Swimming With Turds

Alright, alright, I’ve used that as a blog title before but this one involves the lovely lady that coined the phrase.

I started teaching adults to swim about 18 months ago. We were setting up a new session at work and I was paired with a fellow mum of boys. We bonded instantly over our general exhaustion at parenting and whatever the kids happened to have thrown at us that week.

We were also joined on that first day by a lovely new learner. She could swim a little but was anxious about the water. She wanted to learn properly so that she could swim with her son who, I eventually discovered, I also taught. Over the last 18 months we’ve lost and gained a few newbies but she’s stuck with us, going from nervous learner to confident, smooth front crawler.

It’s a hard slog to drag yourself out on a Monday evening to the pool. The three of us did it week in week out. All thoughts of how hard it was dissipating once we got in the pool and the banter started.

Teaching adults is different, you have to build trust with your learner,  you’ve got to understand their reasons for being there to help them learn. Subsequently there’s a lot more chat than you’d see in a kids swimming class.

We often get odd looks when the duty manager comes onto poolside. Sometimes we’ll be howling with laughter, other times we’ll have everyone floating around doing a relaxation exercise. The lifeguard always gets a bit twitchy when I get people to sink down in the deep end and sit on the bottom 😉

All of our learners know I swim outside. They mostly think I’m completely nuts. My fellow teacher did for a while. Grossed out by what was in the water, she referred to it as “Swimming with Turds”.

But I worked her round. Facebook posts, blogs and the occasional time I came into work, face glowing and excited, after a sneaky dip on my way there all had an effect. On New Years Day she sent me a picture of her in the middle of Bala Lake with an enormous grin on her face. She’d got the hit of the “zing”, the adrenaline, the excitement, the risk, the fact no-one else she was with was brave enough to do it. I promised I’d take her properly once the water warmed up a bit.

But trying to fit that in when you have kids and work is always harder than you expect. But an opportunity arose! Our pool needed a refurb so rather than finishing for summer at the end of July we stopped teaching at the end of June. Suddenly we all had a free Monday evening to fill and our loyal learner had nowhere else to swim.

There were suggestions of a pub meet or coffee but I floated the option of just taking our session outside. They were both game!

And so, that first Monday evening in July we met at my usual spot. A time I knew no-one else would be around. It would be quiet, peaceful, with few or no onlookers. I’d borrowed wetsuits for them both and we were joined by another friend they’d met through their kid’s tennis lessons.

Much giggling, questioning of ones sanity and tentative steps into the water and they were in.

They loved it of course!

For a few weeks our Monday evenings were spent in that water, chatting about the week, opening up like you rarely do outside of the water. I love how the exposure of open water seems to help people have conversations they maybe wouldn’t otherwise have had.

We often finished with cake and hot drinks, but there was a particularly memorable evening of moonrise and gin in a tin on our little beach.

The school holidays started and we were soon split asunder. Struggling to get us all together, further compounded by the loss of my regular water.

This week we were all home though, the end of the school holidays looming, the start of regular life becoming a little too close for comfort.

A plan formed, new water, no wetsuits. A glorious, breezy dip in a slightly more wild location. Just the right place up for us to reunite and to challenge them a little more.

I’m not going to lie, they looked a bit scared when we first got there. “It’s a bit big”, “It’s a bit dark”, “It’s a bit windy”, “It looks cold” all uttered.

Cue a return to nervous giggling. The sudden gasps and whoops as the cold water crept its way up.

And in. Glorious cool water. A shorter than usual swim (I didn’t want them getting hypothermia after all). Chatting all the way. A general consensus from them all that it was a bit too dark and scary when you put your face into the peaty water. Humour at the deep tan the peat gives your body in the water.

It was a bit nippy to hang around outside so we decamped to the pub this time with plans and hopes to continue over the winter.

I may have got some others hooked. Only time will tell if they’ll come and join me on an ice breaking trip in the coming months 😉


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