“Coach Fitz, how long will it take me to learn to swim?”
I get that question from prospective adult clients at Chicago Blue Dolphins over and over again. Most adults get their minds set on a far off end goal of swimming a mile of freestyle with rhythmic breathing over the Mariana’s Trench; anything less doesn’t seem to cut the muster. While that mile of freestyle is a great long-term goal, it would be a shame to miss out on a lot of fun in the water in the meantime. You need to understand as a new swimmer that there are three essential skills you must learn as a first step and everything thereafter is a process of broadening those skills. There’s hope for that beach vacation in February. Here’s the good news: Learning to swim is a lot simpler and easier than you think!
Check out the video clip below and then read on for more information about the skills we think are essential to learn so you can stand at the top of the mountain and scream: “I CAN SWIM!”
At Chicago Blue Dolphins, we believe there are three essential skills to master when learning to swim.
1. Face and Ear Immersion
The first key skill is about water comfort: submerging the face and ears in the water. Before you can go anywhere in swimming, you need to be able to put your face in the water without getting water up your nose or swallowing water. On the flip side, literally, you also need to be able to submerge the ears while lying face up in the water; in this position, the water line should wrap around the face. Mastering these skills are critical before you can release your weight into the water and float. Getting water up the nose or discomfort with water in the ears are two reasons why people decide to take up soccer as kids. Luckily, there are some simple exercises you can practice to jump this hurdle.
2. Floating and Gliding
Secondly, you need to be able to get into floating positions and the front and back AND comfortably return to a standing position. When we say float, we mean that you just lie there relaxed. No arm and leg movements are allowed. Before you can get anywhere with a swimming stroke, you need to conquer the “sinking feeling” and understand how to release your weight and feel the water’s support. After you’ve mastered a stationary float, you’ll need to add a simple slide and return to standing. Gliding is a great activity because you cover lots of ground with little or no energy expended. For so many new swimmers, swimming is an exhausting activity of frantic arm and leg movements rather than just flowing with the water. In this step, you learn to do nothing before you start to do something.
3. Simple Strokes
After you’ve gotten your face in the water and can float and glide with EASE AND COMFORT, add in well-timed arm and leg movements. Our goal at this point is just to learn how to go a short distance from Point A to Point B. We don’t need to do anything exotic like front crawl/freestyle or breaststroke. Simple arm and kicking movements will do the trick.
If you can master these three skills, you’ve learned to swim. Beyond these essentials is the realm of learning to swim better. You can learn to swim for longer distances with rhythmic breathing, get confident in deep water, or learn the competitive strokes like freestyle and backstroke. It’s important to understand that the process is iterative rather than linear with one end point.
Our Adult Learn-to-Swim Level 1 class addresses all three of these essential skills. You will graduate from this class with a foundation of water comfort, control, and effective movements. Our Levels 2-4 and our Stroke Development classes merely expand on these three basic skills to broaden your swimming arsenal and expand your love of the water.
See you at the pool!