Rye YMCA Blog


Learning to Breathe

denise-smallDenise Woodin
Director of Social Responsibility & Community Impact


I’m standing in the shallow end of Brookside pool wearing large red rubber fins on my feet and goggles that cast everything in yellow haze.  I’ve just swum a lap under the watch of Viwat Sakulrat, the Y’s Aquatics Coordinator, who is assessing my stroke and the way I breathe with each turn of my head. Or rather the way I don’t breathe. Getting the breath thing down seems to be the key to better swimming.

When I came to the Y almost a year ago, I took group exercise classes that were fun, but put a strain on my bad back.  I tried pedaling my way to health on the recumbent bike in the fitness center but for some reason, that didn’t stick.  I sweated through one Spin class, and alas, didn’t become hooked like some of my colleagues had.  Like the siren songs of legend though, the pool kept calling.

I learned to swim as a child and was lucky to have an indoor pool at both my middle and high school campuses.  Though I was never a particularly strong or serious swimmer, I was competent enough, swimming in lakes on family camping trips and at the town pool in summer. When my daughter was a toddler, I took her to a swim class at the White Plains YWCA.  Now, we playfully splash in the deep end of our village pool and occasionally swim laps together.

My first thought when I walked into the Rye Y’s lobby last March was “oh wow!  Look at that great pool!”  My second thought was “wow, everyone who walks through our doors—staff, members, volunteers, the UPS guy— will see me in my bathing suit.”  I’m over that.

Since the New Year, I’ve been trying to swim twice a week. And fairly quickly, I stopped caring who sees me in my bathing suit.  It feels too right to slip into the pool and just swim to worry about spectators.   And here’s my theory:  I can’t see a thing without my glasses.  So, if I can’t see them, they can’t see me.

A few months ago, I read in our program guide that members can take advantage of a free 15-minute swim assessment.  I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, but I knew it must be something.  I was slowly building endurance, but I still tired after one or two laps of freestyle, resorting to breast, side and back stroke to keep going.  Viwat showed me how to focus on my breathing.  In 15 minutes, I began to feel a difference.  I’m still trying to get into the rhythm, trying to remember when to breathe and trying to get away from my desk twice a week.  But I’m on my way to being a stronger swimmer, once stroke at a time.

To schedule a free member stroke assessment, contact Vickie Kourtelis at vickiekourtelis@ryeymca.org.