I am 64 and have always been scared of water and swimming. I have taken 15 lessons but nothing. I have not learned anything because fear controls me. I can't relax. I float and give up. I AM SO DESPERATE TO LEARN TO SWIM. WHAT DO I DO? AM I USELESS?
Thanks for contacting me and asking for some advice. It sounds like you are determined to learn how to swim, but your fear is holding you back.
Fifteen lessons are not many for an adult with a fear of water. It can take considerably more than that to overcome your fear and learn to relax in the water. Children make learning to swim look as easy as learning to ride a bike, but for an adult, unfortunately, it is not like that, and it can take up to a year to become happy and confident in the water.
That does not mean it can’t be done! Everyone can learn to swim, and everyone learns at different speeds. It’s very much an individual thing.
For now, forget the mechanics of what your arms and legs must do in terms of swimming technique and concentrate on learning to relax and understand how your body behaves in the water. Focus on these three main areas:
1. Holding your breath and submerging. Take a deep breath and slowly submerge, holding the poolside at first if necessary and then trying it without holding on. Do this near the poolside, so you can hold it to help you stand up. Try breathing out into the water whilst submerged, resurface, inhale and then submerge again. This is a great exercise to help you to relax and breathe.
2. Floating and then regaining a standing position. Floating face down, once you have gotten used to holding your breath and submerging, pulling down with your arms and forward with your knees will allow you to lift your face and place your feet on the pool floor again. A slow controlled movement is best. This will give you confidence in your ability to float and stand up mid-swim.
3. Push and glide from the poolside. Pushing away from the poolside and floating or gliding along without kicking your legs or pulling with your arms is a great way to understand how your body behaves in the water. Pushing away with arms extended out in front of you is best, and you will discover that wobbly unbalanced feeling as you glide across the surface. Over time you will become more relaxed and, therefore, more balanced, and hopefully, begin to enjoy the feeling of gliding.
Suppose you practice the above three exercises regularly, as much as possible. In that case, they will hopefully become second nature, and you will have conquered your fear of water and swimming. From there, it is a simple matter of what your arms and legs must do.
Your patience and determination will see you through as long as you accept that it will take time.
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.