Standing tall, with her shoulders back, she stares out over the shimmering depths beneath her. Drawing her eyes to the edge of the board, she takes two steps forward, her hands outstretched and her toes pointed, like a dancer. Lifting one leg, she jumps into the air, while balancing on the other, then quickly bringing up both knees and lifting her arms high above her head. Bouncing as she lands at the edge of the board, she springs forth into the air, bending slightly at the waist as she points her outstretched arms and body towards the pool below. She pierces the water in a clean, streamlined fashion, leaving a mere splash of tiny bubbles. Moments later, she emerges and swims to the edge of the pool, exiting gracefully by the tiled ladder.
That, dear friends, is how I would like my first ever springboard dive to go. For now, the mammoth leap will take place only in my dreams, until I can conquer my phobia of diving into water from anything other than the safety of the tiled ledge on the inner side of the pool.
My older siblings all learned to swim and dive not too long after the family arrived in Australia. Mum sent me with them to the Olympic Swimming Pool in the Canberra CBD, and I would sit on the grass and watch in awe as they leapt from the highest tower into the five metre depths of the dive pool. I don't remember any of them ever asking me to join them in the water, or encouraging me to swim. So, despite my best efforts, I never made it out of the 'Tadpoles' group at swimming lessons after school. It may have had something to do with my fear of drowning and the fact that I hate the feeling when water enters my eyes, ears, nose and throat simultaneously.
In the middle of 2013, at the age of 55, I decided it was time that I was more adventurous, so I ventured into the deep end of a swimming pool on my own. It was at a resort in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. We had both just retired from full time work and I was still recovering from pneumonia, so my lung function wasn't the best, but I was determined that I would teach myself to swim.
Peter suggested that I try a centre-line (front) snorkel to help with my breathing technique, so I ordered one made by Zoggs. The snorkel arrived in the mail a few days later, with a metal nose clip in the package. A nose clip to keep out the water? Who knew that such things existed!? If I was going to give this swimming thing a shot, I might as well do it properly, so I also invested in a pair of titanium goggles, some ergonomically-designed silicone ear 'plugz', and short-blade swim fins. Fully kitted out, I was ready to swim. Woo hoo!
Of course, shortly after we committed to regular swimming sessions, I fractured the metatarsal bone in my left foot (power walking to the bathroom!), and had to have surgery. Thanks to the good work of my surgeon, three screws securely hold the shattered bone in place. Once the wound had healed sufficiently, I was back in the water. The 25-metre 'baby pool' at our local leisure centre is heated to 32 degrees C, providing an almost perfect environment for pain relief and aquatic therapy. Eventually, I ventured into the 50-metre pool and attempted to swim laps. I found the snorkel, nose clip, ear plugs and goggles to be brilliant, but because the bones in my foot needed to fully mend, it would be at least a year before I could consider wearing the swim fins.
Eighteen months on, thanks to Peter's sage advice, and my own determination, I have taught myself to swim - albeit with the full regalia and at the age of 58. My fitness has increased remarkably, my body is more flexible and feels lighter in the water. My strokes are long and smooth. As an added bonus, the swim fins have helped build up my speed, as well as my lower body strength.
I can now comfortably swim one kilometre (a thousand metres) in a session and have, on a few occasions, swum up to two kilometres. I follow up lap-swimming with at least 30-minutes of resistance training (bicep curls, chest flys, bicycling and punching), using aquatic dumbells (another excellent investment).
Swimming and aqua training, coupled with a revised eating plan (and cycling in-between, when the weather allows), has seen me shed 17 kilograms. The weightlessness provided by the water has a way of calming one's mind and body. You can swim at your own pace and focus on nothing but the thin black line at the bottom of the pool. And, because swimming is such a meditative form of exercise, I find that I am more relaxed and much happier within myself.
I am reminded of the Speedo mantra: 'You're only one swim away from a good mood.' Yes!
To me, swimming is like taking a mini holiday, not to mention that my joints feel as though they have had a 'grease and oil'. It's such a good thing and I only wish that I learned to enjoy it sooner.
Will I ever muster up sufficient courage to take the plunge from the dive board? I know not. For now at least I can bob about in the dive pool and watch the youngsters hurl themselves into the water, from great heights and with amazing talent.
Tell me dear readers, do you enjoy swimming? Have you been a good swimmer all your life? And can you dive?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
Join me as I share with you my favourite recipes, postcards and morsels from my adventures, conversations with cookery writers
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.