Treading water – a life-saving art

Why would someone jump in to a pool just to learn how to stay afloat in an upright position? An innocent question, right? That’s exactly the question my little sister asked me when I tried to teach her water treading prior to her swim lessons. I don’t remember if I had asked the same question to my dad when he took me for the first time to the pool.

I have had fear of water since I was a child. I was even fearful of stepping into the swimming pool. In the early stages, I would be gripped by the fear of sliding down under the water with no one to rescue me.

If my memory serves me right, it took me a long time to overcome fear of water and build confidence. My dad would make me stand on the shallow end of the pool and have me wade the water horizontally with the palm pushing the water away. Little did I know he was teaching me what I now know as sculling. As I progressed with sculling, I was encouraged to start kicking the water by gently moving my legs like a pair of scissors (what I now know as fluttering). It was not easy to let go of the floor, but it was a good exercise to overcome my fear. I would kick randomly in all possible ways, including bike paddling and throwing the legs like a frog. After lot of guidance, I got used to a kicking style-known as eggbeater style.

I vividly remember the day I was able to keep my body upright, head above the water, and move my hands and legs in perfect sync, and stay afloat without trying to grab anything. I was beginning to master the art of water treading. Actual swimming was yet to come.

Looking back, I am glad that I was afforded the opportunity to learn the techniques in a proper sequence. Confidence on my ability to tread water also tremendously helped to manage my fear of water. With added extra confidence, I was able to quickly progress through my swim lessons.

Ability to tread water will help keep your head above water – essentially a life-saving skill.

My advice to those who are fearful of water is to start with a simple step – learn to tread water. Start at the shallow end, have someone to supervise (and teach) and keep close to the wall. If need be, use a floatation board or a noodle. Build the confidence to take the plunge, and learn a life-saving skill.  And of course, treading water is a great exercise to burn calories without hurting your joints.

– Meghna Sil


Open Water Swimming – my First Experience (Part III)

Continuing from the previous post…

To be honest, I don’t know what sparked my interest for open water swimming. But over the years, I continued to swim in the open water just for the joy of it. While open water comes with its own challenges, it offers a number of elements of pleasure and opportunity to get closer to nature.

If I can recall correctly, I immediately felt the freshness of the air (no more lingering smell of chlorine) as I entered the water. Just stepping into the water felt liberating! On top of that, there were no constrains of the swim lanes. I’m not sure if it was my imagination or not, I found swimming in the lake more rejuvenating.

The more time I spent in the water, the more comfortable I felt and the more I enjoyed the experience. The waves in the lake had a soothing effect on me. And as I moved away from the shore, the general noise died down and I felt like being gently cradled by the waves when I floated on my back.   I was mesmerized by the vastness of the afternoon sky, the gentle waves in the water, and the tall trees surrounding the lake. All in all, I was soaked in by the tranquility.

After I got comfortable, returning back to the shore was not eventful, but it made me look forward to coming back again (and soon).  Today, as my journey continues in the open water, I still carry the desire to swim in the lake under a starry sky, but that has not happened yet. Perhaps one day.

The experience of swimming in a placid and inland lake is very different from swimming in more turbulent waters (e.g, ocean). Expect additional challenges to be thrown at you, and prepare and train accordingly. No matter what, at the end, open water swimming is rewarding.

If you always wanted to swim in open water and haven’t done it, what’s holding you back? Go ahead, take a plunge and do share your experience. 

Safe swimming!

– Meghna Sil

Open Water Swimming – my First Experience (Part II)

Continuing from my previous post…

I did not mention a couple of critical safety checks in my previous post…. First and foremost, my first swim in the open water was under adult supervision. Secondly, I did not stray away but kept close to the shore line.

Before embarking on a longer swim stretch, I spent a few days swimming close to the shore to adapt my mind and body to the open water and to establish my baseline. Slowly and surely, under close supervision, I kept venturing further into the deeper waters.

My maiden swim in the lake made me realize a number of things that I took for granted. For example, I was nervous that the bottom of the lake was not as visible as that of the pool. And, the black marker lines at the bottom were gone too.

I continued to wonder how I would be able to swim in a straight line. And of course, every now and then I had to look up to realign (sometimes referred to as open-water sighting). Based on whatever wisdom I have gathered over the years, I should have practiced swimming in straight line with my eyes shut in the pool. Well, now I always mark a tall building or tree in the swim direction before getting into the open water. Over time, it’s relatively easy to master sighting with practice.

As I swam away from the shore, I felt the need to adjust my goggles. But, not having the lane lines to hold on to and being in a territory where the depth was more than my height, it was challenging. I made some makeshift adjustments to the goggles and continued on. I definitely did not have a right pair of goggles.

Freedom of open waters is great but is without the reassuring guiding lanes and lane lines.

I was fortunate enough to have my initial open water experience in a lake where there were few swimmers and rarely any boaters. Having many swimmers and moving boats could potentially add to the anxiety. All things considered, I was having a good time in the open water and at the same time I felt a sense of accomplishment.

More stories, lessons learned and open water safety tips to share as I continue to walk down my memory lane…

– Meghna Sil

Open Water Swimming – my First Experience (Part I)

I have played in the oceans, rivers, and lakes numerous times before. However, jumping into the water and playing with the waves cannot be classified as open-water swimming. Like most of the suburban and city kids in the US, I was introduced to swimming in the closed confines of the swimming pools (mostly indoor and some outdoor).   Once I was little over 7 and was able to make 10+ laps of the standard size pool, my confidence went through the roof and I truly believed that I was prepared for any water. The belief stayed with me for a while until the day of ‘reckoning’ arrived.

It was a late summer afternoon, the sun was still up and I was all geared up in a swimsuit, had my goggles on and for some reason I had decided against the swim cap. I slowly marched into the water of one of the local lakes like a valiant warrior. Hardly a few steps in, I stepped on a hard edgy rock (or something of that sort). I literally had a knee jerk reaction and almost fell on my back.

Expect the unexpected and always be careful where you step. Sharp objects or slippery surfaces are not out of ordinary for any open water bodies.

I regrouped all my courage and I marched along until the water was up to my chest. Then, I let myself go – moving away from the shore with slow strokes. The water in the lake was relatively calm and warm, and swimming wasn’t a struggle. I watched nervously some vegetation floating on water. A few times the thought of my legs getting entangled with ‘under grown’ vegetation and the possibility of coming face-to-face with one of the live creatures of the water crossed my mind. But I was glad, nothing of that sort happened (nevertheless, that is a possibility). So far, so good.

More stories, lessons learned and open water safety tips to share as I continue to walk down my memory lane…

– Meghna Sil