Martina Scullion’s experience of learning to swim when she was a little girl was so bad she was almost scarred for life.
The Limavady woman remembers vividly being forced into the deep end. So nasty and traumatic was the experience that, to this day, she can still smell the pool.
“It was very traumatic,” recalls Martina, a physio technical instructor with the Western Health and Social Care Trust.
“Since then I had this fear of the water, that I wouldn’t be able to get out. It was very bad,” said the mum-of-three.
Thankfully, those days are gone and Martina can happily make her way up and down the pool, no bother.
Coupled with her sheer determination, it’s down to ‘Different Strokes’ swimming programme in Limavady.
The Club is part of the Health For Life Programme at the Roe Valley Leisure Centre. Activity officer, Kieran Coyle said it’s designed to cater for all levels, and help people to overcome their fear of water while getting fit by learning the benefits of swimming.
For just £3 a coached session, Martina said it has equipped her with a lifesaving skill.
“I knew Kieran through running, and we got chatting about swimming, and I’d said I’d love to come along,” said Martina.
“I always wished I could swim. Even when we went on holidays, if there were slides and if I did go into the water I had to make sure I was able to stand.”
Martina said as a mother the fear she had as a young girl was, in some ways, instilled in her children.
“Naturally, I’m a confident person but, when it came to the water, no way,” explained Martina.
Recalling her first night at ‘Different Strokes’, Martina said she was very nervous.
“At my age, and the fact I couldn’t swim, I was also embarrassed,” she said.
“That first night I was even afraid to put my face in the water but, I did it.
“After five to six weeks I was able to float and, after eight or nine weeks, I was able to swim.”
Martina attends the Wednesday evening sessions at Roe Valley Leisure Centre in Limavady, but the programme also offers sessions on Monday and Friday mornings.
“There is a great atmosphere at the sessions, and I look forward to going,” said Martina.
“Swimming is a lifesaving skill that everyone should have, but it’s also good for your health and I really enjoy it now.”
Martina, a keen runner as well, said her goal is to do a triathlon.
“Without ‘Different Strokes’ I wouldn’t have achieved any of this,” she said.
“I would encourage anyone who can’t swim to try out the programme. If I can do it, anyone can.
“It’s relaxed, easy going and everyone helps each other. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Kieran Coyle, said the programme is designed to give people the opportunity to learn to swim in an unstructured type of environment.
He said the stories of people who have overcome their fears, or have learned to swim at a more mature age, are inspiring.
“It started a year ago and it has been quite successful,” said Kieran.
For most people, if they don’t learn to swim at school that’s it and there is nothing for them”, Kieran said. “This fills that gap.”
For some people he said it has been “life changing”.
To find out more about the programme visit healthforlifelimavady.co.uk/swimming/ or, their Facebook page. Follow them on Twitter at @H4LifeLimavady