Can one make a statement that once you learn to swim you never forget? Or does that only apply to riding a bike? I learned to swim many years ago as a very young boy and have always enjoyed it. I have enjoyed it so much that I continue to come back to it as a way to exercise and experience some measure of accomplishment. I enjoy it so much that I have managed to push way back into the recesses of my mind the traumatic experience of my first summer swimming competitively.
I can only remember flashes of that fateful day. I am sure my parents could elaborate with much more flair the events that unfolded. As a six-year-old standing on the starting blocks at Eastside Swim Club in Birmingham, AL it was most apparent to all those attending the meet that day I had serious doubts about diving into the deep end of that 25 yard pool. It might as well have been the rushing Amazon or the shark-infested waters of the Great Barrier Reef into which I was diving. Those would have been more welcoming. I had joined a neighborhood swim team at the insistence of my parents and after a couple of weeks of practice our first meet was being held. After much coaxing from my coach and parents I managed to climb the three wooden steps to the diving platform. Once atop the block, I stood, surveyed the water ahead and the crowds all around and decided swimming was not for me, at least not competitively. After several tearful minutes of protest, the gun sounded, I dove in the water...and sank to the bottom. My coach was the closest to the side of the pool and made the dive to save me. The trauma of the moment has blanked out the rest of the day. I don't remember if I swam anymore or just how embarrassed I must have been, but that painful day was the start of a life-long passion for swimming that I hold still.
On Monday of this week, I re-enrolled in a Masters' swim program at our local YMCA. I have gone through this program in the past and enjoyed it immensely. As spring is approaching and I contemplate triathlon participation it is time to whip myself into shape. If any of you think yourselves to be in good shape, do a little swim training under the tutelage of a zealous Masters' swim coach. It will amaze you how poor your condition really is. I may have not forgotten how to swim but I sure have lost what unique abilities I once had. It is more than humbling to struggle 25 yards down the length of the pool and find yourself too tired to even hang onto the side in winded desperation. As I inwardly critique my sloppy and choppy stroke in the water I am amazed at the smooth and effortless motion I see in so many seasoned and conditioned swimmers. The proper way to swim is truly a thing of beauty. Maybe some day I can find myself back in that kind of shape.
No, you never forget how to swim. But swim well...that's another matter.