Here's what my current swimming method is: my left arm comes out of the water while I gasp for air then my face goes back in the water and I kick wildly and flail my arms around under the water for a few strokes until I come back up, always on my left side, to catch a breath and swing my left arm out of the water. Face goes back in the water and repeat the process. Since I never turn my head to the right, I always swim crooked and run into the lane divider and any other unfortunate swimmer who happens to share a lane with me. While I know this isn't effective for the long-term, it at least gets me there and back, I can settle into a nice breathing pattern, and I'm pretty confident I could at least get around the lake in my triathlon this summer, as long as my crooked path keep me within the buoys.
Curt is off work today so I decided to go swim over lunch. The public pool was almost empty and I had an entire two lane segment to myself. Only problem was that my swim instructor from this summer was doubling as the life guard and I knew she'd be mortified at how bad my form was. After going through four pairs of defective goggles and settling on ones that fogged up but at least didn't leak, I confessed to her how embarrassed I was about my form. I swam a lap for her viewing pleasure and while I'm sure she was inwardly giggling, she managed to keep a straight face and say, "Well, you're not taking your arms out of the water except when you breathe. You're creating all this drag for yourself. It's (and now demonstrating from the life guard stand) scoop, scoop, breathe. Scoop, scoop, breathe on the other side." "Oh," I said, trying to act confident that I could indeed master "scoop, scoop, breathe" and then switch and do it on the other side.
Down and back I went. Chanting to myself, "Scoop, scoop, breathe" and chiding myself that "flail wildly in the water" was not part of the chant. I felt so awkward, like a fish out of water, and the familiar panic set in. "I can't catch a breath. What if I can't get a scoop in AND turn my head before I breathe? What if I inhale a bunch of water?" My lungs felt like they were going to explode, but I kept pushing off the wall, talking myself away from panic and into peace, and chanting over and over, "Scoop, scoop, breathe." Before I knew it, I swam 28 laps and while it definitely wasn't pretty, today was the first time I felt like I was actually swimming correctly. There might be hope for me after all.