Would-be world champions start here
THE first item on the order of business is to come up with an believable back story. After all, I can, to an extent, swim – that is, I can be semi-submerged in water without drowning. Which is nice and, I guess, a pre-requisite.
But the aim today is to sample what Exeter City Council's Pyramids pool has to offer for adults who, for whatever reason, have decided that they want to learn how to swim a little later in life.
And Nye Levett, who leads the adult classes, has just asked, playing his part, why it is that I have decided to learn.
"I was a boy of eight," I say. "I was fishing with friends on the local canal. The water was calm and spirits were high, aided by the number of Black Jacks and Fruit Salads that had been consumed.
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"Suddenly, my line was taut and I was dragged into the water, coming face to face with a monstrous creature, teeth like razor-blades, hunger and murder in his cold moist eyes.
"A gnarled fisherman, hauled me from the water to safety. 'That's a lucky escape, boy,' he said to me. 'You've come face to face with Unbalanced Barry, the killer pike, and lived to tell the tale. He's carried off dogs, sheep, and once snatched a Marathon from my hand, for that is what we call them in these days of yore. Beware the water, boy,' and he waved a weathered, three-fingered hand in front of my face.
"And that, Nye, is why I am here. I want to conquer my fears."
It is, at the very least, not one he has heard before.
"There's a number of reasons I find that adults come here to learn," he said. "Some are afraid of water and it can be due to some traumatic experience, but more often it's people who have not swum for a long period of time and want to relearn the skills."
We begin from a position of extreme water phobia and race through the content of what would feature in the early lessons, through to learning the basics of swimming strokes and leg-work.
"I have had some lessons where the first session can be spent solely on the swimming pool steps, gradually reducing someone's fear about being in the pool," said Nye. "We always start in the teaching pool and, to start with, it's all about gaining the confidence and trust that is needed to progress. And it's about enjoying yourself."
We run through a number of different routines, from learning not to fear the sensation of water on the face and letting out a breath while under water.
"It can be a really unusual sensation if you're not use to it but it is a vital skill when it comes to learning the strokes," said Nye. From there, we progress to using buoyancy aids and basic swimming techniques.
Nye, who taught his father to swim, added: "I will always gear lessons to reflect a person's own requirements. What do they want to achieve? Do they just want to feel confident in the water when they're with their children or do they actually want to go further and swim to keep fit?"
Adult classes are just one part of the whole range of classes which are offered at the Pyramids, and the council's other pools Northbrook and Riverside which are managed by Parkwood Leisure.
Kelly Peryer, Pyramids' swimming coordinator, said: "We have swimming classes for children who are different stages of the Aquazone journey – that is a multi-stage programme designed to encourage confidence in the water at the start which progresses to distance swimming, rescue techniques and other skills."
The thorny question remains, however, for how much longer can Pyramids be sustained. Three-time world champion and a five-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Liam Tancock has donated one of his swimsuits to the pool which hangs in the reception area. The Pyramids is where he learned his trade.
Constructed in the late 1930s and opened in 1941, it was given an Egyptian theme in the 1980s. But while the facility is certainly still usable, it is clear it has seen better days.
Last year, Exeter City Council announced that hotels, shops, restaurants and a new swimming pool are all planned in a multi-million-pound redevelopment of Exeter's bus station. But council leader Pete Edwards warned that the Pyramids could close if its maintenance becomes financially untenable before the new facility is open.
Anyone wanting to find out more about one-to-one swimming lessons can contact Pyramids on 01392 253553 and there is a buy five sessions and get one free policy. Children can learn to swim from as soon as they have had their first inoculations as a baby.
To obtain a timetable or find out more information about what is offered, visit the pool or go to www.leisurecentre.com and search for Pyramids, Exeter.
Nye Levett is also works as a personal trainer and nutritionist and can be contacted on 07511 948258 or on email at email@example.com