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I am a Shaw Method swimmer: David Wright
David Wright’s early memories of swimming are of standing around on a poolside shivering whilst his school PE teacher barked “encouragement”. He also remembers a near-drowning incident as a toddler, so it was no surprise that as an adult he experienced a profound fear of water. He could swim, with his head up, but in a constant state of tension and worry that he might get water on his face. All that changed, however, when he discovered Shaw Method at his local pool.
So why did you decide to seek out swimming lessons? A couple of reasons really. I had been on holiday and was struck the amount of fun my companions were having in the pool, and I am nearing 50 so decided to draw up a list of things I’d like to do before I hit that milestone.
Why did you choose Shaw Method? Steven Shaw teaches in the health club I go to and I’d observed him with other pupils. He seemed like just the sort of person who might be able to help me – calm and reassuring. I’d also watched him swim was impressed by his technique, and his complete lack of aggression in the water.
What was your first lesson like? Very positive, I really started to feel that I was doing something about my fear. We did various exercises to get me more used to the water – walking up and down, for example, and we did approach getting the face in the water.
How did you feel? Calm. I had done a fair bit of mental preparation first. I told myself to go with it and not fight the instructor.
I also told Steven that I might panic so he could be prepared. In the past I’d experienced really strong involuntary reactions in the water, but I told myself that with Steven it would be different and that I’d have an open mind about what was going to happen.
And what about your teacher? I was right about Steven. He has a great poolside manner and really does give you confidence without making you feel like you are an overgrown kid or special case just because you can’t swim.
How is your swimming now? I’ve had about 10 lessons since I first started in September and now I can swim breaststroke. Amazingly I now love being under the water. I think the best bit of the stroke is when you are just gliding through the water. It’s been an incredible revelation really. I’m also struck by how much further I can swim and how much less out of breath I am. Before having lessons with Steven I would end up with such a pain in my neck and shoulders that I’d have to stop: after about half an hour in the pool I’d emerge feeling crippled. Now I just feel that general “worked-out” kind of feeling.
How do you feel about the learning process? I use a “learning to drive” analogy. At the beginning there seems to be so many things to think about at once – head, arms, legs, breathing (mirror, signal, manoeuvre) – that you feel like you’re playing some kind of one man band. Then you suddenly realise that you swam a stroke without thinking. There didn’t seem to be any in-between phase where you could almost do it.
And you’ve ticked something off your pre-50 list? Yes, but now I’ve added to it because I want to learn crawl, and backstroke.
Photo supplied by David Wright