It’s never too late to learn a new skill. One like swimming can potentially save your life. There is no need to be embarrassed about being an adult learning to swim for the first time. According to the CDC, 37% of adults can’t swim 24 yards. This is the length of a typical recreation center swimming pool.

In this guest blog post, Fresno-based AquaMobile Swim Instructor Amy Wu shares her experience teaching adult swimming lessons. She also provides advice about overcoming common roadblocks that adults learning to swim face.

Taking the Plunge

By Amy Wu

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

This quote from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is quite applicable to adults learning to swim. The first step also called taking the plunge is a major achievement in itself.

Swimming is as much about the body as it is about the mind.

It is normal for many students to come with existing fears.

Some adults did not have the opportunity to take swim lessons as a child. Others signed up for swim lessons decades ago. Sometimes it was a case of having a bad experience or didn’t have an interest to see them through at the time.

During the first adult swim lesson, I usually ask my swim what motivated them to sign up. All of my students come with some sort of motivation. Some of the most common ones include:

  • “Oh my daughter is on the swim team and she’s pushing me to learn.”
  • “I had a bad experience when I was a kid. Someone pushed me in.”
  • “I just never had the chance to learn.”
  • “I got injured running and I heard that swimming is an excellent sport that is gentle on the joints.”
  • “I just want to enjoy being in the water.”
  • “I turned 40 and want to celebrate by picking up a new hobby.”

I applaud all of my students for showing up and moving forward. While teaching and working closely with adults starting to swim, I’ve identified 5 common obstacles and swimming tips. Each one can be tackled with persistence, commitment and yes, a sense of humour helps!

The 5 Tips for overcoming obstacles stopping you from taking adult swimming lessons:

Adult Swim Lesson Tip #1: Swim in your own lane

Comparing yourself to others prevents you from moving forward. Remember where you started and compare that to where you are now. Everyone learns at their own pace and that’s perfectly okay. Confidence comes from believing in yourself and this is done by setting and achieving personal goals. This cannot be done if you aren’t completely focused on you.

Adult Swim Lesson Tip #2: Show up

Comedian and filmmaker, Woody Allen once said, “ Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Like many things in life, swimming is no exception to this rule. The hardest part of getting can sometimes be getting to the pool and hopping in the water. Every student that I’ve had said that they always feel better after diving right in. This means mission accomplished for the day.

Adult Swim Lesson Tip #3. Practice makes perfect as they say in Carnegie Hall

A 30-45 minute weekly lesson isn’t much, given that we have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. To progress, you need to take action. Swimming is more about doing than it is about talking. Practice swimming on your own and maybe bring a classmate along to help you. This is also a good way to make new friends and work on a new skill at the same time.

Adult Swim Lesson Tip 4. Have Patience (or lack thereof):

One time, a beginner swimmer who is an amazing runner and cyclist showed up at the first lesson. He told me wanted to do a full triathlon after six lessons. Yes, I’m talking about the 1,500-yard swim in open water. He came into adult swim lessons without being able to swim one full lap. In the age of social media and instant gratification, there is the expectation that change should happen quickly. I work with students to set realistic and “mini-goals” towards a bigger objective. In the end, you will get there, but it does require patience.

Adult Swim Lesson Tip 5. Have Fun:

Finally, it is important to have fun and mix learning with laughter. Oftentimes, we practice skills in a circle. We end each with something different like aqua yoga. In the very last class, I like to reward my students with a swimmer pin. This reminds them of how far they have come.

This isn’t to say that the journey in the lane isn’t challenging. It definitely can be. However, the end of the journey is equally, if not more important than the goal. 

Amy Wu is an AquaMobile Swim Instructor based in Fresno, California. Specializing in teaching beginner adults and children, Amy has also taught swimming at Asphalt Green and the University of Maryland. She started her teaching career in 2007 and has been an avid swimmer with USMS since 2001.