Are you ever too old to learn how to swim?
Summer is fast approaching; the days are getting longer and warmer. You spend time at the pool or at the shore but never seem to get into the water beyond waist deep. You want to go swim—if only you knew how! But you think, Oh, I’m too old. I can’t learn how to swim now! In reality, however, you can learn how to swim at any age, given the right instruction and the right instructor.
I started swimming when I was a kid. My mother sent my sisters and me to the summer lessons at the community pool. Many parents do that; it is a great idea to start early. But what do you do when you are an adult and want to learn how to swim?
Many adults go to their local YMCAs for group lessons; some look for private swim instructors. Either option will work, although in my experience, group lessons are not usually as effective as private lessons; with adults, the instruction is the same for everyone, and if you are a faster learner or slower learner, the class can be either too quick for you or so slow that you are bored to tears. Private lessons allow for the instructor to work with you, and you only. You progress to the next level at the pace your body allows.
When looking for an instructor, you want to find out how each teaches his or her lessons. I have talked with many adults before they start lessons, as they need to feel comfortable with their instructor. Make sure an instructor is a certified Red Cross Water Safety Instructor, at a minimum. Then, you will know that he or she at least has the basic knowledge of how to teach a swim lesson properly.
When I teach, I first work on breathing and floating in the water. With the right breathing, you can relax in the water rather than panic. Once your breathing is under control, you are better able to put your face in the water, which allows the rest of the body to relax. Once you feel the water holding you up (as it does only if you are relaxed enough to feel it), then the rest of the stroke can be taught effortlessly. If you are tense, you will always be fighting the water and will always feel as if you are sinking. If you fight the water, you get tired much faster than you thought possible. So relaxing is key, and your instructor should aid in that relaxation.
One thing people forget is that water is completely different from land. There is no gravity. Our bodies work differently in water than in any land sport. So in order to learn how to swim, we have to think of it as something completely different. Certain movements that we make on land, like faster arm turnover or pumping the knees up and down to run faster, do not work well in the pool. You actually sink with those movements. So it can be very frustrating when you start, because what you instinctively think is the right movement, is probably the opposite of what you should be doing. Therefore, you need someone who understands how to teach proper body alignment and who can explain how the body moves in the water (and help you stay relaxed). You don’t want to have an instructor who just tells you to do things and hopes that you get it or one who forces you to do something that you are not ready to do. Fear can be overwhelming, especially in the water. Relax, and you will always stay afloat.
There are many reasons why adults want to swim—they have injuries, and swimming is less pressure on joints than other forms of exercise; they signed up for triathlons and have not been swimming in years, or ever; or they are just starting to exercise and want something that is not high impact. When you are ready to make the decision to learn how to swim as an adult, take the time to find the instructor who suits your needs and interests best. And, make sure the instructor is really patient. Then, go make some waves.
Story by Joanna K. Chodorowska