How realistic is learning to swim as an adult?
Many people think that once you reach a certain age, you’re too old to learn to swim. The approach to learning to swim as an adult is different than that of a child, but the outcome is the same. The misconception that someone can be too old to learn to swim is a common one, but having a plan of attack in place before you start is one of the keys to making the learning process successful. I hope the following tips will help you as you start your journey.
Don’t be embarrassed!
It’s only natural to feel vulnerable when learning something new. If people are looking at you, they are either secretly wishing they were in the pool learning to swim or are impressed that you have taken the challenge. If you are self-conscious about how you look in a swimsuit, you aren’t the only one. Thankfully, they make suits for all physiques and body types. If you get to the point where you are swimming for performance, you will be more comfortable in a jammer (for guys) or a training suit, but people are so used to seeing them on swimmers, they will scarcely notice. Although, if you want to turn heads, there are some really wild designs out there.
Be prepared to work hard
Learning to swim can be challenging. Take solace in knowing that many have taken the plunge before you, and have succeeded.
the more you dawdle about tipping your toe in, pulling it out, wading into your waist, then finally up to your neck. You still have to make yourself put your head under the water. Make the initial unpleasantness get over as quickly as possible. After the initial shock, you are good to go. Feels good.
Face in the water!
One of the most natural, but most counterproductive is keeping your head above the water while you are swimming. Swimming with your face out of the water takes a LOT more energy than swimming properly with your face in the water (except backstroke which beginners don’t usually start with). Think about it…imagine yourself sitting at your desk and looking at the ceiling for 5, 10, 20 minutes. It would get tiring to say the least and you are likely to get a kink in your neck. NOT cool. And you can’t use the excuse that you can’t see under water, because you can. Goggles are your friend.
Don’t be afraid to take lessons.
It doesn’t matter what age you are. Everyone has to learn to swim before they swim. You can’t skip this part. Swimming may look easy, but there is a lot going on with your body. If something is off, you can sink, swim backwards, or stay in one place no matter how frantically you move your arms and legs.
If you don’t already have a pool you can use, the US Masters Swimming website is a good place to search for a pool in your area that offers Adult Learn To Swim (ALTS) programs.
Another program you can check out is Total Immersion (video below).
Take it Slow
Don’t try to go all out the first time you swim. You will be shocked at how fast you can become worn out. If you want to try it, knock yourself out, but it is really unpleasant. And, once you start improving, be aware that you may feel great but you still need to restrain yourself from pushing to hard and risking getting injured because you weren’t ready (your body wasn’t ready). It really sucks when you work so hard to get better and you push yourself so hard one day that you lose time having to rest your injury. This will slow your overall progress because it can cause some backsliding. Most importantly, it can potentially put a damper on your desire to swim.
Keep your expectations realistic
Let’s talk about expectations. Where you start will determine how you start learning to swim as an adult. You will need to take into account your previous athletic experience, current physical capacity, and overall state of your body. From there, you need to It’s like any other sport. Do you want to swim laps regularly to keep your heart and body in good shape? Do you want to add swimming to other exercise types and have them enhance your training? Are you interested in swimming in an adult master’s program? Is this the final side of the triathlon triangle?
Get some help
Swimming and swimming correctly are two different things. Once you learn to swim, you need to work on technique. When you are learning to swim, the lessons are basic. You will need to continue learning so you can swim efficiently and minimize risk of injury.
Swim with someone
If you are swimming at a community center or athletic club, there are sure to be others who could use a swim buddy. For many people, having another person to train with really helps with motivation. And you don’t have to swim with someone at your own level. You may find that someone with more experience than you really challenges you (not necessarily in a competitive way). There are many swimmers who enjoy being supportive of those new to swimming. That’s their personality. Look at the bulletin boards or ask the front desk or aquatic manager at the club if they know anyone looking for a swim buddy. They will let you know how to go about finding a training partner.
The more you swim, the better and more efficient you will be at it and the more benefits you can enjoy. Common sense, right?
You can succeed at learning to swim as an adult!
And once you start swimming, you don’t have to stop. Swimming is a sport for all ages and is known for its longevity. Don’t believe me?
Otto Thaning, a 73-year-old, became the oldest man to the English Channel in 2014.
In 2015, 100 year old Mieko Nagaoka, became the first centenarian to complete a 1,500-meter swim in a 25-meter pool. Mieko started swimming at age 80 after a knee injury.
How’s that for longevity?
Now, jump in!
If you are like me and find it helpful to do a little research before trying to do something new, I highly recommend the Total Immersion Program. It is one of the most well-known and respected programs for learning to swim as an adult and has been around for over 25 years. There are books and DVDs for those of you who like to learn by reading or watching DVDs or for those of you who are unable to find a coach. You can search for a Total Immersion coach on the TI website.