Please help, I'm a person in Melbourne Australia that about a year ago finally made a decision to overcome a 40+ year fear of water. I've made some progress and am ok enough to now get into the pool and start learning to swim, however, I'm really finding it frustrating and a struggle. Still, bits of fear creep in. I've been desperately trying to find answers on how to go about things a different way. Is there something I can try to do myself to help things along? The swimming instructors I've had and have I'm sure try to do what they know, but it just seems I'm not making much progress. Swimming is one thing I'd want to learn, even at age 46. Last night I felt like giving up when u went to my usual swimming lesson at the pool.
Many thanks for getting in touch.
Firstly congratulations on getting into the pool and taking some steps to overcome your fear of water. You’ve done something many adults wouldn’t dare do.
I’ve met many like you over the years, and the most frustrating part about learning to swim as an adult is the time it can sometimes take. It’s not like learning as a child – to them it's like riding a bike.
Adults arrive at their swimming lessons with preconceived ideas and feelings about what they need to do. Those thoughts and feelings only serve as psychological barriers, and when you have an added fear of water, those barriers are even higher.
I advise you to put ‘learning to swim’ over to one side for a while and focus on conquering your fear. Sometimes if you set your sights on learning to swim straight off, there will always be those moments of panic that set you back or hold you up.
Your initial goal should be to learn how your body behaves in the water. Get a feel for your level of buoyancy; learn how to control your movements and learn how to control your breathing.
You may already be at a stage where that stuff seems easy, but the key thing here is to do everything in a very slow, relaxed and controlled way, without any sudden movements or moments of panic.
Aim to achieve the following:
In effect, you are learning how your body behaves in the water without actually swimming, and I cannot stress enough the importance of performing these tasks in a slow and relaxed way – and not just once, but several times so that gradually over time, they all become second nature.
You can do all of this stuff yourself in your own time. Go to your local pool and just mess about (with a friend if need be) and the more you do it, the sooner you will feel ‘at one with the water and then your fear will be conquered.
From there, learning to swim is a matter of what to do with your arms and legs and adding some breathing. Apologies if I make it sound like it’s the simplest thing in the world, but if you can perform the tasks above then learning to swim a relaxed breaststroke or front crawl will be much easier.
When you have a fear of water, it's easy to think that the water is something that is trying to pull you down, if you can get your head around the fact that the water is trying to support and hold you up – you need to do your bit to help it keep you up.
A 46-year fear of water will not go away in a few lessons, however, well you think you might be doing. It will be ingrained and will take some time to get rid of.
Whatever you do, do not give up. With determination and patience, and I emphasise the word patience, you will get there. It might take six months, it might take a year, but you will get there. You have done the hard part – that is, getting in the pool in the first place. Now keep going.
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.