Adult Swimming Lessons: 3 Smart Steps for Safety and Success

—Prepare in advance for a smooth experience in the swimming pool

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Note: April is Adult Learn to Swim Month.

A backyard swimming pool can provide an endless source of relaxation and enjoyment—especially for those who learned to be comfortable in the water early in life.

However, more than half of American adults don’t know how to swim properly or could benefit from late-life lessons. A national survey by the American Red Cross found that 80 percent of U.S. adults claim they know how to swim, but 54 percent don’t actually possess all the necessary water survival skills.

Any adult who didn’t learn to swim as a child should know that it’s never too late. Adult swim lessons could save your life. And learning to swim can also make pool parties and beach vacations a whole lot more fun; without those nervous butterflies, you won’t avoid being in the water—you’ll be able to dive in and enjoy the activity like everyone else.

Swimming is a learned skill. If you want to succeed at it, it’s ideal to prepare properly for your swim lessons and practice consistently.

Some advance preparation is a smart move to set yourself up for the best chance of success and the most comfortable experience possible. Toward this goal, here are three actions to take before beginning your first aquatic venture.

1. Find the right swim instructor.

Swimming instructors are everywhere, but the trick is to identify the one who is both experienced and a good match for you. The chemistry created between you and your teacher matters. You need to find someone with whom you communicate well and who puts you at ease.

Do your homework seeking an experienced instructor. Start by coming up with a list of candidates. A good way to find them is to ask your friends for referrals on someone they know and trust.

You may also want to contact your neighborhood YMCA or a nearby swimming pool facility for information; some offer adult swim classes. The local Red Cross office may also have resources available for your area.

Another approach is to search online. One of the best resources out there for a national database of qualified instructors to teach adults swim lessons is U.S. Masters Swimming. You can even search by ZIP code.

If Yelp is popular in your area, check it out for swim instructors, and take advantage of the reviews. Another source is Thumbtack.com. On this site, you can submit a request for an instructor, and those in your area who are registered with Thumbtack can send you information and quotes.

Of course, you can also do searches on swim instructors in your local area, and look for websites which offer detailed instructor bios and professional experience.

Once you have your list of potential instructors, contact each one. Speak to several before settling on one who you feel is a good match. This relationship will represent a commitment for both of you, so you want to mesh well.

Have they been providing swim lessons for years, or is this person a college student who casually teaches swimming as a summer job? Do they specialize in working with adults? Instructors who have been at it for a long time have a better understanding of coaching people with different comfort levels in the water.

For example, let’s say you have a deep-seated fear of the water. Your goal is to feel safe and at ease in a swimming pool, so look for someone who appears to be extra caring and patient. Better yet, ask about their experience with students who had a fear of the water; inquire about a few specific examples of how they interacted with these individuals to help them relax and address any water phobias.

Additional points to discuss:

• Prices they charge for lessons? Are there discounts for a series of sessions paid for up front? 

• Scheduling—does their availability for lessons align with your schedule needs? 

• Their estimate on the total number of sessions you will need to become a competent swimmer?

• References from past students? And if applicable, any from those they helped overcome a lifelong fear of water.

It’s worth noting that except for Florida, states have no requirements on who can call themselves a swim instructor. So, it’s up to you to ask lots of questions to vet a prospective teacher’s credentials thoroughly.

2. Learn pool-safety fundamentals.

Swimming is both pleasurable and relaxing, and once you master this skill, you can safely enjoy the water for the rest of your life. However, even experienced swimmers need to know basic safety practices. So before your first swim lesson, get a leg up on safety basics.

By knowing the basics in advance, there will be less on your mind. It will be easier to concentrate on your instructor’s directions for learning to swim.

Some general resources about what to do and not do in and around a swimming pool include:

• The American Red Cross offers these Home Pool Safety Tips.

• Livestrong.com advises never to swim alone or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

• This article offers a handy list of do’s and don’ts for safe activity in and around backyard swimming pools.

For someone new to swimming, here is the most critical guideline to observe: Never attempt going in the water alone when you are first learning and practicing. Even in shallow water, accidents can happen.

What this means is no solo practice sessions. If your lessons are underway, your instructor may give you exercises to do on your own. For example, you may receive “homework,” such as treading water in the shallow end of the pool or practicing kicking your legs while hanging onto the pool ledge or a floatation device.

Whether you have a swimming pool in your backyard or a community pool in an apartment or condo complex, there’s a chance the pool will be unattended. So, if you are going to practice without your instructor, make sure either a lifeguard is on duty, or an experienced adult swimmer is around to keep an eye on you. Don’t attempt going it alone in the pool.

3. Arrange for a supportive learning environment.

When you’re first learning to swim, you may feel awkward or self-conscious. With this in mind, it’s important to learn in a setting that’s conducive to a swimming lesson. A quiet, relaxing atmosphere will help you have the most comfortable, successful experience possible.

If you’ll be taking lessons at a public pool, try scheduling them for off-peak times of the day. That way, the water won’t be crowded with other swimmers. If you have to worry about boisterous kids splashing nearby or having to look up every few seconds to make sure you don’t swim into someone, it’ll be tougher to get in the flow and concentrate on your skills.

If you have a swimming pool at home, you have several advantages over a public one. A backyard pool gives you full control over the environment, flexibility with the schedule, and the luxury of privacy.

However, even at home, you need to create a calm, distraction-free setting. After all, your goal is being able to devote full attention to your practice; if you’re worried about your kids, chores, or something in the house which needs attention, it’s tougher to focus on what you’re doing.

To make sure that you and your instructor have quiet privacy without interruptions during your lessons, explain to your family members the importance of your instruction. Let them know it’s important for them to wait until your lesson is over for the day before coming to you. It’s also best they stay out of the backyard while you are practicing, helping maintain a peaceful atmosphere.

To hone your swimming skills, commit to regular practice.

Learning to swim is like learning to play a musical instrument. If you take lessons with an instructor, but don’t do any extra work beyond the sessions, both of you will likely be disappointed with your progress. The more you get in the water and work on swimming, the faster you’ll master this wonderful skill.

To quickly advance your abilities, it’s ideal to take lessons nearly every day. However, if this is not feasible, you will likely want to practice between sessions. Lessons are important, but to make any new skill stick, you need to practice what you’ve been taught and put it into action. Commit to practicing throughout the week. Mark the times off on your calendar.

If you follow these steps from the outset, you’ll set yourself up for success for swimming proficiency. Once you have everything in place—the right instructor, knowledge of sound safety practices, and a conducive setting for your lessons, you’ll be on your way to acquiring this skill. Best of all, you’ll benefit from the opportunities that swimming offers for a fun, healthy lifestyle.

Topics: Health & Safety, Health & Lifestyle