I can swim on my back, but I cannot swim on my front. I am 64 years old and have just recently conquered my fear of the pool. I can now float on my back and do a basic swim, but I'm too frightened to lift my feet when facing forward. I tense up and panic.
First of all, congratulations on conquering your fear of the pool. You prove that it can be done and that age means nothing when learning to swim!
Learning to swim on your back is a fine achievement, but the time has come to learn to swim on your front, and there are a few possible reasons why you tense up and panic when facing forward. I suspect it is mainly down to getting your face wet and potentially submerging and not regaining a standing position or combining all of these factors.
Firstly, keep one thing in mind here. You have discovered that your body has some buoyancy and can float. That does not change when your body is in a prone (face down) position, although your feet are more inclined to sink when you are in a prone position but face up.
The first hurdle to overcome is holding your breath and submerging your face. You can practice this with your feet firmly on the pool floor until you get used to it and move on to submerging your face with a swim woggle under your arms and your feet off the pool floor when your feel more confident.
Wearing swim goggles is recommended as it can sometimes be very helpful, as having the ability to see underwater gives a much clearer perception of where you are and what you are doing. For more details and easy step-by-step guidelines for learning how to submerge, click here.
Submerging with your feet up off the pool floor is a completely different sensation from submerging when standing on the pool floor. The pool floor gives a feeling of security, where having the confidence to practice standing from a prone position is vital.
Start once again with a swimming woggle under your arms to give you some extra confidence to get used to the arm and leg movements needed for standing up mid-swim. For more details and a clear diagram of how to stand up mid-swim, click here.
Once you have become comfortable submerging and learning to stand up from prone, you can try it without any floatation aids. Remember that your body position will be slightly lower in the water, and your legs will be lower when you are prone but face out of the water.
By this stage, you will be more confident with floating in a prone position and then regaining a standing position again. This will hopefully lead to lifting your feet and swimming in a forward position with much less panic!
My ebook The Complete Beginners Guide To Swimming contains all the help and support you need, from relaxing, floating and breathing to all the technique tips for learning to swim the four basic strokes. Click the link below for more information.