Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Face The Fear And Do It Anyway

I came face to face with my fear today. I enjoyed the Hydro Tone water fitness class so much yesterday, I decided to attend another one tonight.

When I entered the gym and walked past the "baby" pool to the locker room I thought something was strange. There was not one person in the pool. I looked at my watch and noticed that it was a couple of minutes before 6:00 pm. "Oh well", I thought. "Maybe everyone's running late". I proceeded to the locker room, changed into my suit and made my way to the pool. As I entered, the lifeguard said "Pool's closed tonight. Someone threw up in it and we have to clean it". Believe me, that was really ok with me.

I went back to the locker room and got dressed in my street clothes to go home, a bit disappointed. Just then a woman comes rushing in and starts changing into her swimsuit. I asked her if she was taking the swimming class. "Yes, I am", she said. "They're having it in the big pool since they're cleaning the little pool". The big pool would be the 50M pool. The one with 1 million gallons of water in it. The pool where swim meets and scuba lessons were held. My heart sank. I have never been in the big pool. I'm really not a swimmer. I used to laugh at myself and say that I could drown in a wading pool.

I used to know how to swim but something happened when I was a teenager. I jumped into what I thought was a shallow end of a pool that turned out to be the deep end. I sucked up what seemed like buckets of water as I catapulted to the bottom. As I remember it, I had to go to the hospital to have my stomach pumped. I was sick and frightened and have never been comfortable around water since.

Fast forward to today. Here I am, 62 years old and really scared of going into the big pool. I said to myself, "Self, you need to be a big girl. You can do this". So I changed and joined the rest of my class in the big pool.

As I walked into the pool, the instructor must have seen the fear in my eyes. "Will you be all right?", he asked. "I don't swim", I said. "Well, we have these belts that you strap on and they will make you float in the water". I looked unsure. "It's entirely up to you", he said. All kinds of thoughts went though my head but the loudest was: "I'm really not going to walk away from this challenge".

I asked him where the shallow end was. "It's all deep water he said". "Oh, oh", I thought to myself. As he helped me strap my belt on first followed by my transformer boots, I just kept talking to myself. "You can do this". "Just breathe".

As I descended into the water and realized that my feet were nowhere near touching the bottom, the fear started to rise in my throat. I held onto the bells and started making circles in the water and kicking my feet. As I inhaled and exhaled slowly, I started to calm down. Maybe I could do this.

Many of the exercises were too scary for me to do because my face kept coming too close to the water. When the fear started moving in, I just went back to my breathing and making circles with the bells. Worked like a charm. This was about baby steps for me.

Many of the exercises weren't as effective in the big pool because you really needed your feet on the bottom to help achieve more drag on your legs. No one was especially happy with the level of the exercise, but we were all being good sports about it. I know at least one of us was fighting unknown demons in the process.

At the end of the class I tadpoled over to the stairs and hung on as I removed my boots and the buoyancy belt. I climbed up the ladder and onto the deck of the pool. I felt really good. I was glad that the class was over and I was glad that I had managed to rise above my fear.

I'm working on the next 25 things to do when I retire: Learn to swim

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