Learning to swim as an adult

India Gumbley is a digital strategist at our partner Fifteen. In a guest blog for us she tells her story of how learning to swim as an adult has provided the opportunity to enjoy many more activities….

Too late to start?

As an adult, there was something about not being able to swim that I always found so embarrassing. I figured that it was too late to start – that if I hadn’t picked it up as a child I’d never be able learn now.

I was too scared to take those first steps; worried that flailing around in the swimming baths would attract unwanted judgement from lifeguards or fellow swimmers. But deep down I knew that learning to swim wasn’t something I could put off and so, earlier this year, I decided I should really do something about it.

Missing out

Swimming is such a vital life skill. Not only is it important for safety, but fear of water can also hinder a surprising amount of activities. I love sports, and before learning to swim my fear held me back from progressing with kayaking, paddle-boarding, surfing, wakeboarding and more. Holidays by the sea weren’t enjoyable, spa-days weren’t utilised fully, and I had a general feeling of missing out.

There are plenty of adult swimming classes in the region, but I was lucky enough to have a friend that was willing to teach me. The basics were relatively easy to pick up – floating comes naturally – but the thing that surprised me most was the exhaustion.

How does everyone else look like a natural?

I’m a relatively healthy person – I play squash, tennis and have run several half-marathons, but swimming seemed to defeat me. My arms felt heavy in the water after a few minutes, and no matter how much power I put into kicking my legs, I didn’t seem to propel anywhere. I didn’t understand how everyone else seemed to do it so naturally.

The next day is always a shock. Muscles hurt that have never hurt before, your back feels tight, your right arms twinges when you raise it above your head….this is temporary. Do not worry. Keep going, and within a few days your body will forget it ever put up a resistance to your new-found hobby. That’s what happened with me. Within a few sessions my strokes were getting stronger, and I could keep going for longer.

Even after I’d mastered the basics, I didn’t feel confident in deep water. For anyone who (like me) panics without their feet firmly on the pool floor, Clifford’s in Long Eaton is a great place to swim. The pool is 1.2 metres deep throughout, meaning at any point mid-length you can stop, stand-up and have the water nowhere near your chin, and at only 22 metres you can swim a length without struggling.

Growing in confidence

Each time I visited I tried to progress and add one more lap until, in the space of a few weeks, I’d built myself up to the point where I could swim lengths comfortably for the full hour.

Now, as my confidence has grown I’ve begun checking videos on YouTube for advice on technique and refining my stroke – and I’m now more motivated than ever. I feel much healthier and find that mixing swimming in with my other gym routines lets me workout for longer. I’ve also progressed more confidently in sports like paddleboarding.

If you’d like to start learning check out local adult swimming lessons in your area or, if you’re just returning to the water after a long period away – remember no matter how difficult it is at first, you’ll quickly improve and build your stamina back up in a short space of time!

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