The London Swim School offers three levels of adult swim lessons – beginners, intermediate, and advanced. Beginners is for non-swimmers, intermediate is for people who can swim 10 meters with the basic strokes, and advanced is, well, not me.
I signed up for intermediate. In our first lesson, the instructor watched all of us swim individually, and then divided us into two groups: beginner-intermediate and advanced-intermediate (my labels, not his).
I’m in the advanced-intermediate group, which is a good thing for my ego, but not a great thing for my technique. The instructor gives the most personal attention to the people who need it, as he should. But us “improvers” are kind of left swimming back and forth with little guidance or feedback.
Despite the lack of attention, the lessons challenge me as a workout. In lesson two, we swam laps, practicing various strokes that built up to the front crawl (aka free style). First, we swam without moving our arms at all, just holding our hands out ahead of our body and kicking – this was VERY hard. Then we moved our arms, but kept them under water, scooping our way across the pool like gophers. Then we took our elbows out, but not our hands. Then our elbows, hands, but not our fingertips. Then finally, we did the full stroke. We did 6 laps for each of these 6 variations. I was breathing hard the whole time – something I struggle to accomplish when I swim by myself.
The lesson keyed me into two things I should concentrate on next time I practice free style: keep my hands close to my body and my elbows high when they come out of the water.
I also learned that I am a very weak kicker. I can keep up with my fellow advanced-intermediate friends when we used our arms, but when it came to straight-up kicking, they blow me out of the proverbial water.
Speaking of friends, one of the reasons I took this class was to meet fellow swimmers. There’s not much time for socializing, but when we’re not doing laps, everyone is very talkative and nice. The pool is a funny place. At the end of the last class, some of us lingered at the edge of the pool before getting out, talking about the class, tattoos, whatever. One guy would intermittently start floating on his back. Another girl was passively splashing water with her hands. I had a hold of the edge of the pool and were letting my legs float in the water. It’s like the pool reconnects us with a childhood instinct to play. I like that.
Crossposted to spacekadet.org