Black Line Therapy

Fit To Ride


One of my projects is to learn to swim well enough that I can use it as a moving mediation, focusing on the line on the bottom of the pool and letting everything else float away, aka black line therapy. Right now, there is too much gasping and floundering and checking of the clock.

So. Had a swim lesson. Technical notes below. Have things to practice. Got in hot water.

Each branch of the YMCA in the area is different. For example, the lesson pool is colder than the one I usually swim in. It is also murkier. Rationally, I trust that the Y has safety standards and that opacity has nothing to do with the cleanliness of the water. Crystal clear water may still harbor all manner of exciting pathogens. Emotional, it is reassuring to see across the pool underwater.

Changing rooms are also different. The lesson Y has family and adult dressing rooms on opposite sides of the building. Since the family rooms are next to the pool, they are also for those using the pool.

Or so the sign says.

In reality, adults and kids are not allowed to occupy the same space. I can use the dressing room, as long as no kids are present or if I hide in the showers. I have to wonder if this monastic separation fetishizes nudity. It sends the messages that bodies are to be hidden, to be ashamed of.

There is a time and place for this debate. The time and place is not when I am standing in front of my locker, with my ass hanging out, dripping wet, trying to see my combination without my glasses, and some woman is yelling at me ‘You can’t be in here!’

Where exactly would you like me to go, Ma’am?

Technical Notes
For my reference. Advice from actual swimmers welcome.

Legs. During kick, bring knees behind (above) hips. Bringing your chin down to your chest will raise your hips. And vice versa. That one was pretty cool to discover.

Arms. Elbow up and out. Drag finger tips along the top of the water. Note to self. Stretch. A lot.

The instructor also told me to relax my shoulders. Good luck with that. Riding instructors have been telling me that for years.

Head. This is where I’ve always had trouble. I never seem to get enough air. By the end of the lesson, I could do 2 or 3 in a row before getting it wrong &/or getting water in my mouth/ears/nose.

Turn my head far enough out of the water. Look up to the ceiling, sky, over the building, as applicable.

Keep the back of my head, i.e. where a man-bun would be, out of the water so that I don’t have to push myself up with my arms.

Follow my thumb.

It would be easier if I kept moving. When I get to the breathing part, I cease all activity while I figure out what goes where.

Stay long. In addition to pausing, I apparently scrunch up when I take a breath.

Although I liked the lesson, I will go back to my regular Y for practice. Just as soon as my right shoulder forgives me for flinging it in new and unexpected directions.

Update: In case anyone decides to take umbrage and thump on me with their sword of righteousness, I understand the reasoning behind the separation. I’m sad it has come to this point.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

4 thoughts on “Black Line Therapy

  1. OK, so I’m assuming you are swimming the crawl? The head always stays in line with the spine and only rotates slightly to one side to breathe. (My left is usually my go-to and my strongest side. Otherwise, I will turn toward the least active lane beside me, though technically, you should always try to alternate sides). When you do this you literally look under your arm and slightly toward the rising arm’s armpit, and take your breath. No lifting of the head (which causes the trunk to sink) just roll the head to the side. Half of your face should stay submerged, so you only breathe out of the side of your mouth that clears the water. (Yes, that looks weird.) The side of your mouth that stays submerged stays shut. Shoot for a breath every three strokes or so. You’ll get into your own natural rhythm. That is how I was taught. I had parents who both grew up on lakes (as a kid, my father was actually a lifeguard on like Ontario for several summers), and for many years we also had a pool in our back yard. All the kids in my family started swimming as toddlers and were ridiculously competent by kindergarten. Back in those days we didn’t have a school pool with a swim program, but our parents insisted we all have our Red Cross cards right up through Senior Lifesaving and they carted us off to a swim academy to make sure we got them. Somewhat a source of personal pride, I still have all those cards in a scrapbook. Brag moment: I was the youngest kid in the academy to ever pass Senior Lifesaving. (It was not for the faint of heart!)

  2. OK. Here’s the deal. You have described me as a seal in the water. I am. I am in my happy place in the water. Lake and camp. Lifesaving. Water Safety Instructor. Water Ballet in college. Water workout in my later years. Even long, hot baths to relax when I can’t get to a pool. You have been known to ask me when I am more grouchy than usual “When were you last in the water?”

    However, unless it is for a certification test, I do not do the crawl. I have never liked it. I have never found my breathing rhythm. It’s not peaceful. I associate it with races and laps. To me, swimming is, as you say, a water meditation.

    So I do the breast stroke with various leg strokes for variety. With my head out of the water. Breathing is not a problem. I stare at the end of the pool, watch it come closer, turn and go back. You may call it an old lady’s stroke but old ladies are not stupid. A gentle stroke, vigorous if you want, that you can keep up for a half an hour, makes sense. When bored, I switch to a side stroke. Again, plenty of air. The view is different, the side of the pool. Equally peaceful.

    My advice, from decades of swimming, is: forget the crawl. Water has never been your go to place so make it as easy as possible, as peaceful as possible. You may even get to like it. It’s the best exercise for your whole body and, eventually, wonderfully relaxing.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

  3. Speaking all the way from August. Shoulder took forever to want to rotate in a full circle again. Then we had a spate of thunderstorms in the afternoon, which is generally when I drag myself off to the pool. And then … And then … Bottom line, I haven’t been swimming since this. Thanks for the advice. I will put it to use. At some point.

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