Tag: lessons

Should adult swimmers receive more swimming lessons?

At a gym you get a tour, an induction, a programme; at a pool you simply get told where the changing rooms are. But bad stroke technique can be counterproductive and even dangerous.

There’s a woman I see regularly at the pool where I swim. She completes one length of breaststroke – at best – to my three, an expression on her uplifted face suggestive of the pool being filled with sewage or something equally terrible. It’s plain that she is enduring rather than enjoying her swim, and I can’t help thinking that part of the reason is her lack of proficiency: after all, mastery enhances the pleasure to be had from executing any skill.

I often feel sorely tempted to say something. If only she’d stop kicking her legs and stroking with her arms simultaneously, she’d stop cancelling one action out with the other. “Legs then arms,” I silently will her.

Of course, she’s not a solitary example. My pool, probably like yours, is filled with people struggling along with a grimace. A few years ago, a group of US researchers stated that 98% of recreational swimmers fail to improve aerobic fitness – presumably because they aren’t working hard enough to elicit gains. That might sound surprising when you consider another study that found untrained swimmers used 50% more oxygen to achieve the same speed in front crawl as trained swimmers did, but the chances are that the exhausted majority simply throw in the towel (or pick up their towel) before they’ve done enough to impact on their fitness level. And in the meantime, those arched backs, craned necks, strained knees and shoulders could be taking a bit of a beating.

“Oh leave us alone, you swimming fascist!” I hear you cry. “Let people swim how they want.” But should we? Even if they might be doing themselves at best no good at all, and at worst harm? Envisage a similar scenario in a gym, where people come in and yank weights around with appalling technique – or get on the treadmill, only to walk slower (holding the handrails) than they did from the car park to the gym – while the instructor looks on and says nothing.

Is it not in everyone’s best interests that every exerciser is shown how to get the most out of their efforts? While a swimming teacher might not always be present at the pool, I would imagine that the average lifeguard is capable of spotting obvious technical faults (given that a criterion of qualification as a lifeguard is being able to swim 50m in under 60 seconds).

“Many recreational swimmers seem to think that whatever they do in the water is going to do be beneficial,” says Ian Cross, swimming and Alexander technique teacher at Swimming Without Stress. “Medical professionals who recommend swimming to people without questioning what kind of swimmer they are don’t help either.” Six Physio, a London-based chain of clinics, is so keen to ensure that when their clients hit the pool for rehab they don’t do more harm than good that they refer them for a “swim check” – a stroke assessment with Immerse, which specialises in teaching adults.

For Nick Fugaccia, co-founder of Immerse, one of the biggest no-nos is swimming with the head out of the water. “You’re creating a high-resistance position and literally trying to drag yourself through the water,” he says. Often, a raised head is down to anxiety rather than to a lack of technique and, as Cross points out, it’s tricky once you reach adulthood to find the time, space or resources to overcome this. “Pools seem to cater mainly for swimming up and down,” he explains. “So people who aren’t technically proficient or relaxed enough in the water to benefit from swimming laps have no other choice. Pool managers could change the way we approach swimming in UK by creating spaces for people to work on themselves in the water. Almost like aquatic yoga studios, instead of aquatic gyms.”

I like this idea – and I admit it sounds much more nurturing than the protocol in my “raising the standards of swimming” fantasy, where the lifeguard roams the side with a megaphone barking: “Lane six, drop your head a little! Lane two, you’re too flat in the water. Rotate your body. Lane three, arms then legs!”

Personally, I’d welcome feedback on my stroke when I’m knocking out my morning 2km, and in fact it was some tips from a fellow swimmer (who turned out to be one of the masters club coaches) a couple of years back that galvanised me to join a masters group and up my sessions from two to three a week.

“The problem with swim club training is that often the focus is often on going further or faster, rather than on improving technique,” says Fugaccia. True – and you need to already be pretty proficient to keep pace with many masters groups.

I ask Fugaccia why he thinks we are so bad at swimming in the UK, compared to his native Australia. “We’re so safety conscious about the water in Australia – mostly because we’re surrounded by it and we have greater access to it because of the weather,” he says. “You’d be hard-pressed to get through school without learning to swim to a reasonable standard.” In contrast, an Amateur Swimming Association survey in 2012 found that one in three British children couldn’t swim by the time they left primary school, despite lessons being part of the National Curriculum. As a result, the ASA has launched a manifesto to improve the situation. But the statistic does shed light on the reasons why so few of us can swim with finesse as adults.

I wonder if public pools could run regular open sessions, where anyone in the pool can get feedback and suggestions on their technique from attendant staff. Or what about swimming “inductions”, where you get a brief outline of stroke basics when you join a leisure centre or health club?

“It’s tricky,” Fugaccia says. “If someone identifies themselves as a ‘strong swimmer’, you have to be careful with that. People don’t take kindly to criticism. You’ve got to wait until they ask for help.” Help from Immerse comes in the form of one-on-one sessions, for which the instructor is in the pool with you. “So many people have bad memories of swimming lessons,” says Fugaccia. “Being freezing cold, not being able to see properly, a teacher towering above them on the side yelling instructions. Swimming clubs or group sessions that place less focus on performance without losing the commitment to swim well would be helpful. We aim to get people to feel relaxed and have fun in the water first – then when it comes to the arm and leg movements it’s easy.”

One pool operator that has taken a fresh approach is DC Leisure, which launched its Swim4Health initiative in 2010 – winning a ukactive Flame award for innovation (and a host of new swimmers). “We offer a whole range of pool-based activities via Swim4Health – from aqua jogging to aqua fit, Aqua Zumba and Swim4Fitness – but more importantly we provide the same sort of supportive, hand-holding approach that you’d get on joining the gym,” explains group swimming manager Mark Haslam. For example, at Buxton Swimming and Fitness Centre, one of 40 DC Leisure-operated sites offering Swim4Health, you can book in with an “aquatic advisor” for a free 30-minute appointment to learn about what’s available and to help identify your personal requirements. “When you join a gym, you get a tour, an induction and a personal programme; usually when it comes to swimming you’re just told where the changing rooms are,” says Haslam. “We wanted to offer a sort of aquatic equivalent to gym membership.”

One Swim4Health offering is “stroke and coach” sessions – instructor-led courses or drop-in sessions for adults. “Adults don’t always like being classed as ‘beginners’ and there can be some stigma surrounding having ‘lessons’ – but these sessions strike the right balance of providing technique guidance and feedback along with good camaraderie and motivation,” Haslam says. “With kids, there’s a clear learning pathway when it comes to swimming, but that’s been missing with adults until now.”

Swim4Health participants can also sign up to Swimtag – a free “tracking” service. You simply don a wristband each time you hit the pool, and afterwards you can go online to check out your stats – for example, how many lengths of which stroke you did, your stroke count and average length speed.

I hope more pools seek out ways to help the 5.56 million of us who count swimming as regular exercise to improve our techniques. Or at least to swim with a smile on our faces.



Swimming Schools Near You – Bryanston

Having trouble finding swimming schools in your area? Look no further – a list of all the swimming schools in the Bryanston Area.


Name Address Area Contact
Zogs Swim School 1 Banbury Street Bryanston 0823346973
BSwimSafe 27 Chesterfield Road Bryanston 0836499067
Little Fishes Swimming School Bantry Road Bryanston 0114638389
Quick Strokes Swimming Pool 256 Bryanston Drive Bryanston 0824861983
Goof Swim School 115 St Audley Road Bryanston 0118078027 or


Free Style Swimming 165 Bryanston Drive Bryanston 0832532998


Teaching Your Baby to Swim

By: Dean Beaumont

Teaching your baby to swim can be incredibly rewarding: not only are you boosting their confidence, it’s great exercise, supports a healthy lifestyle, and it’s also one of the best ways of spending some fun, quality time together.

When your child’s older, you might sign him up for swimming lessons, but there’s plenty you can do to build your baby’s confidence in the water from day one.


 There are lots of ways you can get your baby used to water at home, long before you first introduce him to your local swimming pool.

This can start from baby’s first bath. You could

  • Splash water gently over his body.
  • Lay him on his back and move him gently through the water.
  • Over the next few months, get him used to having water on his face by gently squeezing a sponge of water over it.

Jane Saddington of the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) recommends using cue words. She says:

“Try saying, ‘one, two, three, go!’ when you put water on his face. Babies have a reflex action, so he automatically holds his breath when water hits his face. In the future, you can use those words to help him hold his breath underwater.”

When you move your baby to a big bath, use enough water so he can float. Support him on his front and back, and very gently manipulate his arms and legs in a swimming motion.

Hanging out with a newborn


Before your first trip to the pool, you’ll need to take:

Towels for you both – a hooded towel for them to help keep them warm after getting out the pool can be handy

  • Swimming nappies – these come in both reusable and disposable varieties, so you can pick what suits your family
  • A swimming costume for them – babies can get cold in the pool which can affect their mood, so insulated bodysuits can be a good idea
  • If your little one is weaned, take a snack with you, as swimming can them hungry
  • If your baby is bottle fed, you may want to take a bottle with you, but most swimming lessons are only around 30 minutes, so even if your baby is breastfed this doesn’t mean it is impossible to take them out. Of course, mum may also want to come and either join in or sit and watch you have some quality time too!

Life skills to teach your kids


When your baby’s ready for his first dip, Jane Saddington suggests carrying on where you left off in the bath:

“Move him around the pool so he experiences the water on his skin. Support him on his front and back and simulate kicking, which babies naturally do as a butterfly kick, with both legs.”

  • Also let your baby splash and play with his bath toys – throw one a few feet away and zoom him through the water to retrieve it.
  • Put your mouth under water and show your baby how to blow bubbles – this is important for him to learn, as he can’t inhale when he’s blowing.

Play time


There is a wide variety of parent and baby swimming classes which are now available around the UK. There is not a lower age limit for when a baby can go swimming, but check with your local swimming school in case they do have their own rules.

“Water confidence classes are a great way of getting kids used to the water – there are games, toys and music, which they love,” says Jane.

The most important thing is to make swimming fun, so your baby learns through play.

During the adult and child lessons your child will learn the basics, such as jumping into the pool, kicking his legs while holding the side, and holding his breath for short periods underwater.

The 6 Stages of Childhood Swimming Lessons

by: Premier Aquatic Services

Image result for child swimming lessons

Each child learns to swim at his or her own pace, and in order to develop a lifelong love of the water, that natural pace should be respected and nurtured. Therefore, we developed a six-stage program for our childhood swim lessons, built around skill-oriented goals.

Simply put, each little swimmer must master specific skills before progressing on to the next level, regardless of the child’s age.

Level 1 – Jellyfish

Developed for those who are brand new to swimming, the first level of swim lessons are perfect for those who have no prior experience. In this class, children learn to hold their breath and put their faces in the water. They also develop a bond with and trust for their instructor, as they build the courage to jump from the stairs to their instructor.

Level 2 – Tadpole

Progressing from the Jellyfish stage, children in this level are already proficient in holding their breath and putting their faces in the water. Now, they begin to learn how to float, fetch toys underwater, and perform basic strokes with the help of their instructor. In this stage, they grasp rhythmic breathing and explore the freestyle stroke.

Level 3 – Minnow

To advance into the Minnow stage, children are able to float unassisted for up to five seconds, retrieve toys in four feet of water, and perform assisted back floats. Level 3 classes teach them how to float on their back without assistance, move independently from the front floating position to a back float position, and kick in streamline for 15 feet. Additionally, children further develop their freestyle stroke by beginning to learn how to side breath with assistance from the instructor.

Level 4 – Guppy

Already able to float on their backs, transition from front floats to back floats, and perform assisted side breathing, Level 4 classes progress children’s strength and technique. Here, children begin to kick in streamline on their front and back. They develop their backstroke and learn to swim freestyle with unassisted side breathing. Additionally, they start developing diving skills by performing sit dives.

Level 5 – Lionfish

Students entering the Lionfish classes are moving through the water unassisted with skill. Now, they begin to learn new techniques, including the breaststroke and butterfly kick. They also graduate from sit dives to knee dives.

Level 6 – Dolphin

The final stage before “Pre Team” levels, children finalize the development of their core swimming skills. In the Level 6 class, they become proficient at all four competitive strokes – freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. Additionally, they learn to become comfortable with deck dives

The benefits of swimming lessons

Taking your child to swimming lessons should not involve fuss or trauma if you find a good swimming school and a loving teacher.

In South Africa there are so many children who drown every year that every child must learn to swim as early as possible. Getting your child waterborne is a priority as it can save his life. Swimming also offers great physical and psychological rewards for all children and adults.

Water is a gentle, soothing, relaxing medium and the benefits gained from swimming improve mood, fitness and overall health and well-being. Other benefits of swimming include:

  • Swimming strengthens muscles and joints
  • It builds lung capacity – especially good for asthma sufferers
  • Increases fitness
  • Swimming encourages babies to start to cross their midline and to develop other physical skills
  • It improves co-ordination
  • Swimming builds tone in children – particularly good for those with low muscle tone
  • It improves balance
  • Swimming helps to heal Injuries – a soothing and weightless weight to work damaged or unused muscles
  • It allows children with disabilities to enjoy physical activity
  • It improves spatial awareness

Teach your child to swim without a fuss

  • Choose a swimming school or teacher with a relaxed and inviting atmosphere.
  • Make sure your child isn’t cold or uncomfortable in the water.
  • Try to ensure that the teacher and your child are well matched.
  • Try not to miss lessons as each lesson builds on the previous one and gives continuity.
  • Don’t push your child or permit a teacher to force your child to do things he doesn’t feel happy doing.
  • Get the whole family to paddle, swim and splash about in the water so your child gets to swim without the constraints of a swimming ‘lesson’.
  • Don’t stop lessons if your child becomes afraid of swimming. Rather, build his confidence by working through the fear and proving to him that he can overcome it.

How to choose a school
It’s often a good idea to ask other parents where they are taking their children to swimming lessons. You can also ask for recommendations at your child’s school or at your local gym. But you must be happy that there’s a caring and nurturing atmosphere at the school. If the general vibe is positive and other children are happy to swim there, it’s a good sign. Nevertheless, there are more formal and serious things that you must look for in a trustworthy swimming school:

  • The school must be accredited by Swimming South Africa (SSA).
  • The water must be clean and warm. There must also be signs up saying which end is deep and which shallow, unless it is a teaching pool of one depth only.
  • Children must have a way of supporting themselves around the edge of the pool. This also helps them move around the pool safely when they first learn to swim.
  • There must be nothing hazardous around the pool, such as pool chemicals within reach of children.
  • There must be clean, well-kept toilets and changing facilities at the pool.
  • When you register your child with the school, they must ask for all your relevant contact numbers.
  • If your child has any medical conditions, you must inform the school.
  • Above all, you and your child must feel relaxed and comfortable at the swimming school.

If you don’t have a swimming school in your area, you can now meet online with swimming teachers and other parents to discuss various aspects of your child’s swimming journey through www.swimsavvy.co.za

Swim Savvy also recently published their first in a series of interactive journals to support young children through their swimming journey. The Swim Savvy ‘I can swim’ Progress Journal for Beginner Swimmers is a great interactive book that includes water-safety guidelines. You can buy your copy for only R55 via their website.