The Online Journal of Writer Kate Sykes
When Ben hands me the kickboard again, I’m pretty sure I’m being sent back to remedial kicking lessons, but he tells me not to worry. “Swimming is really hard. Even marathon runners have a hard time with it.”
This doesn’t inspire much confidence. I used to run for fitness—never very far, or very fast, and I’m pretty much in awe of elite runners. If someone like that struggles with learning how to swim, how can a jogger like me ever hope to master it? It’s not like I can just swim slower; I’ll sink!
Perhaps seeing the look on my face, he explains that when we run or ride a bike, our bodies automatically regulate our breathing. We don’t have to think about it. We just take in as much air as we need. But underwater, since we don’t have the luxury of breathing whenever we want to, we have to regulate it ourselves.
“Most women are comfortable breathing every third, fourth—or even every fifth stroke,” he says. “Men usually can’t go more than four.”
This fact surprises me. I would have assumed that, being larger, men have greater lung capacity. “Why is that?” I ask.
He shrugs, “Men just can’t hold their breath.”
Well, that explains a lot.
It also makes me feel like I might have a natural advantage, however slight, and gives me just the boost I need. “All right,” I say. “What’s next?”
“We need to find where you’re most comfortable.” He tells me to hold the kickboard out in front of me and keep kicking, while keeping my face in the water. “Count like you’re taking strokes with your arms, and when you get to three, take a stroke and breathe.”
When I do this, I discover that just having the kickboard in front of me provides enough buoyancy to breathe on my weaker side without sucking in water.
One-two-breathe. One-two-breathe. One-two-breathe.
I make it all the way down to the end of the lane without stopping.
Ben is waiting for me, with a great big smile. “That looked great! How did it feel?”
I can honestly say it felt good—not like drowning. In fact, not scary at all.
“Awesome!” He says and gives me two thumbs up. “We’ll have you swimming laps in no time.”