Drownproofing

I can remember when I was about 10 years old, having taken swimming lessons at a lake, coming to the city to have my swimming test.  I can’t remember why we didn’t have our exam at the lake but it was a good thing because we got to spend the day in a bigger center.  Anyway, there was a technique we learned called “drownproofing” which would help a person conserve energy while waiting to be rescued. It was better than just treading water because between breaths you could just float kind of hanging in the water or you could tuck up into a ball if the conditions were hypothermic and you wanted to conserve heat as well.  I’m not even sure if it is still being taught but it was a good lesson in many ways.

After we had done our prescribed number of lengths, we had to stop–in the deep end–and drownproof for 5 or 10 minutes.  It seemed like hours for a ten-year-old and it seemed like it may or may not work.  So I gasped and placed my face in the water.  I’m sure my heart beat was reverberating the whole pool!  I lifted my head to gasp again and tried to believe it was working as I faced the water once more.  I counted to 10, fairly quickly, and lifted my mug and gasped again.  Counting to 10 a little more slowly and listening to my heart beat, I could feel my face being hot and I knew it was red.  The next time I lifted my mouth to suck in the sweet air, I caught a glimpse of the examiner.  I imagined she was getting ready to dive in and save me as I felt so “drowning” but she was chatting to someone standing beside her as if there was no crisis.  I was really fooling her with this new technique.  Even though I was fighting to stay alive, she must have thought I was doing okay.  My mind was racing but at least my life wasn’t flashing before my eyes.  Actually, now I was starting to think of other things–how were my classmates doing?  Where was mom going to take us for dinner–or did she pack a lunch?  How was my style–was I executing the moves properly, not expending too much energy and relaxing?  I wondered if my face was still so red.  I could barely hear my heart beating–gee I hoped it was still beating!

And after surviving such a gruelling trial, I passed my drownproofing as well as my swimming skills.  I can’t remember the answers to the rest of the questions swimming through my brain but I know that I learned an important lesson that day.

I had swum my little heart out in that examination and with the stress of it being a test, I was pretty close to panic mode.  I was seconds away from grabbing onto the side of the pool and quitting.  I actually thought that I was experiencing something akin to what real drowning victims experience.  But I held my breath a little longer than I wanted to.  And I had faith that if I really looked like a goner, the examiner, who was surely a lifeguard as well, would grab that long hook thing and pull me to safety.  And I pushed myself a little further than I ever had before.  It paid off.  Almost 50 years later I remember things about that day clearly.  And I remember how a person must not give up easily.  And I apply that lesson to so many areas of my life.  I am thankful for that little girl giving it all she had and then some.

When we moved to the city and I began to swim again, I was a little out of shape.  As I sometimes do on the treadmill, I overdid it in the water.  I came away with aches and pains.  But, if I can, I try to think of it as good pain–like they say, “no pain, no gain”.

I am planning for the day I have a home swim spa.  Swimming at my own home and on my own time is conducive to getting in shape and staying in shape because there are fewer drawbacks.  Swimming is looking more and more like being the right choice for a baby boomer such as me because water’s buoyancy alleviates the stress on these old bones and joints.

But better yet, I can’t wait to have the grandkids over for a pool party!  Besides having a splashing good time I can teach them some water tricks and maybe even this life-changing technique I learned as a little girl called “drownproofing”!

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