Don’t hold your breath, but improving my keep fit technique is all going swimmingly at Leith Victoria - Susan Morrison

For some time now I have hidden a dark secret from my family and friends. They believe I can swim and to a certain extent I can. But I can’t breathe while swimming and that is something of a drawback.
Leith Victoria Swim CentreLeith Victoria Swim Centre
Leith Victoria Swim Centre

Like most adults my age, I never really got swimming lessons. My mum is an enthusiastic swimmer, always has been. She takes after her father. My grandad swam about 100 lengths just about every day right up until a year or so before his death at 98. The pool wasn't even that local. It took him about forty minutes to walk there and another forty to get back. My mum suspected that was just to get him away from my gran.

He passed his love of swimming on to my mum, and she took us to pools and encouraged us to go into the sea on holiday. We didn’t really learn, anymore than those Polynesian kids who get chucked in the Pacific. We sort of thrashed about and given time, we managed to move forward in a sort of crawl, with your head down in the water.

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When you’re a kid, you can hold your breath for enough time to get to the deep end of the pool, which marked you out as a swimmer. Age and surgery have cut my capacity. These days it's about three strokes and a lot of spluttering.

I’ve spent decades thrashing up and down swimming pools in a sort of impersonation of the PS Waverley, but without the breathing. Enough of this malarky, I thought. Let's learn to do this properly. It's a great exercise. Look at my grandad, and my 83 year old mum swims just about every day when she can and she’s had her hip done. Twice.

A sign popped up at Leith Victoria Pool. Adult swimming lessons. Well, why not? I will admit to feeling a little awkward. Look at me, for heaven's sake. 64 years old and learning to swim properly.

Not only that, I had a bit of a retail fail on the cossie front. Thinking that I would look like one of those superfit Olympic swimmers, I bought a longer leg style suit, completely forgetting that I am a shorter leg body. Think 1920's bathing belle, only less sleek flapper and more lumpy walrus.

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They’ll think I’m an idiot, I thought. But I signed up anyway, literally took the plunge and hoped the staff wouldn’t snigger at me.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Gale, Josh and the rest of the team welcomed us into the water like old friends who’d dropped by to learn to swim. The class were treated like grown up children. We were encouraged to have fun in the water and how to swim confidently.

They skillfully taught us how to swim and breathe at the same time, although they did point out, best not to try that underwater. Complete novices, clearly nervous at the start of the day, were patiently coached into floating in deep water and by the end of the sessions you could see the beginnings of good swimming technique.

It was worth every penny, and if you see signs in your pool, then I’d urge you to sign up and give it a go.

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