I am 53 and just started swimming lessons a few weeks ago. As a child, I had a scary experience in the water and am trying to overcome my fear. I am doing fine with most exercises in the shallow end, but I get terrified heading into the deep end. Any advice?
Thanks for getting in touch. It sounds like you’re doing great so far.
Swimming in the deep end can be daunting, especially if you have had a bad childhood experience. That experience would have left a scar in your mind that now holds you back.
Let's get a few things straight in your head first of all. Things that sound obvious, but your experience is clouding them in your head:
1. You do not sink like a stone the moment you swim out of your depth. Your ability to float (to a certain degree) and move through the water has been proven in your lessons so far in the shallow end.
2. The deep water will not pull you under and does not make you float any less. Your body behaves the same way in deep water as in shallow water.
Swimming in shallow water during your lessons, you have no doubt learnt how to stop and stand up mid-way across the pool. You will not be able to do this in deep water (sorry to state the obvious again!), so you must now learn how to change direction as you swim or even turn around completely and swim back to the side without putting your feet on the pool floor. You can practice this in shallow water, which is best at about chest depth.
This is key to overcoming your fear of swimming in deep water. It's about installing confidence in your ability. If you know you can change direction as you swim and make your way to the nearest side or even back to where you swam from, then the depth of the water is completely irrelevant.
Another factor to consider is fitness and stamina. As you learn to swim, your fitness and stamina will increase and improve, and so will the distances you can swim confidently.
Some people make the mistake of swimming from the shallow end toward the deep end and then get into difficulty as they become tired and out of breath.
You can start from the poolside without your feet on the pool floor, start up in the deep end and swim towards the shallow end. That way, as you near shallower water and start to become out of breath, you can put your feet down if needed.
Do you swim with goggles on and with your face in the water? Swimming with goggles on allows you to see everything around you. Sometimes learning to swim face down can give you a greater appreciation of where you are and what you are doing. It might open your mind and start to enjoy and embrace the deeper water. It may freak you out, of course, so take this advice cautiously!
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.