The concept of beginning swimming whether you’re a child or an adult can be a daunting experience. As a child you often have the reassurance of your parents to encourage and support you, to enable it to be one that is remembered as a positive and enjoyable experience. For an adult or even a young teenager, the thought of starting swimming as a beginner is a lot harder than most people realize. The biggest challenge is not actually that you technically don’t know the strokes, as most have a general idea from what they have seen from others, but more the perception of how you think you might look and what you think might happen that is most off putting to older beginner swimmers.
Not making much sense at the moment? Well just imagine. You are 26 years old, play other sports very well, your friends look up to you and think you’re able to do anything. Unknown to them though your experience of learning to swim was not one of fun but more of survival by making it from one side of the pool to the other by holding your breath and hoping for the best.
Now, years later, the first thing on your mind is not wanting to look ridiculous and not wanting to be exhausted at each end. And so naturally it becomes something that is avoided. After all why do something that you’re not very good at?
Or, imagine you are 56 years old, you haven’t been taught to swim properly, you were taught back in the day to save yourself and that was the only reason you would be in water. A long time ago the methods of teaching swimming were solely around survival, and what to do if you were in danger. It was rare to be told that you needed to have a nice relaxed breath to be able to swim. Few people are taught in a way that builds your confidence to start swimming, to relax in water and not be in a heightened sense of panic – this is the true goal. But how do we actually achieve that?
I’m sure you’re beginning to see that swimming or the technique side to swimming is actually the easy part as to teach your body to move mechanically is something that it does every day. But to change the way you think about swimming. Why you go swimming, and to understand as a beginner that the most important element of the entire process is your breath, is the greatest challenge.
If you are a beginner swimmer, follow these tips to make it as simple as possible:
1) First go to a swimming pool that is slightly warmer. It may be a smaller or shallower pool to begin with but the temperature is important. 50% of the challenge of beginning to swim is finding somewhere that you are comfortable with, that you feel that you are able to relax at, you are not there to become an Olympic swimmer, or even to swim the channel, you are there first to relax in water. Take away the expectation and simply remind yourself you are there to relax in water.
2) Once you have found a pool, go and buy yourself a costume that you enjoy and feel comfortable and confident in. Being in a swimming pool can be very exposing as you are wearing a lot less layers than we do outside, this can add to feeling self conscious or concerned. A comfortable and good fitting swimming costume will help to eliminate these fears.
3) Goggles are important and a lot of adults forget them or try not to wear them.Swimming goggles have improved dramatically over the years and their increased level of comfort and cushioning means that you don’t have to get those rings around your eyes anymore. Remember this is all about you. As you are starting out as a beginner, being able to guarantee that no water is going to get into your eyes if you get splashed, or if your face goes under and that you are still able to see makes a huge difference to your state of relaxation.
4) Once you have done the above the next challenge is making the time to go, this can be a big hurdle for a lot of people due to the busy lifestyles we lead. It’s important to remember that you’re not going there to swim 100 lengths, you are there firstly to get used to the pool, to get used to the water and to relax. You don’t even have to stay for that long, it’s all about removing the expectations of what you want to achieve and breaking them down to make them realistic and tangible.
5) Start out with a float, zoodle or a kick board. When in the pool, stay close to the edge and simply walk around using the float and dipping your face in the water to blow bubbles. At this stage it’s all about you being comfortable in water. If you have any concerns about doing this then book yourself in for one or two lessons just to build the foundational steps of being in the pool.
It is important to remember you are not alone in this whole process. In the UK, 1 in 5 adults can’t actually swim. Have a chat with your friends, you may be surprised that more people feel the same way that you do and this could be something that you do together and support one another as you go.
Your local swimming pool will offer beginner lessons for both juniors and adults so contact them, get involved and above all else start to enjoy the sensation of being in the water. When you feel more comfortable and relaxed, with lessons, your ability to swim will undoubtedly increase.