Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Last night, I went to a swim class for female adults. It’s an improvement class just above the beginner class to improve swim technique or to learn a new stroke. There’s only three of us, each one with a different goal. My goal is to improve my technique so I can do endurance swims. The second woman wants to get fitter and to swim for health. The last woman wants her 7-year daughter to be happy. Until now, she couldn’t play with her daughter in the deep end of the pool because she was scared she wasn’t a good-enough swimmer. This semester, she is taking time off, at her kid’s bedtime, to brave winter temps at night and get in a pool with total strangers. For what? To do laps with a kick board, hand and leg drills, and to blow bubbles. In just three classes, I’ve already seen her progress to a point where she’s now comfortable in the deep end of the pool where her feet don’t touch the bottom. As for me, I’m slightly faster. Aren’t swimming classes the best?
Swimming is a little bit like biking. You’re supposed to learn as a child. If not, the common perception is it’s too late. Grown adults who are not comfortable swimmers, or who aren’t swimmers at all, consider that it’s too difficult for them to learn. Or they can’t be bothered to learn. Maybe they can swim but they have bad swimming habits. Or they’re afraid of the water and don’t want to get anywhere near it. That, is when trouble kicks in.
What are they to do under the summer sun when their kids want to go for a splash – sit back and look on without joining in the fun?
Some stats for perspective. More than one third (37%) of adults can’t swim in the United States, according to the Center For Diseases Control. In the United Kingdom, it’s one adult out of five. If adults can’t swim, chances are their children won’t learn and that increases their risk of drowning. In 2012, drowning was the second leading cause of accidental death for children under 14 in the US. Now, I’m not going to write more about drowning stats because this is not the place, but I want to stress how important it is for parents to be able to swim and not to be worried about it. Swimming is the only sport that can save lives and you don’t need to be Michael Phelps to be happy in the water.
I’m mostly a self-taught swimmer. Until last year, my last swimming classes dated back to when I was 8 years old. My freestyle is genuinely free and it’s full of rookie mistakes. I learned it watching YouTube videos, reading tutorials and watching other swimmers at the pool. It was good enough until I decided to do open water races and was frustrated to always end up at the back of the pack. I was desperately slow and that could only mean one thing – bad technique. Something needed to be done.
When you want to improve your swimming skills, external feedback is great because it catches what you can’t. An instructor will notice that…
Who knows what the problem could be!
The good news is, each problem comes with a solution. Once the issue is identified, instructors will provide a fix and have you practice until you master it. Do this, do that, come back and practice some more. In only three classes of 30 minutes each, my class mates and I have already noticed some progress and we still have 9 more to go. How about that?
To boost your confidence, feel safer and live healthier, swimming is awesome. If you are lucky to live in an area that provides adult swimming classes, I urge you to check their classes and see if you can make it work. Start now in the dead of winter and you’ll be ready by the summer!