Sometimes achieving your goals takes a little longer than you first expected…
My swim journey started at my local leisure centre as a young girl. Armbands on and clinging to my Dad whilst he tried to keep an eye on me and my four other siblings. This was the perfect setting to have fun and splash around, but not necessarily the right environment to learn a new skill. Which is why, fast forward to year five, I was so excited for school swimming lessons. Our class was split and I found myself in the ‘baby’ pool with armbands and a floating aid learning how to tread water.
Okay, this wasn’t exactly the scenario of my dreams; my ambitions were to be in the deep end of the big pool with my friends who were learning ‘special’ skills whilst bombing into the pool in their pjs. Later I’d graduated to the shallow end of the big pool, but our school sessions came to an end and I still had no idea how to swim properly and had no ‘special’ skills. This is the moment that feelings of doubt, embarrassment and a massive loss of confidence seeped into my consciousness. My relationship with water felt like it was over and I felt dejected. My family, like others from ethnic backgrounds, weren’t confident swimmers and spending money on lessons outside of school wasn’t an option for us.
After this, I spent so many years making up excuses for why I didn’t want to be in water. It was always in the back of my mind when booking a holiday with friends, I desperately hoped they’d be happy to tread water a few metres into the sea rather than attempt to swim freely in deep water. I wanted to stay on the beach where it was safe. I said that I preferred to sunbathe, but in all honesty it wasn’t that at all; I just hadn’t been taught the skill of how to swim properly and I wouldn’t know how to stay safe in the water if I got into trouble. It wasn’t worth the risk, so I watched on the side lines and pretended not to care as everyone else seemed to be having the time of their lives. Why not just start lessons? Well, I became terrified of failing. The thought of being a beginner at something new can stop us from learning new skills or trying new hobbies. I was 100% guilty of that.
Three years ago, I was offered the opportunity to take part in a charity swim. I was 31 years old. I was so close to talking myself out of it, something I’d been doing for years, but I knew in my heart that I needed to overcome the obstacles I’d let get in my way. There can be a real sense of shame that comes with not being able to swim, for me this was just another barrier to pile on top of the long list of things that made me feel ‘other’ or different. My age, my cultural background, the thought of others laughing at me for not being able to swim properly was only having a negative impact on one person – me. I was tired of holding myself back and making excuses for why I couldn’t do it. I realised I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel the way that I did and so I was determined that this wasn’t going to be my story. With the help of a very kind and patient swimming instructor called Harry, I slowly found the confidence that was lost in my year five class. Going back to basics with a swim float was a humbling experience, and it wasn’t easy, but the sense of achievement I felt after my first few successful strokes of front crawl was a dream come true.
If what I’ve spoken about sounds familiar to you then I want you to ask yourself, why not you? You are never too old to learn something new, we need to venture out of our comfort zone to grow and evolve. If you’ve been wanting to swim but felt held back then this is your moment to think about giving it another go. I know you won’t regret it.
My school lessons ended sooner than I’d have liked, but I know how important it is for children to have access to a pool; it not only builds confidence but helps empower kids to reach for other goals too. Water safety isn’t just for leisure, swimming is a life skill that we all deserve to learn. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you live or how much money you have to spend on private lessons. None of those things matter, swimming is for everyone. This is why I’ve partnered with Speedo for their Swim United campaign, let’s ensure primary school children can swim 25 metres by the time they leave school.
Swim safe, love Sair x @SpeedoUK #SwimUnited AD