Have you ever been told or felt in your life that you can't be a successful swimmer based on how you wear your swimsuit?
I would like to share with you my own perspective as a swimmer who chooses to wear a headscarf and cover up my body due to my religious beliefs, AND not due to my cultural upbringing.
Alhamdullilah, I have learned how to swim at age 6 years old in Damascus, Syria where my parents put me in a private swim school to get started with it.
I grew up there and immigrated to the USA in 2001 at age 11 with my parents where I started middle school here. I never competed in swimming because their practice hours were super early for me and for my parents to take me to it. And also because I did not know the system of the tryouts, club teams, and all of that.
Then in high school, I joined track and field as I have struggled with an eating disorder(s) in my teenage years trying to fit in with the standards of society trying to look thin and beautiful for the world...
In 2010/2011, I took a 1-credit swimming course at my local community college for an easy A but also because my beautiful mom told me to sign up for it. My mother has always been behind me in swimming, and thanks to my dad for pushing me for it as well because, without them, I probably wouldn't be introduced to swimming at a young age.
Also, in 2010/2011, I went through a transition in my outfit style as I started covering up my body more trying to be more modest in preparations to wear my headscarf as I am asked in Islam to do.
After the semester ended with my swimming course, I don't remember exactly when... But after the course ended I finally made the decision to wear my headscarf and go all in...
BUT...then there was swimming outfits that I had a HUGE struggle with because I didn't know how to make it work.
In the beginning, I kept my one-piece swimsuit, Reebok brand and just wore leggings and Under Armour long sleeve tight-shirt under it...
Essentially, it looked like a "scuba dive" outfit but not the prettiest thing...
Consciously, I was super paranoid about my clothes in the pool because I knew they were super tight and my body shape was exposed even though it's covered with "clothes"...
Then at Target, I was super lucky to find a dress-like swimsuit on clearance, and it was THE last one! I bought it right away, and I still have it until this day!
So then I would wear that, and then I started playing around with the outfit such as wearing a cotton t-shirt on the top and wider pants for the sake of being modest...
And it was a real struggle in the beginning because of so many reasons!
Mindset- I was so self-conscious about how I looked like in the water. How I looked like coming out of the water.
Pants dragging at the bottom while attempting to swim.
The fears of being judged based on what I wear and how I looked like.
The t-shirt was obviously heavy in the water so I didn't enjoy my swims anymore...
And the list actually goes on...
And this is probably why so many people choose to ignore swimming because it can become a hassle for so many reasons.
But when you're passionate about something...
You'll do anything for it and about it...
In Fall 2018, I applied to work as a swim instructor for a private swim school for kids, and during my training, I had one of the employees come up to me after class to talk to me privately about swimming...
However, she was so rude and so insulting that I have never in my life understood what being bullied felt like until that moment.
This lovely lady came up to me to ask me a couple of questions such as:
How many laps have you swum before? (While being covered the way I was...)
Did you know that "so and so" location doesn't "allow women in burkini to teach swimming..."???
Did you know there's a local place that includes a swimming pool covered up in windows where no one can see you and you have the freedom to take your headscarf off and swim...?
And honestly, I never ever in my life like to tie things to religious reasons, gender, race, ethnicity, and you name it...
But at that moment, I felt so insulted and so hurt inside that I had to report the incident when I was asked after training how did it go for me...
I was afraid to speak up about it because of the consequences that would come afterward...
Obviously, I didn't get the job, and that was completely okay with me...Because it showed me the reality and the truth of this world towards women (and men) such as myself who choose to cover up in the pool while swimming...
*NOTE: That lady was NOT the first to make me feel insulted or made me feel like I can't swim based on my outfit. I've had another lady too who looked so snobby at me and even arrogantly questioned me due to my outfit in the water. But of course, I've had others who have felt inspired by how I look like in the water*
In the Spring-Summer 2019, I signed up for the Red-Cross certification course to become a certified swim instructor. I sadly didn't pass all the strokes as I was beyond shocked by myself. Because I thought I knew how to swim correctly, of course, besides the butterfly stroke.
The Red Cross instructor saw my deep passion and desire to pass the course so she gave me the opportunity to work on my strokes while attending the lecture-portion of the WSI course (Water Safety Instructor). The entire summer (and yes the entire month of Ramadan while fasting) I worked so hard on my techniques so that I can pass the pre-requisites for the course and be able to take the written exam.
I knew that I had to pass this class and become certified no matter what because so many people out there who are like me, whether they're Muslims or not...still want to be able to stay modest in the water and enjoy their swim!
During the summer, one of the master-swim team coaches gave me one free session to work on my strokes to help me unlearn the wrong techniques that I had with my arm-catch phase. Also, the GMU aquatic director gave me her time with a one-on-one session to help me with my breaststroke kick technique as I had it all wrong as well.
With swimming, we need to understand that it takes TIME! Muscle memory is a huge factor!
My entire life I have been swimming the freestyle and breaststroke completely off and wrong that I never knew how bad it was until I signed up for the Red Cross certification course.
This is why I had to practice the techniques both on land and in water to build up my new muscle memory.
Thankfully, in summer 2019, I had passed the BSI (Basic Swim Instructor) certification course, and now I am grateful to be in the position of teaching basic swimming strokes to both adults and kids.
The journey isn't over....But it's just the beginning. I am still working on my strokes and techniques to become an efficient swimmer because swimming is a life-long journey. And we're never ever too old or too young to get started with it!
Why do we need to stand up for the women (& men) like myself who choose to cover up in the pool...?
Modesty isn't just a Muslim-problem. It's a problem and a concern for the Christians and the Jews as well as other people from other faiths and backgrounds.
Modesty isn't just for the religious person... It's also for people who have skin-rash issues such as sunburns and sensitive skin.
There are still people out there who do not feel comfortable showing their entire body and skin to the world.
Yes, there are men who choose to wear rash-guards/t-shirts to swim and are still not comfortable in showing their skin either!
There are countless options for the clothing problem but there aren't enough representations in terms of coaching, in terms of social media presence, and in terms of what the swimming arena provides.
It is possible to swim while being covered up with the right material, of course!
Not everyone wants to become a competitive swimmer! There are numerous people out there who just want to be able to swim and survive to enjoy the water and mix up their workout routines.
Swimming is a LIFE-SAVING skill!
I am sad & heartbroken to not see many people like myself being represented on social media by big brands and only showing competitive swimmers and how to become an efficient swimmer.
Yes, it's very important to become an efficient swimmer.
But what about those who are feeling intimidated from it because they're not being represented and not being spoken to?
What about the pregnant woman who can still swim in her early pregnancy phases?
What about the obese man who wants to lose weight and compete for a race one day?
Why can't we encourage more people to the sport of swimming by representing them more often?
If you have ever in your life wanted to learn how to swim but never knew where to get started and how to get started, then you're in the right place!
Click below on the image to join my FREE mini-course that will help you get introduced to the swimming journey so that you can build confidence in yourself in the water, once again!
This course is meant to jumpstart your journey and guide you into swimming so that you can continue the journey in adding drills, in mixing up your workout routines on land, and to help you change your mindset towards life.
Sign up at http://bit.ly/2HDY0tC