For some adults who don’t know how to swim, signing up for lessons is a big step in itself, as is showing up for a lesson. If you want to learn and can commit to taking two lessons a week, you can expect to learn how to swim in about three months, according to Jane Katz, professor of health and physical education at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of “Swimming for Total Fitness.”

Come In, the Water is Fine

Some instructors frame classes for nervous beginners around walking in the shallow ends of pools. You’ll work on submerging your body and on floating and remaining balanced while in the water. John Fitzpatrick, owner and head coach of the Chicago Blue Dolphins swim facility, told “The Wall Street Journal” that he teaches adult students how to float and glide by kicking off the sides of the pool before giving them any actual swimming lessons.

Close Your Eyes and Breathe

Once you become comfortable in the water, your instructor will help you become equally as comfortable getting your face wet and holding your breath underwater. Your instructor will also likely teach you rotary breathing, which is a breathing technique that requires you to turn your head to the side to breathe without actually taking your head fully out of the water. Mastering this type of breathing may be the most challenging part of learning how to swim.

Get Your Legs Into It

How you move your arms and legs to actually propel you through the water is the easy part, say instructors. After about two weeks of lessons, you should be able to kick off from the wall and glide in the water. After about one month of lessons, you should be able to glide forward with an alternating flutter kick, which you do while swimming by moving your left leg up while moving your right leg down and then alternating, repeating the motion rapidly to help you move through the water.

Basic and Advanced Strokes

After about two months of lessons, your instructor will teach you how to use your arms to propel you through the water. Your instructor also will likely introduce you to some basic swimming strokes, such as the backstroke, the sidestroke and the front crawl. Once you’ve learned how to use your arms and legs to propel you through the water, you can add in the rhythmic breathing you learned when you began your lessons.

How to Swim (For Adult Beginners)

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Adult swimmers who do not know how to swim should learn. You never know when you will be put in a position where swimming may save your life or save another person’s life. Most adults who do not know how to swim may have never learned due to fear. If this is the case, seek encouragement from friends and family to take the plunge and learn how.

Don’t rush the process. Start slowly by wading in the shallow end and getting used to the water. The Aiken Standard gives some good tips on how to acclimate children into the water that can be applied to adults as well. One of these is to concentrate on activities you are comfortable with.

Learn how to tread water first. Once you can learn how to stay afloat the rest of the skills will come with practice. Use some type of flotation device like a kick board, inner tube or personal flotation device (PDF), in order to get used to the feeling of floating. Treading water is basically flailing with your arms and kicking with your legs while being perpendicular in the water (watch the Youtube video to see the technique).

Learn how to float on your back and front. Another emergency swimming technique is floating. It can keep you upright without using the same amount of energy as floating. The first thing you need to do is to learn to relax, according to an article by Use a flotation device first and then take it away and see if you can stay afloat on your back. Breathe deeply and look at the sky. Press your weight on your shoulder blades and lean your head back as if on a pillow. If your legs sink, then place your arms above your head to create more balance. Kick your legs very gently and thrust your stomach up in the water to maintain flotation.

Become comfortable with holding your breath and swimming underwater. Swim-teach recommends going slowly as this is the most terrifying aspect of learning for most. Splash water on your face first. Then go halfway down in the water until you feel comfortable for complete submersion. This is a technique, which can also be practiced in the bath tub at home. At the same time, improve the ability to hold your breath by practicing this as well. Time how long you can go without taking a breath with a stop watch.

Sign up for a local class at the park district. Speak with the tutor or the instructor and make sure they will meet your needs. If you are hydrophobic, there are sometimes swimming classes where the class is geared towards meeting these fears. These programs function as workshops and simultaneously ease people of the fear of water through programs combined with actual instruction in the water.


Another option to joining a class is to create an ad online requesting a swimming tutor.

Have a friend spot you on your first attempts to swim. They can put their arms underneath you and hold you up if you sink. Make sure the spotter you employ is someone sympathetic and patient, or better yet, someone who is skilled in teaching others to swim.

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