You are never to old to learn a new skill

This summer I’ve put my swim instructor cap back on.  We just completed our first full week of swim lessons, and I already have the smell of chlorine as my new “perfume.” Usually, I teach young children ages 3-5, certainly no older than 15 or 16.

This year, though, I’ve taken on an adult swimming class. I’m really looking forward to the group starting in July, but for now, I’ve given a few private lessons.  2 weeks ago a message came across my desk that said “K” has requested lessons.  Underage, it said 65 and under the question “What do you want to work on?” “K” had written, “I’m terrified of swimming.”.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as “terrified” can certainly encompass a range of emotions, but our first lesson was scheduled none the less.  Can I just tell you our 30-minute lessons have consisted of this progression: Putting chin and mouth in the water, floating with a float belt, float bar AND hanging on the wall, progressing towards letting go of the wall while I still hold onto “K” for a total of 20 seconds.  You might think “What a waste of time!” or “What a waste of money!”  And my response before starting these lessons would have been to agree with the money comment.

You know what?  These 3 lessons with “K” have been the highlight of my month. This sweet woman has made an impact on me, and I’m glad to say I told her so.  When entering the water, the fear is absolutely present in “K’s” whole body. Each time she lifts her feet off the floor of the pool she shakes…physically shakes.  And then, she takes a deep breath, and she keeps going.  “K” has listened to each instruction I’ve given very carefully.  She has accepted my word on why she needs to lift her feet off the pool to float as fact and even though every fiber in her screams and responds physically that she should not lift those feet, she does it.

As a teacher, I always strive, to begin with goals I know my student can achieve.  With “K” I was not sure what would be realistic, so we started slowly.  I asked her to let go of the wall while I kept her completely stable in the water.  We moved in 5-second increments while I stepped back allowing her body (still with the float belt and bar) to feel more of the water movement.  Once “K” felt comfortable with that, the next step was for me to let go.  I really wasn’t sure what would happen, but yet again this amazing inspiration fought her fears and by the end of the lesson had let go of the wall and was independently floating in the water for 30 seconds at a time, even kicking her legs and moving her arms to move.

Can I tell you I was so excited for “K” I was shouting.  I could NOT contain my enthusiasm!  My goal had been 15 seconds, and “K” decided she could do more.  Next week “K” is headed with her family on a beach vacation.  From what she tells me she has never entered the water on these vacations.  She said after our first lesson her swimsuit was hanging to dry and her daughter asked her if she had washed it.  🙂

“K, ” told me that a while back she was having a hard time.  She was finding it harder and harder to leave the house, and she was feeling blue.  Her doctor had encouraged her to exercise and “K” began with joining the YMCA, and has worked herself through fighting off fears of using exercise equipment, taking classes, and now the ultimate…learning to swim.  Just typing this brings a smile to my face.  Do you know why?  “K” decided that hard part of life wasn’t going to win.

She could have said “I’m too old and set in my ways.”  or my favorite “That’s just how I am, I can’t change”  Instead, she looked fear in the face and fought with her mind and body to fight it.  “K” is an inspiration, and I’m so thankful to have witnessed it!