According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37 percent of U.S. adults can’t swim 24 yards, which is the length of a typical recreation-center pool. For some adults who don’t know how to swim, signing up for lessons is a big step in itself, as is showing up for a lesson. If you want to learn and can commit to taking two lessons a week, you can expect to learn how to swim in about three months, according to Jane Katz, professor of health and physical education at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of “Swimming for Total Fitness.”
Come In, the Water is Fine
Some instructors frame classes for nervous beginners around walking in the shallow ends of pools. You’ll work on submerging your body and on floating and remaining balanced while in the water. John Fitzpatrick, owner and head coach of the Chicago Blue Dolphins swim facility, told "The Wall Street Journal" that he teaches adult students how to float and glide by kicking off the sides of the pool before giving them any actual swimming lessons.
Close Your Eyes and Breathe
Once you become comfortable in the water, your instructor will help you become equally as comfortable getting your face wet and holding your breath underwater. Your instructor will also likely teach you rotary breathing, which is a breathing technique that requires you to turn your head to the side to breathe without actually taking your head fully out of the water. Mastering this type of breathing may be the most challenging part of learning how to swim.
Get Your Legs Into It
How you move your arms and legs to actually propel you through the water is the easy part, say instructors. After about two weeks of lessons, you should be able to kick off from the wall and glide in the water. After about one month of lessons, you should be able to glide forward with an alternating flutter kick, which you do while swimming by moving your left leg up while moving your right leg down and then alternating, repeating the motion rapidly to help you move through the water.
Basic and Advanced Strokes
After about two months of lessons, your instructor will teach you how to use your arms to propel you through the water. Your instructor also will likely introduce you to some basic swimming strokes, such as the backstroke, the sidestroke and the front crawl. Once you’ve learned how to use your arms and legs to propel you through the water, you can add in the rhythmic breathing you learned when you began your lessons.
- The Wall Street Journal: Teaching Adults to Swim
- YMCA Cambridge: Adult Swim Lessons
- Swim-teach.com: How to Swim: Basic Guidelines for Beginners
- California State University San Bernardino: Adult Learn to Swim
- City of New York Parks and Recreation: Full Learn to Swim Registration Information
- Riverside Wellness and Fitness Center: Adult Aquatics Programs 2011