Zoggs Swim Diaries: Learning to swim as an adult

The Zoggs Swim Diaries series focuses on people who are taking on a personal challenge whether it be learning to swim, working towards a specific goal or doing something extraordinary. Many of you have a story to tell and that's what we love about the Zoggs Swim Diaries.

This guest post is by Donna Wishart from What The Redhead Said who learnt to swim last year. Donna is a top UK family lifestyle blogger who lives in Surrey with her husband Dave and their two children. Over to Donna...

I have one vivid childhood memory when it comes to swimming and that is going to the local swimming pool with my class at school. We were around seven or eight and it was the start of our swimming lessons – which only lasted for a term. I had never swam before but, as I was painfully shy, especially around people I didn’t know, somehow I ended up in the deep end of the pool with the more proficient swimming, holding on to the edge for dear life. I thought I was going to drown.

After that my experience of swimming was brief. I went swimming with my parents on annual camping trips. We couldn’t afford to go swimming in between those summer holiday trips and we definitely couldn’t afford formal lessons. So throughout my childhood I would splash away in the shallow end of the pool, arm bands on, thinking nothing more of it.

As an adult I didn’t really have opportunity to swim until I met my husband and we went to the Dominican Republic for my 20th birthday. He knew I couldn’t really swim but we’d never really spoken about it as swimming wasn’t part of our lives. On that holiday I realised I could just about make it across the width of the pool if I knew I could touch the bottom. If I went out of my depth I would drown and die. My thought process really was that simple. After that holiday we had so many more beach holidays – to Tunisia, Egypt and our honeymoon in Mexico. The one thing they all had in common was that I pretty much stayed on dry land. My husband went swimming, he went snorkelling and he was like a fish – loving every moment of being in the water. I pushed myself to go into underground caves in Mexico but the blissful swimming, snorkelling experience was, for me, nothing more than bobbing along with a life vest on. I knew then that not being able to swim was holding me back in so many aspects of my life.

Zoom forward ten years and we had two children who had learnt to swim, happily jumping into the deep end of the pool, doing pencil dives and so many different strokes in the water. I would watch them both from my sun lounger, envious of their abilities but so proud that they had achieved something that I never did.

I lost count of the amount of times I’d watch the children in the water and get tears in my eyes. I felt pathetic that my four and six year old children could swim and I was terrified of the water and I knew something had to change because I wanted to experience these things with them. I didn’t want to spend our holidays as a bystander, an observer. I wanted to be involved, I wanted to be present and I wanted their main holiday memories to have me in them.

So, last year, I booked a swimming course. I wanted somewhere residential where I could go and stay for a week and by the end of it I would be swimming. Don’t get me wrong, I doubted very much that I’d be able to swim without fear after a week but I knew that if I did weekly lessons at a local pool it would take me years to see progress. I wanted to spend a good chunk of time learning to swim, hoping it really would make a difference.

Donna Wishart 2

In July last year I found myself driving to Wales for the week, and I don’t think I have ever been so nervous. I hadn’t spent a week by myself since my teenage years but, the following day my swimming lessons started and I didn’t look back.

The first day was huge for me. It was all about confidence in the water, learning about how our bodies acted by being in the water and how the water reacted to our bodies. By the end of that day I knew that the water didn’t want to swallow me up, that it was actually really easy to float and as long as you are calm and think about what your body is doing you can stay above the water even if you can’t swim. I knew then that I would be swimming that week.The rest of the week taught me how to swim. We did breaststroke, elementary backstroke and gliding as well as learning how to start swimming, stop swimming and change direction. We wore goggles and had a nose clip for some parts and by the end of the week I could swim happily. I could float, I could move from one side of the water to the other and the only thing I hadn’t tried was being out of my depth.

A few weeks after I came back from my swimming course we went to Florida where I got to test out everything I had learnt. I was swimming in the pool, swimming underwater and I even learnt to do a roly poly. But the biggest test was when we went to Discovery Cove and to swim with the tropical fish and rays I had to push myself off the edge of a pool, into the water, metres out of my depth. I was so scared, but I did it and until that point I wasn’t really sure if I could actually swim out of my depth. But I did – I can – and I haven’t looked back since.

Our holiday to Florida was spent with me joining in with everything that the kids were doing and I know any holidays in the future will be spent with me playing in the pool, swimming, snorkelling and experiencing everything on offer. I’m so much happier and the children are so proud of me for learning to swim too. The course cost me £500 and changed my life. I wish I’d done it years ago.

Donna Wishart 3