Take me swimmin’:

How learning to swim changed my life

by Jay Hiller, August 13, 2022

At the pool after work on Thursday. I felt happy.

The most important class I took at the University of Texas was a 1 credit hour swimming class for adult beginners. It was taught by a master teacher, Ms. Rosemary Slacks in the old Anna Hiss gym. At the beginning of the spring semester none of the 20 adults in the class could swim. At the end of the semester all of us were swimming laps. Ms. Slacks’ class changed my life.

My parents had enrolled me in swimming lessons many times as a child. I just didn’t get it and what I specifically didn’t understand was the timing for the breathing. Maybe 4 or 5 weeks into the semester Ms. Slacks took me and a few other students down to the shallow end of the pool. We bent over in the water and did the arm movement for freestyle. “When do you turn your head to breathe?” Ms. Slacks asked. I thought you did it just as your hand dipped into the water, which gives you about a second to breathe in. And of course you turn your head as your elbow comes out of the water. I practiced freestyle breathing the rest of that class period. The next day I went to the Y and swam half a mile.

Whenever I meet an adult non-swimmer, I try to encourage them to find a good teacher and take lessons. Learning to swim improved my life in so many ways. Aside from being an excellent workout, swimming has many emotional benefits. The deep rhythmic breathing is calming. It’s fun to push off the wall. During my pregnancies the break from gravity was, to say the least, important to me. Swimming is a life long sport and perhaps the only sport that can save your life, as my childrens’ swim coach used to point out. One of the first things my husband ever said to me was, “So you like to swim, huh?”

So take yourself swimmin’. And if you don’t know how, it’s never too late to learn.

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