Learning to swim as an adult can feel scary, overwhelming and intimidating, but by taking small steps, you can learn at your own pace. Unlike children who are still learning to master cognitive and motor skills, you can progress faster. You have an awareness of how your body works and can translate or mimic movements easier. Until you feel comfortable, you should always practice swimming where you can comfortably touch the bottom of the pool with both feet. Never swim alone and always swim where there is a lifeguard on duty.
Blowing Bubbles and Bobbing
Learning to breathe properly is the most essential and the simplest skill to master. Swimmers practice blowing bubbles, a technique in which you are submerged waist-deep in the water, both feet on the floor, and work on breathing in through the mouth and out through the nose in the water. Avoid breathing in water from the nose by coming up to the surface of the water before being out of breath.
Beginners may also practice bobbing by submerging in the water to shoulder-depth, holding both hands on the pool edge and pushing up from the bottom of the pool with your feet. When you submerge, blow bubbles. Start with 10 bobs and work your way up to 15 to 20. This can be a life-saving skill. If you get in a part of the pool where you cannot touch, push off from the bottom of the pool and bob to a more shallow depth by blowing bubbles.
Floating and Gliding
Floating is another technique taught in beginner lessons, that can be a life-saving skill. Swimmers should practice floating on their stomach by breathing properly and rolling over on their back from floating on their stomach. When floating on your back, fill your stomach up with air and arch your back so your bellybutton is facing up. When floating on your stomach, blow bubbles and put your hands out in front of you in a "Superman" position. Roll over by quickly pushing one of your arms down by your side, rolling your body as you do so.
Gliding is mastered after floating, and is preparation for learning the freestyle swimming stroke. Swimmers place both feet on the side of the wall, one hand on the side of the pool, and the opposite hand facing outward toward the pool. The hand is floating on the surface of the water. Pushing off with both feet, the swimmer places the face in the water while blowing bubbles and pushes off from the water in a streamlined position. Streamlined position is like placing the arms in the "Superman" position except one hand is placed on top of the other.
Swimmers should kick from the hips instead of from the knees. Kicking from the knees makes your body sink. Make small bubbles under the surface of the water with your kicks rather than large splashes. Practice kicking using a kickboard or the side of the pool. Do not hang off the side of the pool or lay your body on the top of the kickboard. Instead, use a front-float and place your hands on the side of the pool or kickboard for support. Hanging off the pool or laying on the kickboard will not allow you to use proper kicking technique.
Kickboard or Water Weight Style Freestyle
Freestyle, also called the crawl, is the simplest stroke to master and is taught before any other stroke. Use a kickboard or water weight to practice the freestyle arm and kicking motion. Swimmers use a front-float and mimic the arm motion while grasping the side of a kickboard or the bar on the water weight and practice kicking to propel the body forward. You should extend one arm fully to the side of your body and one arm fully in front of you before breathing. Focus on your body’s rotation from side to side while swimming. Swimmers should breathe every three strokes to avoid possible shoulder injuries. Once you feel comfortable, you can try swimming without the support of the kickboard and water weight.
Madison Hawthorne holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing, a master's degree in social work and a master's degree in elementary education. She also holds a reading endorsement and two years experience working with ELD students. She has been a writer for more than five years, served as a magazine submission reviewer and secured funding for a federal grant for a nonprofit organization. Hawthorne also swam competitively for 10 years and taught for two years.