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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Fear of Sinking

I’ve been reading some blogs of friends who are training hard to become or compete in triathlon. There are three compulsory disciplines, the swim, the bike and the run.

Some may say “running is easy”, others may also say “cycling is fun”. But, there are few people out there who don’t know how to or afraid to swim. Remember the two key words: DON'T KNOW & AFRAID.

To be able to swim, one must get over these two basic obstacles.

I never went for any official swimming lessons in my life, never. Me being the most adventurous son (read: naughty) in the family and growing up in the east cost state where floods occurred almost every monsoon season, I can’t resist my self but to join the other kids swim in the flood. In front of my house, the water levels were only knee high or waist high. But, nearby the river the water levels might be as high as 2 to 4 metres above tarmac. And the currents were normally fast too. But, the kids never say the water is deep, they would only say “ala, paras dada itik je”.

This was when I first started observing how other people swim. And this was the time when I knew I could swim, with the asal-tak-tenggelam-I style. In flood water, I normally swam following the currents direction and I never swam at an area where water is above my neck level. Wherever I swim I must make sure my legs can touch the land easily so that I can stop swimming anytime I want to. So, there was no fear of sinking yet. At that time I still didn’t know how to stay afloat in deeper water. Same thing when I swim at the seaside or at swimming pool, I never swam where the water is deeper than my height.

In late 2005, I started to swim as part of my exercise. No more playing and splashing water like kanak-kanak riang. I went to a 50m long swimming pool with the deeper side being 2.5m and shallow side being 1.3m deep. Gosh, how can I swim in this very deep pool? I cannot float, and I definitely do not want to sink. I get the “fear of sinking” feeling whenever I look at the 2.5m signage by the pool side.

At the beginning, I would only swim by the edge of the pool and trying hard to complete that single 50m length with my asal-tak-tenggelam-II style. By the way, professionals call it breast stroke. I was always scared when I get to the deeper side of the pool. Somehow I have to get rid of the fear.

While resting at the deeper side, I would hold my breath and dive for few seconds to observe how other people swim and how they float. I noticed everybody has their own different styles to swim and to float. So I guess I should start creating my own style then.

I choose a calmer area by the pool side, and slowly started to teach myself how to float. First few tries were unsuccessful, my head sank few times. I kept on trying and finally I believed I can float. Next step was to float away from the pool side where I have nothing to grab to stay afloat. I have to depend only on my own confidence of floating. After few times practicing I was proud that I no longer have the fear of sinking.

Soon after that there was one occasion where two people came to me and asked me how I float. I told them I learnt by observing other people and still not so good at it. They were in the swimming lesson and the training menu for that day was to float and they are afraid to do so, plus they don’t know how to float yet. They asked me to teach them. Knowledge comes with responsibility, huh?

First thing I remember I told them not to be scared of sinking. If they are scared of sinking, they will easily turn to panic mode. I told them to control the breathing and hold the breath whenever they sank, then kick the legs or swing the arms in a proper manner until the head come out from the water again, and hold breath again if they sank. Once or twice they still sank down slightly under water.

Secondly, I told them to understand the effects of legs kicking and swinging the arms inside water while floating. It’s important to understand what happens if you swing like this or if you kick like that. Provided with these two humble advices and some hantam sajalah demonstration from me, I could see that they are starting to be able to float. They just need more practice.

The next time they met me, they said “Thanks so much for teaching us that day. Now we know how to float and we are very happy about it”. Well, I was happy for them too. To be frank I never thought I could teach other people something that I’m not good at.

And now I’m still struggling to keep up with my freestyle. Something is still wrong somewhere. Or, should I eat more fish?

1 comment:

bola2api said...

jgn risau.. balik mesia nanti, hook up dgn azhar.. dia tu part-time swim coach.. 1.5km less than 30 mins.