How swimming helps me with my taekwondo

Even as a child I swam like an old lady.

You know the style...
...head out of the water. Very slow breast stroke.

Hopeless.

And before you ask...
...No!.. I didn't have a swimming cap with flowers on it.



Fast forward 20 years.
(OK... 30)

I move to Australia. And watch the Aussies diving under crystal clear ocean waves. It looks pretty easy. And really refreshing.

So I give it a go...

...But my old lady style isn't quite good enough. And I end up coughing and spluttering in a washing machine of white water. Not the relaxing dip I had in mind!

Clearly if I want to cool off on in the ocean on a 40' Sydney day I need to learn to swim.

It can't be that hard.

Off I trot to lessons with my mate Chris.
She thinks it's highly amusing that I'm in the 'duffers' lane while she ploughs effortlessly up and down with the adult 'squads'.

I find freestyle is sooooooo much harder than it looks.

Learning to co-ordinate my breathing, legs and arms all at once without drowning is a major struggle! (And I'm still using a float!)

'Try to relax more Deb!' says our teacher helpfully from the side of the pool.

'Easy for you to say standing up there!'

After a couple of months I can manage half a length of freestyle before I have to stand up gasping for air.

I realize my breathing is the problem. Something I never learned to do before was to control my breathing at exercise.
So although I'd got fit through taekwondo training, I still tended to puff and pant when my heart rate went up.

And of course I can't puff and pant doing freestyle for obvious reasons!

So I gradually learn to take deeper slower breaths. A deep breath in for one count. Then a long, slow breath out for 4 or 5 counts.

It's like a re-education.

I can't say I enjoy every lesson. I hate swallowing water. And somedays I seem to get nowhere.
But I stick with it. And I gradually make progress.

And a year on...

Well...
... I can do 50 meters freestyle now without stopping.
I dive under the waves in the ocean.
And I'm not the worst swimmer in the duffers lane!

And best of all...
...the unexpected benefit.

I have more control over my breathing when I'm training in taekwondo.

I know my lung capacity is better.
And because I'm breathing more slowly and in a more relaxed way I stay calmer under pressure. This really helps in sparring!

And a few laps of Dee Why Ocean pool is a great alternative to running when it's hot.

So all in all learning to swim has been a very positive thing for me.

Just as long as no-one buys me a swimming cap for Christmas it's all good.

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