February 6, 2017 by Soo Ee
I consider myself above average when it comes to strength and physical fitness. I could run, jump, climb, skip, hop, roll, kick and perform all sorts of movements required of a physical education teacher. Unfortunately, water is my kryptonite. Whenever I swim, I swallow mouthfuls of water at times. I cannot swim in a straight line. I look like I am drowning.
I thought of all sorts of excuses to skip the Monday session.
It has been a long day. I am tired.
I want to go Crossfit. My last session was last week and I need one today.
Oh, I got work to do. I will go home to finish up work.
There are really so many excuses one could think of if one doesn’t want to do something.
I was tired, but not that tired to want to go for Crossfit. There was still Wednesday or Thursday for Crossfit. I had work to do but it was not life and death urgent. I would probably be glued to the television when I was home.
The truth is, my ego does not sit well with the fact that I am always the last back at the start. I do not like to be the one who is struggling during the training and everyone has to wait for me to start the next set. I am always cold and desperate to get out of the water. My spirit breaks a little every Monday and it is excruciatingly demoralizing to even think I am going to make it for a triathlon this year.
As I dragged myself to the swimming complex, I prayed for peace within me.
Dear God, please give me the strength to be mentally stronger than this.
I pep talked myself to stay.
You can strong and get it done with.
I bribed my ego and coaxed it into submission.
You and me, we will go have a good dinner after this, okay? In the meantime, be strong for me.
I was still not looking forward to training.
Then something happened.
I think someone up there liked me today. I stumbled upon a beginner’s class I didn’t know existed until that moment I heard ‘learning basic swimming techniques.’ I moved closer to the group gathered at the side and realised that it was indeed a novice class!
I was excited for the first time. There are too many things I know I am not doing correctly – my left arm, my legs, my head, my breathing, but there is not much I could do in the pool to help myself, which is a laugh really. I pride myself for having good coaching senses yet I am not able to help myself. My only consolation was that the usual training sessions were going at too fast a pace. Because the moment we got into the water, we were told to do laps after laps to warm up before we were all thrown into fast intervals the rest of the hour. The only thing that registered in my brain was me trying to catch up with the rest.
All in all, this Monday’s session was very fruitful! I enjoyed it! I learnt the exact cues to perform proper strokes, the secret to gliding in the water and ways to use the buoy for self-practice sessions. There was even time for me to ask the coach questions like “Why must do like this?” “How to do like that?” “What must I do?” “Is this correct?”
Now, I look forward to more swimming sessions!
What I learnt:
Actually, this was more of reinforcing than learning for me. As a coach and educator, I place great emphasis on techniques and basics above everything else associated with the skill. I believe that if you have a strong foundation, it builds up to what you hope to eventually master. Through the years I have been coaching different genres of sports and have myself done national level sports training, I have seen how improper techniques often led to injuries or inefficiency during execution. Foundation building is that mundane part of training but learning the proper techniques increases efficiency.
I should not have jumped into the training without first making sure my foundation was good enough to do more. I wanted to be tough. I thought I was tough. I wanted to do the real tough training and be tough but ended up making everything worse. I was wasting energy doing the wrong things. I got my ego smashed flat each time I was in the pool, up to the point I almost wanted to give in to my dread and stay away.
Today, however, for the first time since I started the swim training, I felt relaxed and the counting taught by the coach focused my thoughts on moving, kicking and breathing.
Kick 4 times, 2 strokes, breath.
I left the pool feeling happy. I actually felt like I was swimming. I might not swam like a fish, at least I felt like I belonged to the water.
At my age, I have experienced enough difficult moments to know that they don’t last, but in moments when I was fatigue and afraid, taking the easy way out always seemed like a better option. I thought, “It was not a die die must do thing so why put myself through the discomfort?”
In those moments, I forget that things will work themselves out somehow, eventually. I just had to take it in and be brave. In this case, if I had given up going for lessons after my first trial session, I might not have the in-the-water confidence I have gathered over the last few weeks of training. I might be able to swim leisurely at my own pace but I might never know I could actually do the things I am afraid to do. I would not know that all it took was for me to put my mind to it and just hang on.
I walked from the swimming complex feeling that I am a slightly better swimmer than yesterday.