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Learning To Swim As An Adult (Part 1) - One Mans Journey

Let me introduce you to Peter, one of my students learning to swim as an adult.

Wait... Get Your Lesson Plans Here

Peter is one of the most courageous men I have had the pleasure to teach. I asked him if he would write something for me because I think that his experience could be very helpful to other adult beginner swimmers.

I will let Peter take it from here as I think he tells his story very well. Much better than I could.

My name is Peter Georgiadis. I am 49 years old, and married with three boys. I have lived near the sea all of my life. Up to the age of 43 I lived in the South Eastern Suburbs of Sydney less than 5 kilometres from Sydney’s main ocean beaches, Maroubra, Coogee, Bondi and Bronte and I was just north of Botany Bay. My parents lived in houses in Sydney with swimming pools and we even had a holiday house in the Royal National Park south of Sydney,that had a large pool, and was also close to the sea. Six years ago our family moved to Williamstown in Melbourne which is a on a headland and is surrounded by the sea.

The reason I mention this is that while I have always lived very close to water and have been around swimming pools all my life, I have always been petrified of the water so had never learnt how to swim. There is no good reason for this. I cannot think or remember any scary experiences as a child that could have caused this, and that may have precipitated this fear, it’s just a fear that developed very early in my life, which I have grown up with. (My wife has a theory that my fear originates and was instigated from my Greek Orthodox Christening! You know.., the big triple dunk in a silver bath, by a scary old long white bearded chanting priest, when I was two years old). Mmm, maybe she’s right.

As I was growing up, I learnt how to avoid any discussion about swimming lessons at home, (my mother was never keen anyway, so this was easy), and I managed to have plenty of excuses over the years to get out of swimming carnivals at school. Most of my family and friends were good swimmers and my children all learnt how to swim from a very early age. I do vividly remember missing out having fun with all the other kids when I was growing up, and then with my own kids in the water, at the beach or in boats or skiing etc., but I figured this was better/safer option than drowning, and I was too embarrassed to fess up to my inability of not being able to swim and fear of water, although everyone knew anyway (my friends thought … better not to talk to Peter about that as it might upset him).

My fear was that I thought I could not float in water, and I would sink to the bottom and drown. This reasoning did not make any sense really, especially when I could clearly see everyone else in the water floating, swimming and having a great time. For some unknown reason, my brain from a very early age (maybe from my christening) was “pre-programmed” and had a “default setting” that said I could NOT float or swim in water like everyone else, (I was obviously more dense, like lead) and it was best I kept out of the water while everyone else had fun. So that’s what I did. This fear lived with me all my life, and haunted me until last year.

For the last ten years, I had been promising myself each year “next year I will learn how to swim”. Yeah, right, all I did was make pathetic excuses to put it off and year after year nothing happened.
Until last year …………….! I finally did something. So what changed?

Learning to swim as an adult part 1: an Image of a mail swimmer doing cofident freestyle in the pool
From Adult Non Swimmer To Swimmer
Last year was my worst year ever regarding my health. I suffered from severe depression in the first half of the year and due to my medication it developed into Bi-Polar in the second half of the year culminating in a severe manic episode that landed me in a hospital mental ward for three weeks. All up, I had 100 days off work and it took a huge toll on me and particularly my family.

Being in that mental ward (it was a high dependency ward, so it was more like being in a jail) was a really frightening experience to say the least and once I recovered from my manic episode and was back to my senses, it seemed even worse. At that point I really thought I was never going to get better or get out of there and never see my family and friends again. It was during this period that I finally understood I had to enjoy my life in future to the fullest (life’s too short as we always say) if I ever got out of there, and do all the things I had been putting off, this included confronting my fear and swimming. So I promised myself that as soon as got out of hospital and had fully recovered I would enroll in a swimming course. And that’s exactly what I did.

I was lucky to have heaps of encouragement and support from my wife, family, friends and business colleagues. Two business colleagues, Howard and Dave, were so impressed I was going to learn at my age, that they immediately sent me a gift of goggles, flippers, and kickboard, which I found on my desk one morning, with some lovely words of encouragement. Dave told me many times, if your lungs are full of air then all you can do is float! I always remembered what he said when I was in deep water and he was right. He and Howard often asked how I was progressing, and I hope I can have a swim with them one day. Another close friend Richard, sent me snorkeling gear and has promised to take me to the Great Barrier Reef later this year, once I can swim. We had a deal that I would take him snow skiing (done, we went to Coronet Peak and Falls Creek) and he would take me snorkeling. (yet to be done, but planned for Oct 09)

Next time Peters first Swimming lesson.


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