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I swim for exercise three to four times a week. I have a wonderful pool in my building, a quick

elevator ride away. Lucky lucky me! So why do I still have to work so hard to talk myself out of

bed on swim days? Because swimming is BORING! I love to swim, but all exercise is boring. I

don’t understand when people ask if I had a good workout. There is no such thing!

Back when I jogged, I could organize my week, write stuff in my head, plan my days, all while

getting in a workout. Can’t do that in the pool. Good way to drown, or ruin a flip turn, or hit

my head on the wall. Worse yet, I could lose count of laps and have to do more to make up for

it. True, I wrote the lyrics to the Shame on You podcast theme song while swimming.

Swallowed a lot of water that day.

To combat pool boredom, I have learned as much new stuff as possible. Bilateral breathing.

Flip turns. Breast stroke and back stroke. I like feeling like a complete swimmer. Maybe even

people think I swam all through high school and college. Not that high school swimming was

even a possibility, growing up in a tiny town in Indiana with no sports budget for anything

except basketball and no girls’ sports programs at all.

Swimmers may notice I left one stroke out of the previous paragraph. The butterfly! You know,

that famous Mark Spitz/Michael Phelps stroke that everyone says is the toughest stroke to

learn and the toughest one to do. As always, when anyone tells me I can’t do something I set

out to prove them wrong. Not that anyone came right out and SAID I could never do the

butterfly. Probably it was just ME telling myself I couldn’t. Apparently, I had to prove MYSELF

wrong. If It was too hard for me, then so be it. I could deal. But wasn’t it worth a try?

I ran the idea by my wonderful, kind-hearted, totally buff swim instructor Kirk. The same guy

who said no one over 40 could learn a flip turn in one lesson. Well, guess he’d learned HIS

lesson, because he said sure let’s give it a try.

First lesson: It took a good fifteen minutes to get the arm stroke down. I kept doing the breast

stroke. But once I got it, it didn’t seem that hard. Kirk said my shoulder flexibility was great and

I obviously had the strength. Finally, 40 years of bench pressing was good for something! But

the kick was something else. I had tried over the years to do the “dolphin kick” and could never

get it. Seemed a lot like twerking, only underwater. Haven’t ever learned to twerk right either.

Kirk and I continued to work on the kick. It required a rhythm I wasn’t used to, kind of like kick

kick turn stroke breathe recover. Except on the second kick you were supposed to kick AND

stroke. Oh, and breathe. I told Kirk that as a musician, I couldn’t make it work in my head. I

needed to find a rhythm! We experimented, and what felt natural to me was to kick once

during the stroke and recover. It felt right, and Kirk said there was definitely a one-kick version

of the butterfly and if that’s what worked then that’s what we’d do. By the end of the lesson, I

was doing a full length of the pool with a one-kick butterfly. Kirk was very pleased, and hid his

surprise well, but he did state that no one over 40 could learn the butterfly in one lesson.

I LOVED the butterfly. It felt so natural! When it came together it felt like I was flying through

the pool. I practiced for the next week or two, then some funny things began to happen.

I watched some videos, and learned a few good tips, like don’t practice the kick with a float

board, and you don’t have to breathe on every stroke. Which was useful, because it felt better

to breathe every two or three strokes. I also learned that some finger gadgets come in six cool

colors, so if you want to avoid the product plugs and you can afford an instructor, forget the

videos. But the breathing thing helped a little.

I noticed something different was happening with my legs. I was kicking twice! The famous

two-kick butterfly was happening! I emailed Kirk and asked for another lesson, just to be sure I

wasn’t doing something wrong. During lesson two, we worked on my timing, and I finally got to

the place where I could do the second kick and stroke and breathe all at the same time. I put g

the rhythm pattern in my head: Kick, LAUNCH, recover. One two three. And breathe when I

feel like it.

I continued to love the butterfly, and pool swimming wasn’t boring any more. I started doing

my own individual medley instead of the constant free style. SO much more fun! I’m flying

through the water like Michael Phelps! Was there a women’s 65 and over butterfly event I

could compete in and win? Surely I would own the category!

I came back down to earth with a thud when I continued watching videos and discovered that a

90-year-old woman had just set a new record for the 200 METER butterfly.

OK, so no medals for me. Will have to be content boasting to friends and family. I still don’t

quite understand why the butterfly stroke has the reputation of being the hardest to learn. The

hardest to DO, sure, but frankly it took me longer to learn the back stroke, and to do a proper

breast stroke. For sure it took me longer to learn two-sided breathing! But I’m so happy to be

flying through the pool with my little dolphin kicks and my strong, flexible upper body. Finally,

I’ve found a good use for all the weight training and pool time. I can fly!

Who knows? Maybe next I’ll learn to twerk. Glenn Close did it, and she’s older than I am.


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