In March of 2013 I visited the Sanctuary in Paradise Valley. Good friends had recommended it. They knew I would love the sun and the beauty and the warmth of Paradise Valley and of the Sanctuary. They also knew that I, as a lifelong swimmer, would be enticed by the prospect of taking lessons from resident swim instructor, Misty Hyman.
I immodestly say that I have always considered myself a good swimmer. Swimming has always been my preferred and primary form of exercise. I was raised in and on the water and am entirely comfortable in it. I consider myself a lucky guy to love the water as I do. At age 67, I have not had a real swimming lesson since my college. After making my reservation for a week’s stay, I immediately scheduled one class with Misty for the day after my arrival. I had few expectations and decided to remain open to the experience. I had thought that I would like to learn the mechanics of the butterfly from one of the great champions of the stroke. As my lesson loomed I found myself keyed up and even nervous but I had made the commitment, I forged ahead. I introduced myself and immediately Misty put me at ease, she is absolutely charming, we talked, I explained what I thought I wanted to accomplish, and then we got down to it. After a down and back free demo, we began.
Misty is a brilliant teacher. There is no other way to state the obvious. We began at the beginning, with the most basic exercises, floating, buoyancy, chest position and most important for me hip and bum position. The mechanics of water position are crucial and Misty explained every aspect of the essentials in the clearest and most logical manner. Her method is amazing. Her instruction is specific and intelligent. She demonstrated from the side of the pool, she talked, I listened and then I did my best to do what she told me to do. I floated, I pushed my chest down, I pushed my hips up, I did what she told me to do and then as I began to get it, I supplied bio-feedback. I am supposed to be a good swimmer but I was amazed at the clarity of it all and the immediate difference I felt in the water. The hour flew by. As soon as I was out of the pool, I scheduled another class for the next day. As I spent the afternoon and next morning practicing, I felt like a guppy, but it was fun and it was transformational. In the second lesson we picked it right up and built on the first. As difficult as it was to break old habits, Misty gave me the keys and also the desire to be a more empowered swimmer. We added a better arm position and then we rebuilt the correct up-to-date Olympic kick. While it remained difficult to put all the parts together, I was determined and Misty was ever encouraging and relentlessly positive. I scheduled one final lesson in which we built on and reinforced the first two. We never did get to the butterfly but I have a pro freestyle. It is an amazing feeling. We discussed what I could do for myself on my own. She told me to be patient and she told me that it was going to take time, weeks, to begin to feel that I had it. I returned home and slowly added distance to my new stoke. It was a slow process. Misty had predicted that and, she was, of course, correct. Always referring to her instruction in 4 weeks I felt completely comfortable and empowered.
This spring I returned to the Sanctuary. I was naturally nervous. I did not want to let Misty down. She was pleased, she is far too charming and nice to say otherwise, but she did in fact give me every positive indication that I was a much better swimmer. And then she set up a new group of challenges. We spent 1 ½ lessons refining my arm mechanics and kick. And finally, in another 1 ½ lessons she gave me the basics of an Olympic style breaststroke. I had never understood the breaststroke, but as a master instructor Misty took me through the entire stroke, building patiently as she had with my free. The process is simply fascinating. And now I have the breast to keep me working and engaged as I want to be.
Misty’s teaching method is applicable to all swimmers and not just to a swimming wonk like me. I saw her working with all skill levels. She is a brilliant instructor. Her skills as a communicator and cheer leader and instructor are Olympian. My swimming lessons were transformational. After a lifetime in the water, I now look like a real pro and I am personally recharged and more enthusiastic about the sport than ever. Nothing could be more empowering and more affirming than to improve and recharge. The challenge was thrilling and the results were also. I am quite sure that I could not have had the same experience with another teacher, no matter how competent. It had everything to do with Misty herself. I am a forever fan!