It’s never too late to learn a new skill, especially if it can potentially save your life. There is absolutely no need to be embarrassed as an adult learning how to swim. In fact, according to The Centers for Disease Control, 37 percent of adults can’t swim 24 yards, 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 and gives advice for overcoming common roadblocks for adults learning how to swim.

Taking the Plunge

By Amy Wu

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

The above saying by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is very applicable to adults who are just starting to swim. Taking that first step, or literally the plunge, is a major achievement in in itself.

Swimming, as with any new endeavor, is as much about the mind as is it the body.


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

Some never had the opportunity to take swim lessons as a child. Others signed up for swim lessons decades ago and had a bad experience, or at the time, didn’t have interest to see it through.

On the first day of class I often ask my adult swim students what motivated them to sign up, because yes, all come motivated. Some common motivators I often hear include:

“Oh my daughter is in 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 gentle on the joints.”
“It’s on my live list bucket list.”
“I just want to enjoy being in the water.”
“I turned 40 and want to celebrate by picking up a new hobby.”


I applaud them for showing up and moving forward. In teaching and working closely with adults starting to swim, I’ve identified five common obstacles and swimming tips for adults learning how to swim, which can be tackled with persistence, commitment and yes, a sense of humor helps.


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


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

Playing the comparison game and frequently looking at others can hinder you from moving ahead. Remember where you started and where you are now. Don’t compare yourself to others.


Adult Swim Lesson Tip 2. Show up:

The comedian and filmmaker Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” And so it is with many things in life including swimming. Sometimes the toughest part is getting to the pool and getting in the water, but every student I’ve had has said that they always feel better afterwards. 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 a day 7 day a week. In order to see change you need to take action. Talking and dreaming about something won’t help. Showing up at the pool on your own time or with a fellow classmate will help, and it’s a great way to make new friends when you practice together.


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

A beginner swimmer who is an excellent runner and cyclist showed up to the first lesson and told me he wanted to do a full triathlon (yes, including the 1,500 yard swim in open water) after six lessons. He came in not fully able to swim one lap. Six lessons? In the age of social media and instant gratification there is an expectation that change should occur rapidly, but all good and lasting things take hard work. 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:

Last but not least, it is important to have fun and mix learning with laughter. We often practice skills in a circle and we end each lesson with something different like aqua yoga. In the very last class I like to reward the students with a swimmer pin and remind them of how far they have come.

This isn’t to say that the journey in the lane isn’t challenging. It can be, but in the end 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 is an avid swimmer with USMS since 2001.