I’m in my 40s and I’ve just qualified as a level one swimming assistant. I never planned on doing this; I wasn’t even a big fan of swimming when I was younger. There has always been a lot of stigma attached to swimming in my Sikh community – it’s seen as taboo for women.
Many Asian women have told me they didn’t learn at a young age because their parents warned them to stay away from the pool, especially the deep end. And frequently, self-conscious Asian women don’t want to be seen wearing swimwear. As a child, I used to feel paranoid and never had any confidence when I was learning to swim. I remember being pushed into the pool by a teacher because I didn’t feel comfortable diving in.
Asian women I have spoken to explained that their parents would say things like, “you don’t need to swim, it’s not for you, it’s for boys”, or, “it’s not good to wear a swimming costume as you’re showing your body to other men”. Many Asian families have always been quite against girls swimming; it’s just not something they do and the community has never really given the sport any credit.
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I realised my love for swimming when I took part in a swim challenge for the Alzheimer’s Society in memory of my friend’s father. Just being in the water I felt happier, healthier and stronger – it helped me with my mental health. Swimming is therapeutic. It keeps your heart rate up but is low impact. It builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness; it helps people to maintain a healthy weight, heart and lungs. Swimming has truly changed my life and I want to help others feel the same.
Swim England estimates that only, “around 10 per cent of learners on Swim England courses are from ethnically diverse communities”. I knew it was my time to become a teacher. Commercial training costs are high but there are bursaries to those who are not in full-time employment.
This change in direction from journalist to swimming teacher is all down to wanting to help my community to become healthier and more active. I have had lots of requests from Asian women who would like me to teach their children, as well as themselves and their parents – the referrals are endless.
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I’m offering free lessons this festive period in west London to help people learn the core aquatics and movement skills. If I can help someone fulfil their dream it will all be worth it. Lessons are not cheap and many are going through a difficult time during the pandemic, so I want to give something back.
Being a swimming teacher is just amazing. It’s fun, you meet new people and you’re helping them to learn a new skill, which will be a life skill. It just makes me so happy to help others.
Covid has changed a lot of things in my life, especially my financial situation. But swimming helps me to release pent up negative energy. In the pool I forget about the outside world. I feel more confident in myself. Swimming has become a lifeline. I’ve gone full circle from hating it as a child to loving it in my 40s. Even my mum is prepared to assist in lessons to help women like her, who are over 70, to get active.
My goal? To find and train the first Sikh woman swimmer for the Olympics. We are yet to have one of them!
If you would like a free lesson, please contact me. My email address is on my Twitter page