Coaching in action - learning to swim!

22nd January 2022

Once of the very handy things about my current training to be an EMCC Accredited Senior Practitioner in coaching is the requirement of co-coaching sessions with a fellow trainee. I highly value these times and have put my turn as a coachee to good use. I have looked at all sorts of areas of my life that I could do with a hand in terms of structure and/or motivation.

One of the recent themes I looked at during training was about swimming. I have enjoyed swimming since I learned to swim as a young child. I have regularly swum as an adult. I prefer swimming outdoors but will swim in an indoor pool if needs be. I am a strong swimmer and over the years have developed an efficient breast stroke. I regularly swim 2km in a pool in around 45-50 mins. I love it. It is my comfort zone. I don't swim as far when I am in the sea; more like 1-1.5km. Again, breast stroke.

I had never been shown how to swim front crawl (aka freestyle). If I ever tried it I would just splutter and feel like I was drowning and/or swallowing half the pool/sea. I decided in September that I would like to learn front crawl. Because I felt that at 50 it was about time. If I'm encouraging clients to leave their comfort zone it was about time I stretched mine a little (as I felt it had been a while...). I asked an acquaintance to show me front crawl. He showed me the basics in about 5 minutes.   I spent some time each day in the sea on holiday trying it out. I hated it. I persevered. I still hated it.

Back home in Devon I tried it in the sea a bit. Hated it. I tried it in the pool. Hated it. I just felt awkward and exhausted. I planned to try and regularly do 1km breaststroke/1km front crawl in the pool to build up my skills and managed it once. I decided that I obviously wasn't a natural front crawl swimmer and I should just stick to what I am good at. But that rankled. Stay in my comfort zone? Give up? On the one hand; time is precious; I have a full client load plus my study on top of that. Free time needs to be enjoyable; not a wretched endeavour. On the other comfort zone always for the best? I decided I needed to investigate...

So I had a coaching session during one of the Therapist to Coach workshops. This was fascinating and involved accessing my "creative mentors" where you intuitively select three people to imagine consulting on the issue. I intuitively chose Candace Pert (a neuropharmacologist who discovered the opiate receptor and writes of how we can get addicted to emotional states), David Bowie (obvious choice really) and Rupaul (not in drag). Not so obvious but had some intruiguing perspectives. Through "conversations" with these three I made a commitment to the person coaching me (and myself)...

One of many sea swim moments
Fast forward 8 weeks and I have had three individual front crawl lessons with coach Mike Griffin in the last 5 weeks. I have been swimming 3 times a week at the fantastic St Sidwell's Point swimming pool. And I can swim front crawl! I am, dare I say it, quite enjoying it. Having a coach has really helped me to get the coordination and body positioning right (this has been a lifelong issue for me). It has also afforded me structure and to a degree, accountability. Also, instead of swimming up and down doing laps there are various drills involving fins and a pull buoy, so it doesn't feel boring. I have quite a way to go to finding it as easy to do 2km front crawl as I do breaststroke but I am getting there.

I am about to (I haven't quite done it yet) sign up for a 2.5km lake swim in May. Mike thinks I can do it. 

I think as coaches, therapists and "purveyors of personal development" we should put our money where our mouth is. I did this time anyway.

*Edit I had a long spell of illness several weeks after writing this post, which resulted in a slowing down of my engaging with swimming. In the end, I elected not to enter this event, which turned out to be a sensible decision given the time required to recover. After attending the event as a spectator, I decided that I am not an event type of person. I enjoy the moment of swimming in and of itself and do not want that joy to be taken away by the focus being about performing on a particular day. Hats off and full respect to those that compete like this; however, events and medals just aren't for me.