Various reports say that sixty-five (65%) percent of adults are uncomfortable in deep water. Here at the swim school, we can pick out these parents instantly by their body language. While their children laugh and play in the water, these parents are curled up in a fetal position or hunched over in their chairs. Hands clenched, ankles crossed, they sit on the edge of the chair, elbows on their knees, as they watch every move their child makes for the duration of class.
Are you anxious in the water? Well relax - I am going to share a few super-secret swim school tips to being comfortable in the water, so you can go practice or share with this advice with the anxious swimmers among your friends and family.
#1 Slow down.
Everyone tries to rush their time in the water, but people forget they are land animals adapting to an aquatic environment. You are used to standing, breathing in an unencumbered fashion and propelling yourself with your legs across the ground. Now, you move into the water and instantly expect to be as comfortable in this world where you have to support yourself by floating, breathing when you raise your head above water and propelling yourself with your arms and legs.
The grandmas who you see standing in the shallow end of the pool with a hand on the edge slowly moving their hands and feet back and forth through the water are on to something. They are reconnecting their senses of touch and motion with the water before they ask their body to get to work in the water. And before I get criticized for signaling out grandmas, remember I live with a very attractive grandma (see the picture on the right) who happens to be a great swimmer. Even she warms up slowly when she enters the pool.
#2 Learn to go under water without breathing.
Many swimmers move across the water in the hopes that they get to the other side before they sink. They propel themselves across the top of the water working furiously. See #1 above and slow down your efforts to swim until you are comfortable under water. How much should you slow down? In my opinion, you should be able to hold onto the side of the pool, go under water and hold your breath for three to five seconds comfortably before you try to add anything else to you swimming repertoire.
#3 Learn to exhale under water.
A key skill in swimming is learning how to breathe with your face in the water. As you watch great swimmers, they get rid of the air in their lungs as their faces are in the water and breathe in as their faces turn out of the water. So at home you can practice by just standing by the side of your pool, placing your face in the water and slowly breathing out. If you feel anxious in doing this, begin exhaling slowly before you place your face in the water and continue exhaling while you go under and continue exhaling until you lift your face up. You will not run out of air in these three to five seconds. As you grow more comfortable with this exercise, begin to look around the pool and relax. You should exhale slowly not in a sudden burst. Try this at home over the next few times you are in the pool and see if that helps you become more comfortable.
Now for some fun. Here is a video of the victorious USA Men's 4 x 100 Olympic Relay race. It's from NBC so you may need to download their Silverlight program to view it but it is pretty cool. The race is shown entirely from their underwater camera. Watch how the athletes exhale as they race. Later you can begin to watch their arm movements and how they grasp the water but for now --- just check out their breathing.