Why swimming? Laps for Life...
I am not a natural swimmer. I was so frightened of swimming in my junior years that I was still in the level 1 class at learn to swim in Grade 4. I only once competed in a high school swimming carnival and I jumped in the deep end of Oak Flats pool and somehow made it over to the very first ladder and climbed right out of there. I took the embarrassment on in front of the whole school population, along with the thought that I would never ever do that again.
What was surprising was my love of water, rain and rivers, creeks and the ocean. I just had a fear of swimming in it. We even had a backyard pool for a time there before this incident. It wasn't enough for me to overcome my fear of swimming.
The catalyst for change was very benign. We had a new gym built and our school offered aqua aerobic classes in their waste deep heated indoor pool. My girlfriend was a state swimmer and suggested she would teach me to swim, having spent much time at the beach with me and realising I had no swimming skills. She is also very bossy with a wicked sense of humour. She put a pair of flippers on my feet and encouraged me to start swimming laps. It was full of laughs, we were around 15 at the time.
It wasn't until I was 19 years old that I decided to overcome this fear fully. I started pushing myself out of my comfort zone, with her guidance over the prior years and forced myself to learn bilateral breathing. This was the game changer! I could start swimming for longer periods without becoming breathless. I could glide through the water without gulping huge quantities of water and stopping to almost drown, coughing and spluttering. I swam in all the ocean pools in the Illawarra. It was certainly the beginning of my swimming life.
I went on to do a swimming teaching course and become an AustSwim instructor and specialised with level 1 beginners and the elderly, those with a fear of water. I worked up until it was obvious to my employer that being a sole parent of very young children and an instructor and squad coach 6 days a week was not compatible. I had my reservations regarding his opinion, but went on to a career in winemaking and have not looked back.
I do thank him for pushing me away from instructing as my love for swimming has never left me.
I want to use this passion for good, and the laps I swim in March I know will help prevent youth suicide. I hope my story can be of comfort and inspiration to those wanting to get out of their comfort zones and reach goals they are passionate about.
It can sometimes take adversity to help you break through to the other side! "Break on through to the other side." (That's for Shelly!)
Looking forward to swimming through the month of March!