As someone who’s learning to swim rather late in life, I especially appreciate this excerpt:
For a fortunate few–after many exhausting, uncomfortable laps–staying alive concerns gradually give way to swimming farther ambitions. But the actions you perceive as having kept you alive—pulling and kicking—have taken hold in your brain as ‘essential swimming actions.’ And the fact that this style leaves you so exhausted inclines you to believe that great fitness is the key to progress.
I would only add that regardless of how many laps you complete in the pool, those staying alive concerns will likely come rushing back the first time you find yourself in open water and realize your feet can’t find the bottom. And I suspect that nothing but time and patience can overcome that reaction.