Guest Blogger Lorraine Lewis: Overcoming my fear of swimming

It’s not easy being an adult non–swimmer. People automatically assume as an adult you should know how to swim.  You want to learn to swim but you feel stupid and too embarrassed to actually go and learn. That is me, the person who has always wanted to learn but felt too stupid and embarrassed to go.

I had a really bad experience as a child with water. I remember doing a canoe trip at school and the boat capsizing, I thought I was going to die. That experience scarred me. From then on, I never went to another swimming lesson at school again. At that time, I didn’t care. I was happy to sit on the side and read a book. However, in adult life I wish I had cared and tried to learn. However, the older you get the harder it is to go and learn. You have all these thoughts running through your head. I can’t possibly go as an adult to the swimming pool to learn with float and stay in the shallow end. People will watch me and people will laugh at me. Now my fear had become more about what I thought people were thinking, rather than the fear of the water itself.

So, every year my news resolution was to learn how to swim. Every year it never got ticked off. One year (at least 5 years back), I did sign up for lessons. I did actually go but I could never relax. We were in this huge pool with a single lane closed off for newbies. Everyone else in the other lanes were swimming up and down like maniacs. I couldn’t relax because I felt people were watching and judging. I actually felt inadequate. So, in the end I gave up and the “learning to swim” went back on to the New Year’s Resolution List never to be touched.

That is the problem about being an adult non -swimmer, no one talks about it. So, you feel like you’re literally the only person in the world who can’t swim and is having these thoughts. For example, I asked my gym how to do I go about booking one to one swimming lessons. She automatically started talking about a price plan for my child (I don’t have children) and how the instructor was really good and would look after my kid. I felt too embarrassed to say actually it is for me, then took a price plan and listed intently for 10 minutes for a child that doesn’t exist! This is thing, there is this huge focus on let's teach children to swim but what about the adults. We embrace and cheer people on who are learning how to run or ride a bike but this area is silent. As, I had no one in the same boat as me, there was no one who may want to join me so we both had support to go together. So, I just left it.

When the opportunity for Swimathon came around, I knew it was a way to publically force me to learn. I was sick of crying and having panic attack on water sections of obstacle races that I was doing. I thought if publically people know what I am doing, there is no backing out.

Swimathon has really forced me to face my fears. However, speaking publically about not being able to swim is the best thing I ever done. What has surprised me is the amount of comments I have had from people I know and also strangers who either cannot swim or have learnt as an adult. The reasons behind why people won’t? The exact same reasons I didn’t want to learn. They felt stupid and they were worrying about people laughing at them.  Some of the people that came forward were obstacle runners like me and that really surprised me because they hide their fear so well. One of the most amazing moments, was having a neighbour come up to me and say, "I saw your post about learning to swim. You have inspired me to take up lessons."

Now people know I want to learn, they have offered to come to the pool with me for support. This is something, I have taken up and having someone there has put me at ease. The more I do it, the more I realise no one actually is remotely interested in what I am doing.

The reaction I have had to be as a beginner doing Swimathon has been incredible. It shows that what we need is role models and ambassadors for adults to say, look you are not on your own. You can do this, so that people will give swimming a try.