One of the most exciting parts of Retirement is encountering situations where you feel like a kid again. Sometimes it’s the music that’s playing. Or maybe it’s getting ice cream in the middle of the day. And then there are flashbacks to your childhood.
This month, I had a flashback.
I was 11 years old and I still didn’t know how to swim. We had just moved into an apartment complex and my parents signed me up for a one-week summer swim class. Since I’d nearly drowned twice in my first 11 years, this was a pretty good plan to keep me alive to reach my teens. I was nervous, excited and not sure what to expect.
Since then, I’ve always enjoyed swimming. In my 20’s I made swimming laps part of my workouts. But to this day I’ve always felt uncomfortable putting my face in the water. I mean, the one-week class when I was 11 has kept me alive, but I am no Mark Spitz.
Now, 50 (!) years after my first lessons, I’m back in the water again at our local recreation center. I’m a little nervous, excited, and not sure what to expect. I’m with five other students in a class called Adult Advanced Beginner. I figured we’d be perfecting our strokes for the freestyle, the breaststroke and the backstroke. Maybe if we had time we would work on the Butterfly! Soon, Spitz and I could be swimming laps together.
Our instructor Don called us together and handed out… paddleboards.
Paddleboards??? C’mon Man!
I will admit that I’ve seen people using paddleboards and chuckled to myself. I was about to get payback for my haughtiness.
The first thing we realized, was that paddleboards are not designed to hold you up or make it easy to swim. Instead, they make it impossible for your upper body to participate in moving you through the water. Paddleboards are, in fact, torture instruments for your quadriceps and hamstrings.
Don spent a couple of minutes with each of us, towing us halfway down the pool and back while we kicked and kicked and kicked. Then he had us line up and gave us our orders. Paddle to the end of the pool.
No Prob…. OMG!
We didn’t go very far, or very fast. At times, we moved backwards!?! After the longest three minutes of my life I arrived at the other end, legs burning, lungs gasping for air.
Spitz would have to wait for his new workout partner.
Slow and Steady
Over the next few classes we tossed the paddleboard aside and worked on our freestyle. Don coached me to get my face down in the water, slow down, and breathe with every stroke. Over and over I heard “You move very well in the water. Get your head down a little more. Slow down your stroke.” Slowly I was getting it. But 50 years of swimming the wrong way is a hard habit to break.
As we entered our final week, Don told us that openings were available for new classes that he’d be teaching. I rushed home and signed up for the next three months.
Maybe I’ll finally learn the Butterfly… and then take a few laps in the lane next to Mark Spitz.
Learning in Retirement – Epilogue
Retirement gives you the chance to have some do-overs, to get better at something you’ve never had time to accomplish, and to enjoy new pursuits that you’ve always wanted to try. There are hundreds of roads to explore.