In Harding County the only water we had was the stock dam and the river; South Fork of the Grand. The river was slow and shallow, fordable at any point by car, horse, or barefoot kid, but not conducive to swimming. The stock dam was moss covered, mud bottomed, and cow manure encircled…not a good choice for a refreshing dip. So….I never learned to swim until I went to Black Hills Teachers College at age 17. There I was mandated to Swimming 101 as a required course for my one year program for elementary education teacher. (All you ever wanted to know about teaching in a rural school.)
The class was taught by Miss Stewart. One of the finest and most efficient of PE teachers on the planet. She knew her swimming, and she could teach it. She had a voice that could call the hog out of a ham sandwich, and when she said, EVERYBODY IN THE WATER!!!!!!! it was the forerunner of synchronized swimming. As one person, the class hit the water whether they could swim or not, it wasn’t an option. I was one of the few who knew absolutely nothing about water, but I was so…um, okay… I was so scared of her, that I learned very rapidly, and was soon moved from Beginners, through Intermediate, to Advanced. There were just two of us who progressed at that rate, coincidentally another girl from Harding County, Audrey Penn. Neither one of us had a clue about aquatics, but we did understand authority.
As Mary Stewart “coddled” her beginners in the basement pool of the old Cook Gymnasium, she left Audrey and me to her two assistants; Pete Torino and Jim Beaman. Pete was a terrific athlete and a wonderful instructor, and I learned much about swimming from him. When he determined I could save myself and even learn a respectable repertoire of different strokes, he began coaching me in some advanced diving. Jim Beaman was from the island of Palau…when he swam across the pool his ebony body glistened in the whitcaps he created with his powerful leg strokes. Between the two of them, we had some very fine one-on-one tutoring. Audrey and I were pampered and privileged to have the total attention of these two fine athletes.
So, swimming and fitness? Swimming is such an over-all fitness exercise; using every muscle group and doing so in an artificial environment that offers the opportunity to eliminate the weight factor in a work-out, making it an excellent choice for an alternative or adjunct activity. It’s also great for an injured athlete because an activity can be emulated in the water, but takes the stress off the injured part while still offering full range of motion and resistance training. In swimming one gets the aerobic component, flexibility, strength, coordination, breath control, discipline, and skill. If it weren’t an aerobic workout just to think about putting my suit on; I’d probably do more of it
Milli on swimming? Don’t put the top down.