’s my philosophy…I don’t recommend swimming only with fins, as I do see people depend on them and just get plain lazy. But if used correctly, they can be a great training aid. Without the fins, Colleen wasn’t able to get her mouth all the way out of the water to take a breath. That’s the difficult part, the part where she panics, the feeling of suffocating. I told her to keep turning her chin up to touch her shoulder, that the air was there, it would always be there. It was a struggle, but she practiced and practiced. The fins gave her added buoyancy to keep her body in alignment and allowed her to get a side breath without her legs sinking.
By the end of the one hour lesson, Colleen was interested in adding fins to her routine, as well as working on various speeds and intervals to change things up a bit. What great ideas! I can’t wait to get the weight loss updates. Just remember what you said after our swim, Colleen, “I am much more aware of my breathing and pushing the air out while I swim, as opposed to holding my air. More air is out there.” Check out Colleen’s progress in just the one hour I worked with her by clicking on the YouTube icon above. And if you’re interested in purchasing fins (Finis has the best!) or any other swimming equipment, use this coupon code to get 20% off: