Adults Learning to Swim – Increase Lap Skills

It’s frightening to be a grown adult learning to do anything, but when you’re learning something that most children do with ease, it’s even more challenging. How many of us have been on the Bunny Slops as kids whizzed pass going 10 miles per hour down a snow covered mountain? I’ve leaped out of their way because if I fell, one of them would have to turn around and pick me back up. Else, I freeze to death, while everyone else goes out for hot chocolate.

I have also been in the swimming pool trying my darnedest to stay out of everyone’s way, holding the pool edge for dear life, watching babies jump into the deep end and giggle their way back up to the surface as if they were fish. It’s annoying! I used to think, “Why didn’t I learn some of this stuff when I was younger?” Fortunately, I remember to tell myself that it’s never too late to learn something new. Thank God for that.

The Basics

Let’s face it, the decision is only step one. Now, you have to find a place to teach you what you wish to learn. There are some who think that one can learn everything from a book or the internet. I get it. That may very well work for them. However, there are those of us who need to be held accountable for our learning. In other words, we wouldn’t get out of bed if our teacher wasn’t looking for us to come to class. Decide which type of learner you are and choose your own style for being taught. I went to a local pool in the NYC Parks & Recreational Center’s Learn to Swim Program…. These classes are FREE and work on a lottery system. You register on-line and they email you if you’ve been chosen for their latest Learn to Swim class. For those who do not live in NYC, try asking your local gyms or park services if they have free classes. If you can’t find a free class, ask someone you know if they can teach you. It’s well worth it to do some research to find something that works well for you. Of course, for those who can afford to pay for lessons, there are plenty to be had in every city, state, country.

The Right Mindset

Now that you’ve made the decision to learn how to swim and have chosen a local class – now comes something called hard work. This is usually the point where most people stop. I understand. My first day for my swim class contained approximately thirty-five people. There were so many people there that we didn’t really learn much that first lesson. We were assessed with everyone having to show how much swimming knowledge they possessed. We mostly walked across the pool width-wise because not many of us knew how to do more than that. Surprisingly, at my next lesson, there were half as many people in attendance. When I arrived for my third lesson, I counted five people! I looked over to see one of the swim assistants busily calling people from the lottery wait list and asking them to join us. Let’s figure that a few had legitimate reasons for dropping out, but what about the rest?

My theory – most just didn’t have the right mindset. How you enter any endeavor determines whether you succeed at it or not. The swim instructor would tell people what to do and some people simply did not do it – not a great attitude for learning. I heard a few women say that they didn’t want to get their hair wet. Okay, what? I saw one man insisting that he knew more than the instructor. Again, what? I have a suggestion about swim classes, do what the instructors tell you to do to the best of your ability and be very, very patient with yourself. Also, each day requires your full attention, so don’t think about what happened in the previous class unless it helps you along or what is going to happen in the future. Just deal with one class at a time.

The Unconventional Technique That Works Wonders

Once you’ve learned the mechanics of swimming, breathing, how to move your arms, legs and head, now comes the next phase – the putting everything together phase. For some, this could be the most irritating part of the whole experience. You can hold onto the ledge of the pool and kick like a world-class athlete. You can move your arms beautifully through the water, flipping your head from side to side without a problem. When asked to stretch out, freestyle crawl forward and kick, you get water up your nose, choke from excess water in your mouth, or your legs start dropping down and eventually you’re standing upright. It is enormously frustrating. I know. I KNOW! Your instructor may or may not tell you that your core has to be engaged in order to keep you afloat or that you don’t have to necessarily have everything working perfectly in order to swim. This may be a rather odd concept, but there are experienced swimmers who don’t kick properly, yet they swim laps. There are people who only swim with one arm, yet they swim laps. In fact, swimmers have all kinds of issues – yet they still swim. This should give you some comfort. You don’t have to be an expert in order to swim laps.

One of the most important lessons I’d ever learned in swim class was this one, an unconventional technique, but it works.  Practice outside of the pool.  Because swimming requires muscle memory, when you practice outside of the water, for example – just lying down on the floor and doing the movements, once you are in the water, your body will remember these movements. I lay on my bed doing the freestyle crawl, breathing out with my head down and in when I turn my head from side to side for an entire week. Then I went to the pool and tried to do a lap. I was half-way across the pool when realized that I was actually swimming, and nearly drowned from sheer excitement. True story!  It actually WORKS!

The Practice

You’ve come so far on your journey. You’ve decided to take a swim class. You’ve actually attended all the lessons. Having learned the technique and now comes, unfortunately, endless hours of something called PRACTICE. This part, again, is not pleasant. You’ve already done so much. “Aren’t you done yet?” You’ve swum your first successful lap. Your instructor videotaped it and everything. You’ve shown it off to ALL your friends. Everyone on Facebook and Twitter now know that you can swim. I’ve already said that you don’t need to be perfect. So, why practice, right? I’ll tell you why you should practice. Without practice, you won’t get any of these incredible benefits:

  • Helps to manage weight;
  • Reduces stress levels and raises self-esteem;
  • Boosts your mood;
  • Strengthens muscles;
  • Swimming is low-impact exercise;
  • Improves your sleep quality;
  • Improves heart and lung capacity;
  • Plus, as you get better, the level of these benefits increases.

One Last Thing

There are still other benefits to be gleamed from adults learning how to swim that are not as obvious as the above list that I copied and pasted from if those are not enough. Swimming opens up a world of activities to you that you may have never ventured to try like snorkeling, or boat rides, kayaking, canoeing, or even whitewater rafting, to name a few. Although none of these activities require experienced swimmers, you may have never wanted to try them because you couldn’t swim. Now that I’m a swimmer I have definitely gotten more adventurous. And you will too. Enjoy!

Canoe team
Enjoying the scenary



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