Chapter Two~Water-Shy People
The Home Pool
In this chapter and from now on, the terms, "Individual" and "Instructor" will be employed.
The term, "Individual" is used for those who are teaching themselves, and "Instructor" is for swim teachers who are new to conducting Water-Shy classes. It's helpful for all to read both units to better understand each others' problems and needs.
INDIVIDUAL: This is it--you've got to do it! But you are terrified by the thought of getting into that huge pool. How do you allay those feelings of fear?
First, set reasonable goals for yourself. Don't even plan to enter the pool on your first day. Give yourself a feeling of success by doing something you KNOW you can accomplish! A reasonable goal may be going to the pool, getting into your swim suit, taking a shower and then simply sitting on the edge of the pool. You can dangle your toes in the water while sitting there. You may only spend ten or fifteen minutes at poolside but at least YOU WENT! Neither did you "make a fool of yourself." Many swimmers sit on the poolside with their feet in the water. No one notices something so ordinary. You took a positive step. Only YOU know how difficult it was for you. Simply being there and taking that action is an accomplishment--your first success!
It's easy to put off going to the pool. A few excuses are rainy weather; you're too tired; you'll miss a TV show; your swim partner can't go; bad traffic; etc.. Whenever you feel like staying home, repeat several times, "Fear of water cannot be overcome by staying away from the pool." Decide NOW to follow the swim lessons outlined in this book!
LEARNING THE METHODS: The two most important Water-Shy Swimmer methods are the performance of small tasks that are easy to do both physically and emotionally; and repetition until the goal of those tasks is mastered. Tasks are repeated until they are performed quickly, perfectly and without fear. They are then repeated with the addition of another task slightly more difficult, or held for a longer period than the previous one. After each task has been repeated until perfected and performed with ease, another task is added, and so on. This method is a combination of task analysis and chaining. The goal is to attain mastery. Mastery is one's ability to perform both perfectly and quickly.
Task Analysis is the breaking down of each move into tiny, simple-to-do components.
"Chaining is the repetition of each learned task from the beginning along with new tasks that are added to the chain.
There are many tasks suggested in this text. As you progress, some may be skipped, but most are essential in order to perform the next one properly. Regardless of a task's simplicity you must do it perfectly and with ease AT LEAST ONCE.
Most states require swimmers to rinse off surface soil before entering public swim pools. Taking showers in front of others may be a major hurdle for some women. Men are seldom concerned as most have either been in the Service or involved in sports requiring them to take open showers.
A few women may only be used to taking tub baths. Others may not have taken showers anywhere but in their own bathrooms. For those who are already apprehensive about water, public shower rooms can be stressful. A woman in one of my classes feared any kind of running water and for that reason, couldn't bring herself (at first) to take a shower.
To most, the worst aspects of taking showers in a semi-public place are noise and nudity. Other discomforts may be cold water; hard tile; large open areas; steam clouds or dismal surroundings. Those are negative ways of looking at shower rooms. You can learn to like them by simply changing your attitude. Love and fear are opposites. You cannot overcome fear without replacing it with love or at least acceptance. Learn to perceive unpleasant situations with positive thoughts.
NOISE: If shower sounds are offensive, envision the restfulness of a plummeting waterfall in a wooded glen, or imagine the swish of water shooting from a sprinkler on a summer day and children scampering through it. "Hear" the sound of a hose as you water a lawn, or a stream surging over smooth rocks alongside a mountain trail. Imagine the gurgle of water bubbling up from a drinking fountain in the park. The sound of busy, moving water is happy, scintillating and full of life! Replace negative thoughts with cheerful ones.
NUDITY: If you are bothered by nudity in the dressing room there can be many reasons ranging from embarrassment to feelings of invaded privacy. Most womens' dressing rooms have a stall where clothes can be changed without being seen. Often, those who start out preferring a private stall, become used to the open room after a while and no longer bother with the stall.
DRESSING ROOMS: If the dressing room is dreary or foreboding, focus on anything you see that's warm such as hair dryers or hot showers. Perhaps there are mosaic tiles or unusual architecture to admire. Look for colors on painted surfaces and see designs in them. Beauty can be found in many mundane objects, such as cement cracks in the floor, rust patterns on old lockers or even splinters on a wooden bench. They have their own kind of rustic warmth. If they were put on canvas by a famous artist you'd probably want them in your living room!
STEAM: Occasionally, steam causes people to become nervous. Instead of thinking of it as something mysterious or stifling, examine it closely and you'll see a myriad of tiny "rainbows" in it. Enjoy watching the way clouds of steam sway and whoosh whenever you pass through them.
GETTING IN THE SHOWER: Read the following only if you are uneasy about taking semi-public showers:
1--Stand aside while watching others taking them.
2--Walk past the shower without going in. (Others will think you're simply going out to see if the pool is crowded.)
3--Let the shower-spray gently touch you.
4--"Test" the temperature by putting your hand in the shower.
5--Let the water spray onto your foot, then back away and repeat with the other foot.
6--Let the spray fall on one leg, pull it out and then do the same with the other.
7--Before going into the shower completely, have the spray touch an arm, your back and other areas of your body. Repeat each step several times.
If you still feel anxious near the shower, step into it quickly, count to three and step out of it. Wait a moment, then step back in, and count to five before getting out. Do this until you're at ease to the count of ten.
Don't stay in the shower if it makes you feel like you're about to have an anxiety attack. Step out when you become uncomfortable; wait a while and then try again rather than forcing yourself to stay in it and letting your fear increase. If you commence shaking nervously, dry off and get dressed. Return within a day or two and go through the same proceedure again, but Don't Give Up!
Anxiety over showers does not necessarily mean you'll be nervous about other forms of water. Traumatic fear doesn't always work that way. It's conceivable that the shower may be your only stumbling block and the rest of the lessons will go smoothly.
When I was about six the neighborhood girls brought me to a park where there were outdoor pools. I could do a fairly good dog paddle and wanted to get in the pool. Being the youngest, it took me a bit longer than the others to get into my swimsuit, so they went in ahead of me. There were several running showers and as I had never taken a shower before, I was careful to avoid them. When I stepped out onto the deck, all of a sudden a big gruff woman screamed at me, "Hey, kid! Not so fast! Get the hell back in there and take a shower or you damn well ain't gettin' in the pool!" I shook with fear. No one had ever spoken to me like that. Crying, I went back to the dressing room and sat on a bench. One of the girls returned to find out why I wasn't in the pool. Between sobs I told her what happened. She said that the woman was mean but if I wanted in the pool I had to take a shower. She took my hand and we went into a shower together. We then walked past the mean woman who paid me no further attention, but for several years showers were scary to me. Fear of showers can begin with similar experiences, transferring to a fear of running water but not necessarily to a general fear of water. It's possible to have an adverse reaction to one water event yet be quite at ease with another more difficult one involving water--such as diving into a large pool.
After you take the shower, walk out onto the pool deck. That may be all you care to do. You've conquered the most difficult hurdle which is getting the courage to go to a swim facility, don a swim suit and take a shower. If you decide to get dressed and leave now, that's okay but be sure to return within three days and repeat the previous visit.
NEXT STEP~~THE POOL After you've become at ease with the shower, go to the pool deck. Watch the swimmers for a while and then walk to the shallow end area, sit on the poolside and dangle your feet in the water. If you came with a swim buddy have a chat together. That puts you both at ease. If you came alone you may not be as fearful as you thought. Often, those who had told me they were "deathly afraid of water," realized after the first lesson that their fears were only slight.
THE ENTRY: There are several ways to enter a pool, depending upon how the pool is built. Some pools have indented steps or niches built into their sides and have guard rails. Others may have terraced steps gradually leading down into the water. First, be certain that you are entering at the SHALLOW END.
LADDERS: Indented or niched steps are called ladders. DO NOT GO DOWN LADDERS WHILE FACING THE POOL Ladders are not stairs. You would not climb down a step ladder with your back against the rungs.
First, stand on deck with your back to the pool and grasping each side of the guard rail. (If you've never done this before ask the lifeguard to assist you.) Step back, sliding one foot toward the pool edge. Slowly lower the foot down until you feel the indentation then step into it. The steps may be slippery so make sure your foot is firmly placed. Though it's unlikely you'd slip while holding onto the rails, you will feel more at ease if someone stands at the base of the ladder as you enter the pool for the first time. Slide your hands down the rails still keeping a firm grip and bring your other foot into the same niche. Now, bring the first foot into the next lower niche. Slowly bring the second foot also into it as you slide your hands down the rail. Finally, bring the first foot into the third niche while sliding hands down the rails, and then bring the second foot into that one. There are seldom more than three niches at the shallow end but if there's another one, repeat the above. Don't release the rails until both feet are on the pool bottom and you are standing firmly and erect. Take a step sideways so others may enter, holding onto the pool side for support.
THE EXIT: Follow these steps when you decide to leave:
Face the ladder, grabbing hold of the railings with each hand. Place one foot into bottom indentation then bring the other foot into it. Moving hands up the rails with firm grip, place the first foot into the next niche. Put the second foot in the same niche. Sliding hands upward lift the first foot up into the top niche. Bring second foot into that niche. Use the same procedure if there's a fourth indentation. When both feet are on the pool deck do not release your grip on the top rails until you are standing firmly and able to walk away.
TERRACED ENTRIES: If the pool is terraced or has wide stairs built into it, you may need to enter facing the pool but only if railings are too far apart (or there are no railings at all.) Terraces are made so people may enter a pool gradually. If water covers the top step it's usually no deeper than a few inches. If railings are too far apart to grasp with both hands at the same time, there's no choice but to enter facing the pool. Walk slowly down one side while holding onto the rail much as you would going down a regular staircase. Be aware of small children who like to play or sit on terraces.
REMOVABLE STEPS: These are used for helping those with knee or muscle disabilities but anyone unsure about using the ladder may prefer to use them. If this accessory isn't set up ask the lifeguard to get it for you. It's usually a heavy weighted box with steps on one or both sides and railings that are easy to grasp with both hands at once. It fits over the pool edge and is safer than ladders and terraces. Although it's called "stairs," generally, you do not face the pool while using them.