Swimming by YouTube


It started innocently enough. An email from a friend suggesting that we do a super-short-distance all-women triathlon near where I live. Well, that’s easy! No, I didn’t know how to swim (not-drowning was about as far as I could go), I didn’t own a bike (other than the broken-down oversize man’s bike under the house that I’d rescued from a millionaire boss in New York City who VERY briefly wanted to be Lance Armstrong), and I only ran when chased…or maybe on fire. Maybe.
But then it nagged at me. I was approaching my mid-40’s, and this would be a perfect opportunity to do something big. My parents raised me to believe I could do anything I wanted to–actually, it still never occurs to me that I can’t. And really, I should probably learn how to swim. Actually, I should already know. I grew up in Florida, after all. But I was the kid who always got dunked or thrown in the pool. Water was not fun for me. And putting my face in the water? Forget it.
So the days and weeks went by while I debated with myself, and the triathlon filled up except for a few ridiculously overpriced last-minute slots. I was sitting on my couch playing woe-is-me when my husband had a wonderful offer: “I’ll stake you.” In other words (he patiently explained), all I had to do was train for and complete the triathlon–including swimming–and he would pay the ridiculously overpriced last-minute fee.
So I did. I dusted off the huge bike and remembered how much I’d loved to ride when I was a kid. I found a beautiful gravel path in the woods and started running (and promptly broke my heel, but that’s another story). I bought cute outfits to bike and run in. I even found a swimsuit that didn’t traumatize me with its honesty. I printed out a training plan, put it on the refrigerator door, and gave myself a shiny foil star every day that I trained. (I discovered that I am VERY motivated by shiny foil stars.)
And then I joined a nearby gym with a pool and got in. Wow, I really did not know how to swim. So I got out and went home and did what any web-savvy modern-day learner does. I Googled “How to swim”.
Wow, there are A LOT of YouTube videos on “how to swim,” and I watched every one. Fortunately I’m also an actress and a pretty good mimic, so I went back to the pool and tried to do the moves exactly the way I’d seen them. I was also sure to go at times when the pool was pretty much empty so I wouldn’t make a complete fool of myself…although I’m not sure how wise that was for my safety. In any event, I practiced, I YouTubed, and I somehow made my way through that first triathlon. And I. Loved. It.
Now, with three sprint triathlons (including one open-water lake swim) and a half-marathon under my race number belt, I’m much more comfortable. I’m far from fast, but at least I’m no longer afraid. And, best of all, I have a really great, very patient swim teacher who I meet every few weeks to help me with my form. I’d taken swim lessons from others in the past year or so, but I always felt like they were shaking their heads. My new teacher tells me how much better I’m getting, and she gently tells me what I still need to work on. She tells me that I’m suited for swimming. She’s awesome.
My goal is to complete an Olympic-distance triathlon this fall, which includes a 1,500 meter open-water swim. I’m training now and really enjoying it. I’m also learning through guided doing, which I really believe is the best way.
I’ve always loved to learn. It’s akin to relaxation for me, and it’s always exciting. And now I believe more than ever that all things are possible with the right people, patience, courage…and YouTube.