Getting more sleep is the easiest way to swim faster this season. Here are some fun factoids about sleep and swimmers.
Competitive swimmers understand how important it is to work hard in practice, crush it in the gym, and to eat well.
And yet, for way too many of us, we pass on one of the easiest ways to supercharge our performance in and out of the water. Getting lots of sleep is the easiest and dare I say it—most enjoyable—thing you can do to become a faster swimmer.
Quality time between the sheets is the ultimate performance booster: it helps you to recover faster, improves your mood profile (we all get a little cranky when short-rested), and yes, will help you swim faster over the long run.
Here are some fun facts about swimmers and sleep:
1. We don’t get enough of it (duh).
Swimmers have a gong-show schedule. During high school it looked like I was going on holidays each morning as I shuffled out the door for morning practice. With an overflowing bag for my swim gear, a bag for school books, and a bag full of food for the day, it looked like I was getting ready to conquer Everest.
By the time I got home I was generally exhausted, but still had to push through and get homework done before doing it all over again the following day. The days were never long enough for everything I needed to do.
As a result, when I needed more time to catch up with friends, finish homework, or whatever, it meant that sleep was the first thing to go.
While sleep deprivation isn’t particularly unique to competitive swimmers, we are particularly bad at getting anywhere near 7-8 hours a night.
When researchers followed a group of elite Australian swimmers during preparation for the Beijing Olympics, they found that the athletes averaged only 7.1 hours of sleep on rest days, and a paltry 5.4 hours when there was a morning workout the next day.
2. The harder you train, the more sleep you need.
The amount of sleep our body requires scales with how hard you are exerting yourself while you are awake. The harder the training, the more sleep you need to recover and bounce back.
Some nights your body will need ten hours, others you will feel great after seven. Shooting for an exact number of hours of sleep per night isn’t realistic as your sleep demands will be different depending on how training is going. The amount of sleep your body requires after a 1,500m loosen up swim is going to be different than the recovery needed after doing 20x400s best average.
Knowing this, plan naps and earlier bed times during particularly aggressive phases of training (Hell Week, or your holiday training camp, for instance).
Olympic champion Nathan Adrian focuses on getting 10-12 hours of sleep when training at altitude at the Olympic Training Center. It’s 8-10 hours at night, with a solid nap between workouts to help recover from the daily thrashings in the water.
3. The more intense your workouts, the harder it will be to sleep.
The inability to get good sleep after a high-intensity thrashing at the pool is one of the odd experiences of being a high-performance swimmer.
It doesn’t make sense on the surface of it: You go to the pool, sprint your brains out for a couple hours to the point that you are crumpled up on the pool deck, and then when you get home you have a hard time falling asleep.
Those super intense workouts stress the body in a big way. As you limp out of the aquatic center there is a lot going on inside of you: cortisol (the stress hormone) and norepinephrine (adrenaline) are spiking. It takes a while for your body to return to normal, with norepinephrine taking up to 48 hours to level out after all-out exercise.
This is another great reason to make sure you tack on a generous amount of active recovery to the end of those speed and power workouts.
In my own experience I’ve found that getting to sleep after those brutal speed-and-power workouts is much easier if I allow time for a 15-20 minute warm-down.
4. More sleep makes you mentally tougher.
Think back to the last time you were running on low sleep. What was your mood like? Probably not awesome, right? Sleep deprivation makes us grumpy. No big surprise there.
Restless nights of sleep also makes training feel harder than it would when regularly rested. Study after study has shown that perceived effort—how hard you feel you are working—spikes from sleep deprivation.
Which means that we are less likely to push ourselves when groggy and tired.
The dryland and swim workouts are hard enough already, no need to make them feel more difficult than necessary. In this way, being properly rested makes you mentally tougher.
5. And yes, more sleep means faster swimming.
Being rested is a great feeling. We feel fresh, energized, and ready to rock and roll. This translates into faster swimming.
When a group of varsity swimmers were told to increase their nightly diet of sleep by an hour they experienced significant drops in times in the water in just six weeks.
The study, done with swimmers at Stanford, found that reaction time off the blocks improved, turn time improved, and most impressively of all, the swimmers shaved an average of half a second on their time to 15m.
That’s an absurd amount of improvement for something as simple as getting a little more shut-eye each night.
The Next Step
Knowing you need more sleep isn’t the issue swimmers face—it’s managing your time and making it a priority to get into bed earlier that is the challenge.
There are some simple things swimmers can do to get more sleep:
- Turn off the smartphone at night. Laying in bed while scrolling through your social feeds will keep ya perked up. Power down the screen in bed and put the phone across the room to remove the urge to check it.
- Plan out naps. If you can’t get more sleep at night work on getting a power nap somewhere in the middle of your day. A 30-minute nap is enough to help boost mental and physical performance after a 4-hour night of sleep.
- Time management. At the end of the day this is the biggie—you need to prioritize sleep by wrangling the rest of your schedule. Stay on top of your schedule by working to get ahead of your schoolwork, planning and prepping meals, and creating a cut-off time each night for you to begin preparing for bed.
A swim team’s culture can boost your chances of success in the water just as easily as it can hold you back. Here’s how you, the elite-minded swimmer, can do your part to create exceptional team culture.
Great team culture is one of those things that everyone wants, is fun to lob around as a goal for the club, and yet, is hard to pin down or measure.
But you know it when you see it.
Great culture is unmistakable: success is sustained no matter who swims there. The team performs consistently well. Athletes are motivated to be there.
Bad culture is hilariously easy to spot as well: The bad group body language. The inconsistent performances. The low motivation and lack of direction.
Culture is easy to talk about in the abstract. We all want it, after all. But intentions are not good enough. Great team culture isn’t something you talk about, what you think or what you plan on doing. Great team culture is what you do.
Here are ten things swimmers can do to their part in creating a culture where they and the whole swim team are successful.
1. It starts with ownership.
It can be easy to look at the coach as the be-all and end-all for team culture, but at some point, athletes need to step up as well.
The reality is this: an environment that encourages risk-tolerance, is psychologically safe and promotes excellence benefits you just as much as it benefits anyone else.
Don’t wait for other swimmers to be the ones to step up. Yes, it can feel scary stepping up and taking the lead. It takes a lot to be the one to suggest to do one more rep above and beyond what is expected.
It can feel like you are the odd swimmer out by doing the workout properly and not complaining. This is okay—being excellent isn’t normal.
While your coach lays out the workouts and sets a standard for what is expected, it’s still on you to deliver on those expectations.
2. Embrace the newbies.
When a swimmer first joins your group or lane they are most receptive to the tone and attitude of the group. It’s your chance to make a great first impression and set the standard of what is expected.
Welcoming the new swimmers to the group also gives you a chance to remind yourself what kind of expectations you would like to have of the team and group.
3. Work with the younger swimmers.
Many of my favorite memories as a young age grouper were when the older swimmers—who I idolized—took a few moments of their practice to ask how my workout was going, to give me a quick pointer, or to encourage me to try a harder interval.
You don’t need to be a world record holder to have a serious impact on other swimmers in the pool.
4. Struggle together.
Getting through it together matters. Some of my favorite memories from my age group days have nothing to do with personal best times or records. They stem from the times where as a lane or as a group we persevered through a set or a workout.
It felt like it was us against coach or us against the workout. We didn’t always win, but on the times we did it brought us together.
Struggling through stuff together encourages cohesion. There’s no faking the bond that comes from throwing down on Hell Week together and coming through mostly unscathed.
5. Put the backstroke flags away.
When practice ends do you scurry to the locker room or are you helping put the lane ropes away? The backstroke flags? The yard sale of equipment behind the blocks?
You shouldn’t have to wait for anyone to ask you to help with this stuff.
The New Zealand All-Black rugby team, arguably one of the most dominant teams on the planet, clean their own locker room after games. Not assistants, or a janitor, or stadium staff—these revered professional athletes take it upon themselves to “sweep the sheds.”
Stepping up and taking care of your training and competition environment isn’t a chore—it’s showing that you care enough about the culture and the environment to spend a sliver of your time looking after it.
When you care for your environment you develop team-building pride for your crew.
6. Stand for your teammates.
Here’s a simple goal statement for you and your group: On this team we cheer for each other like crazy.
Get your cold, water-logged shorts off those chilly metal bleachers and stand up for your teammates when they are on the block. We’ve all experienced the chills and goosebumps before a big race when your squad gets up and does a banger of a cheer for you right before the whistle.
Make that the standard for your team. Not only will you swim hilariously well, but you’ll have every other team looking over in envy.
7. Get on board with the buddy system.
Accountability can work from a host of different directions. Here are some of the examples you are most familiar with: your parents getting on your case about working hard, and your coach on your case for showing up to practice.
But accountability seems to take on a different shade when it’s coming from one of your peers. After all, you are in the chlorinated trenches together. So there’s a kinship and an understanding there.
Partner up with a teammate who has similar goals as you (maybe not the exact same event) and work together to be more consistent in training.
8. Address what’s hurting the team quickly and together.
Problems happen to every club, good or bad, tiny or super. It’s how quickly and in what manner they are addressed that makes all the difference.
Here are some ways to stay on top of adversity and use it to help propel the group further:
Team captains. Weekly team meetings can help keep the ship on course through the season. Captains also manage some of the intra-personal stuff that can bubble up into real problems. They can help mediate issues and provide an added layer of accountability within the team.
Evaluation. Where can we improve as a group? What are we doing that is totally working? Quick evaluations done regularly can help the group from drifting off mission and stay focused.
Peer help. How can you help someone else in the group to be successful? We don’t need to go this alone—when a group of swimmers gets together and supports each other some insanely awesome stuff starts to happen. Risk tolerance goes up (you feel more comfortable going all out on your goals when you know you have people behind you).
9. Effort is always louder than talk.
At the end of the day, all the rousing speeches, the pep talks and the fancy championship banners don’t matter a chlorinated lick if you aren’t leading by effort.
This point is particularly applicable to swimmers who aren’t naturally extroverts. Generally we view leaders in the pool as being really vocal: but words don’t mean much if they don’t match up to the effort that is being put forth in the water.
In fact, it’s your actions that are the true barometer of your leadership abilities. You can rah-rah your teammates until you’re blue in the face, and talk about having a high expectation of excellence, but without the matching effort it’s got the opposite intended effect.
Look, no one is perfect. No disputing that. You’re human, which means that you are indebted the same amount of off days as every other swimmer on the team. But if you are leading, and the expectation is that you want an all-in effort from other swimmers in the group, you better be bringing the noise in the pool as well.
10. Leadership is found in the quiet moments.
Listening to a teammate who is having a rough day or a bad practice. Giving another teammate a reassuring pat on the back after a bad race. Pushing a teammate to a breakthrough performance in training even though your workout isn’t going as great as you’d like.
Leadership is found just as much, if not more so, beyond the rah-rah speeches and the boisterous cheers. It’s in the countless little moments where success and failure happen on your way to championship season.
This is great news for the quiet swimmer who prefers to lead by example. You can be a world-class introvert and still lead like a champion.
1. UNLEASH GREATNESS.
Whatever greatness in the pool means for you, whether it is making your first sectionals or provincials cut, this poster will remind you to unleash your inner greatness every single day.
It is produced on glossy, high quality paper, and comes in at 2 feet by 3 feet, which means it can not only remind you to be great, but also cover up any unfortunate holes or otherwise unsightly portions of your wall.
“Be not afraid of greatness.” — William Shakespeare
2. I ONLY FEAR NOT TRYING.
It’s shocking how many swimmers are more afraid of the hardship of the journey than of the regret they would face if they don’t try at all.
Don’t be that swimmer.
Be the athlete who gives it their all, and who can walk away from the pool knowing that they gave it their absolute best, and can do so without regrets or fear.
“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”
3. CHALLENGES ARE THE DOORWAYS TO EXCELLENCE.
How often have you stopped cold after a setback? Or been demoralized by a defeat? If you are like me, more than a couple times.
This poster is designed to remind you that all too often success is just on the other side of the struggle and grind.
In other words, if you want excellence, you gotta be willing to punch through a few challenges on the way.
“We don’t grow when things are easy. We grow when we face challenges.”
4. DREAM BIGGER.
It can be hard to create big goals when we are surrounded by small-minded friends, family, and swimmers. For every athlete that accomplished something worthwhile there was someone who told them it couldn’t be done.
That they should think smaller, and dream smaller. This is your reminder to think big. To dream big. And to act big.
“…with hard work, with belief, with confidence and trust in yourself and those around you, there are no limits.” –Michael Phelps
5. DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT.
The most freeing moment is making a firm and unwavering decision to after a goal. To have the end goal specified, a plan to get there, and the determination to see it through.
After all, it all begins with a decision. Once made, everything else seems to fall into place.
This poster is designed to remind you to live up to your decision on a daily basis.
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.
The fundamentals of backstroke are the same as for freestyle. However, the priority of those fundamentals differ for backstroke and there are certain nuances of backstroke that differ from freestyle.
Of all four strokes, backstroke is not the fastest stroke, but it is the most efficient stroke. That means that there is less change of speed in backstroke than in any other stroke. There are two principal reasons for that. First, the coupling of the body rotation comes at the very end of the pulling motion, which is the weaker part of the pull, as opposed to the stronger middle of the pull in freestyle. The result is the propulsive force of the arm pull remains more constant in backstroke.
The second reason that the velocity of the backstroker is more uniform has to do with the kick. When a swimmer is on his or her stomach, the down kick is typically much more propulsive than the up kick. However, when on the back, the weaker down kick becomes very propulsive because the foot pushes down against a larger vortex and gravity helps assist in the downward motion of the foot. As a result, the propulsive forces of the down and up kicks become much more even and the resultant velocity is more constant.
When it comes to taking advantage of these two nuances of backstroke, here are two important pearls in your technique that will help.
1) On the backstroke arm recovery, throw the arm and hand hard to the water. Accentuating the speed of the hand entry on the recovery also has the effect of accentuating the body rotation. This will help maintain the swimmer’s speed toward the end of the pulling motion.
2) Work the down kick hard on backstroke. During both the underwater dolphin kick and the backstroke, it is very important to press downward vigorously with the sole or bottom of the foot to take advantage of the large vortex formed from the stronger up kick. If a swimmer does this, he or she can get more propulsion and speed from the weaker down kick than from the stronger up kick. This downward motion of the feet will also help keep the swimmer’s speed more constant.
This week our Race Club members in Lane 2 will get classroom instruction on how the fundamentals of backstroke differ from those of freestyle. Race Club members in lane 3 will see a great dryland technique from world champion Junya Koga on how to teach swimmers the proper backstroke pulling motion.
Welcome to the world of cold water swimming!
Winter swimming communities famously thrive in northern European countries where an icy dip can be followed by a toasty sauna. There are many theories on the benefits of cold water swimming, amongst these are that as well as being surprisingly addictive, it’s said to give the immune system a kick start and gives an amazing sense of well-being which can benefit your mental state of being. What are you waiting for?
Tips on becoming a cold water swimmer
1. Authentic cold water swimmers around the world wear a regular swimming costume, a silicone swim hat and goggles. No wetsuit is worn, as this defeats the concept and benefits of feeling the cold water on your body, although a lot of people find that training in neoprene socks and gloves can help the extremities manage the cold better.
2. Most people stop swimming outdoors when it gets to October, but a cold water swimmer keep swimming throughout the year and just reduce the distance and time in the water. Your body will continue to acclimatise as the temp drops. A top tip is to keep a log book of when you swim, how long for, how you felt and what your recovery was like.
3. Find a safe place where you can swim, ideally somewhere where you can park nearby or can use a changing room or sheltered area for changing. You also want to make sure that you have easy access in and out of the water.
4. Find some others to dip with you, to make sure you are safe during and after swimming, and stay within your depth on your first cold water dip. There should be people around when you come out of your swim to assist with your recovery or hand you a warm drink etc. Basically cold water swimmers look out for each other, its as important part of winter swimming as the swim itself.
5. Swim safe. Swimmers need to be easily seen by boats in open water so at the very least avoid swimming in busy areas for boats, jet skis and ferries. It is also a swimmer’s responsibility to make yourself as visible as possible to other open water users: always wear a brightly coloured swimhat; consider buying a coloured swim tow-float (available from swimsecure.co.uk online shop); in dull or foggy conditions, or at night, attach swim lights or light sticks to the back of your goggles or swim costume. You also want to make sure that you can be easily seen by any support team on the water on standing on the shore side.
6. The trick with cold water acclimatisation is that there is no trick! It’s all about going in the water regularly, daily dips, even for a very short period prepares the body to cope with the ‘cold water shock’ and the recovery. Don’t rush to be a ice mile hero, become a winter swimmer first, go through a winter swimming regularly, so you understand how your body copes with different water temps. Once the water is under 10 degrees it will feel very cold when entering the water, but once its under 5 degrees, event drop of 1 degree C makes a big difference. Also the wind and outside temp makes a difference, and some days you just feel better than others. It’s only by spending time in cold water that you get to know you limits. Don’t push too far to quickly and ENJOY IT!
7. A thermometer is not essential, but can be helpful in knowing how you body copes and recovers in different temps, some people like to know before they go in the water and other just want to get in and swim and find out what it is when they get out. Keep a check on how long you swim for as the temperature drops and starts to rise again approaching the summer. You soon learn your limits and how much you should do each time.
8. Don’t try to be a hero in cold water, know your limitations, and get out as soon as you feel your body moving more slowly or if your hands start to become stiff. Try just a few minutes the first time. Breath slowly and calmly. Keep your head above water until you are comfortable putting your face in. If you begin to feel warm in cold water, you are experiencing the dangerous first stage of hypothermia so get out of the water immediately (see link below for a full definition).
9. When you exit the water, put on a hat, and get fully dressed immediately. Your body temperature will continue to drop for a few minutes after getting out of the water, so don’t delay! Set all your kit out ready before you go in the water, have it stacked in the order you will put it back on in. As soon as you are out, your only focus is getting out of your wet kit and into your clothes ASAP. There’s plenty of time to chat afterwards with your friends whilst having a warm drink. Do not warm up the body suddenly with a hot shower or bath, gradual warmth with layers and a warm drink is much safer and more effective.
10. Hypothermia can be fatal, please see links below for more information:
Overweight, lethargic, bad skin, thin hair. These are not adjectives often associated with those crazy freezing water enthusiasts. Try: athletic, youthful and toned with good complexions and lots of energy. So, what’s their secret? What are the real beneficial health outcomes of regular exposure to cold water and are they available to normal people without masochistic tendencies?
1. Boosts your immune system
For your body, a sudden and drastic change in temperature constitutes an attack – as anyone who’s ever fallen overboard in British waters will concur. And, whilst “attacking” your own body may not sound like a good thing, there is no harm in keeping it on its toes. In fact, quite the opposite.
Scientists from the Czech Republic immersed witting subjects in cold water for one hour, three times a week and monitored their physiology. They found significant increases in white blood cell counts and several other factors relating to the immune system. This was attributed to the cold water being a mild stressor which activates the immune system and gives it some practice.
2. For an all-natural high
Winter swimmers talk a lot about the ‘high’ they get from cold water – a feeling of wellbeing that’s so encompassing that it becomes quite addictive (who doesn’t want to feel truly good, at least once a day?) The cause? Endorphins.
Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers and, in the case of a cold dip, it uses them to take the sting away from your skin. So, to get high on your own supply, all you need to do is jump in a river.
And if you think that sounds dangerously close to the pleasure/pain barrier then you’re probably right. The two other primary causes for endorphin release are pain and orgasm.
The cold will also stimulate your parasympathetic system, which is responsible for rest and repair, and this can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are a vital part of keeping us happy and low levels of them are linked with depression. Couple this effect with the endorphin rush as you take the plunge and it should make for a warm glow and a wide smile when you re-emerge.
3. Gets your blood pumping
Being hot brings blood to surface. Being cold sends it to your organs. Both extremes work your heart like a pump. That’s why the whole sit in the sauna, roll in the snow, sit in the sauna thing makes people glow. But why is increased blood flow good for you?
Well, it helps flush your circulation for starters, pushing blood through all your capillaries, veins and arteries. It will exfoliate your skin and flush impurities from it, thus helping your complexion (firm-bodied women of all ages around pool sides say it stops cellulite). Evidence also demonstrates that your body adapts to the cold with repeated exposure and this may improve your circulation, particularly to your extremities – no bad thing in the winter months.
You could get these benefits by switching between the hot and cold taps in your shower (or the sauna, snow, sauna thing) but that doesn’t sound nearly as fun as quick dip in your local pond followed by wrapping up warm afterwards.
4. Improves your sex life
The suggestion of a cold shower might bring forth images of hot-headed young men trying to quell wanton urges but research paints a different picture.
In a study with a similar format to the one described above, participants took daily cold baths and were monitored for changes. In addition to some similar results to their Czech counterparts, these researchers also found increased production of testosterone and oestrogen in men and women respectively.
In addition to enhancing libido in both sexes, these hormones also play an important role in fertility. In fact, one technique recommended for men looking to fatherhood is to bathe their testicles in cold water every day. Whatever your procreative desires, a dip of a different sort certainly could add an edge to your sex life.
5. Burns calories
We all know that swimming is great exercise but there are some extra benefits from doing it in the North Sea that you just won’t get from a warm wade in the Med.
Swimming in cold water will make your body work twice as hard to keep you warm and burn more calories in the process. For this sort of exercise, fat is your body’s primary source of energy and the increased work rate will increase your metabolism in the long run.
For many families, splashing in the backyard or community pool or heading to the nearest beach to cool off in the water is a major part of summer fun. Before you get your pool passes for the season, find out about how to protect your children’s ears when they start enjoying time in the water. Swim ear plugs are often the best solution, but how do you know if your child needs them and what types are the best?
The case for swim ear plugs
For children with recurrent ear infections such as swimmer’s ear (otitis externa), infections of the middle ear (otitis media) or ear tubes, the best bet is often swim ear plugs. These custom plugs keep ears dry preventing water containing harmful bacteria to get trapped inside the ear.
Many doctors recommend swim ear plugs for children that have ear tubes. Ear tubes are small cylinders that have been placed through the eardrum in the case of recurring middle ear infections in order to allow fluid to drain. Other doctors recommend regular use of swim ear plugs only when diving or swimming in untreated water, such as lakes, rivers and oceans.
The argument for limited use of plugs for children with ear tubes is predicated on the fact that surface tension of the water will prevent any water from entering the ear tubes, so unless a child is swimming 3 feet or more under water, they should be safe. To that end, children with ear tubes also should wear swim ear plugs whenever ears are submerged in soapy water in the bathtub. Soap acts as a surfactant, or lubricant, to reduce the surface tension and will allow the water to enter the tubes.
Even without ear tubes, swimming can pose risks for children with current ear infections or previous surgery. Although swimming doesn’t cause middle ear infections, swim ear plugs should be worn so any water pollutants don’t make an existing infection worse. Keep in mind also that underwater swimming can cause painful pressure changes for children with ear infections. And in the case of a ruptured acute otitis media, also known as an ear infection with a ruptured eardrum, swimming should be avoided completely until the infection has cleared up.
Purchase ear plugs now at www.spurt.co.za
Father’s Day is just around the corner! Here’s a couple gift ideas for Father’s Day, but specifically for those dads that are active swimmers:
Underwater Audio Waterproof iPod
Underwater Audio Waterproof iPod – this is a great gift, because it allows you to listen to your favorite music while swimming laps, training, or even relaxing in the spa after a long day.
Bonus: the Waterproof iPod also functions as a regular iPod! It can be used while running, snowboarding, walking, or lounging around the house. It’s a must for all those active dads!
Earbud Headphones – what would a Waterproof iPod be without headphones?!
You can purchase the newest and latest earbud sport headphones. You can also buy them in bundles, which gives you more for your money.
Floating Water Radio
Floating Water Radio – this is perfect for parties or family days at the pool. Everyone can enjoy their favorite music while splashing around the pool all day.
Waterproof Stop Watch – a must have for all those professional or swim training dads. They can keep track of their time and speed each time.
Which allows them to push themselves harder and beat even their best time!
Water Joggers and Resistance Cuffs
Water Joggers and Resistance Cuffs – an amazing new way to train in the water. The joggers and resistance cuffs add the extra resistance to training, but without being too hard on your body.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
Swim dads are the unsung heroes of swimming and without them, teams would have a tough time staying afloat. Some swim dads are responsible for the day-to-day responsibility of getting kids to and from practice, while others help with meets and fundraising. There are many things dads do to help their children, teams and swim family.
Here are 10 reasons to be thankful for swim dads:
Dads drive their kids to practice and meets and make the drive more fun by stopping for treats on the way home.
Dads do the heavy lifting to set up swim meets and carry pop-up tents at away meets. They’re the last ones on deck tearing down and putting meet equipment away.
At meets, dads are not shy about stepping up to help wherever they’re needed—whether it’s behind the hot grill, wearing the neon vest as a deck marshal or timing.
A silly joke from a dad plus a big hug can end a swimmer’s tears after missing a cut for the big meet.
Swim dads spend entire weekends at the pool without a complaint to watch their kids swim a few minutes.
They freely give advice and reach out to newer swim families.
At the end of a long weekend, after the sprint and IM families have gone home, you’ll find dads lap counting for their distance kids.
Dads often serve on parent boards and volunteer their expertise in making decisions.
Dads encourage their swimmers to be their best and cheer loudly for their kids and teammates.
Dads are a source of unconditional love. They love their children regardless if they get a personal best or DQ.
Teaching kids with special needs to swim is not only a good idea, it’s essential. Swimming lessons help kids with special needs in a number of key areas, including greater muscle strength and physical endurance, increased flexibility, more self-control, and, in many instances, improved behavioral outcomes.
Creating an effective swimming program for kids with special needs takes a patient understanding of each swimming student as well as a well-thought-out plan for how the lessons can be adapted to each child. Here are some tips on teaching swimming lessons to kids with special needs:
- Give each child individualized attention — Because swimming with be a new experience for most of these children, they may be hesitant or reluctant to “take the plunge” at first. Be patient, and work with kids at their own speed to get them adapted to being in the water and moving in the water. Additionally, children with epilepsy with need “spotters” at all times.
- Utilize appropriate adaptive equipment — Some students may benefit from adaptive equipment that makes the water experience more positive for them. Life jackets other flotation devices like floating mats may sometimes be used to help children with motor disorders enjoy swimming safely. For children with tubes in the ears, specialized swim plugs or caps will need to be used to prevent the water from doing damage.
- Limit distractions — Special needs children often do better in areas of the pool with no distractions. Try to limit harsh lighting or background noises.
- Be consistent — Since many special needs kids thrive with specific, predictable routines, it is essential that instructors be consistent in their teaching times and methods. Any necessary deviations from normal schedules should be planned in advance.
- Adapt to the needs of each child — Some children may benefit from visual cues (for instance, with flash cards or diagrams) as opposed to verbal instructions. Other children may learn better with physical demonstrations. It is important to adapt the lessons to match the ways in which each child learns best.
- Emphasize basic water skills — Before attempting to teach swimming via traditional strokes, it’s important to make sure that each child masters basic water skills like breathing, maneuvering underwater, and flotation. These skills will not come naturally for many children, which is why a patient, consistent teaching method is best.
- Make it fun — Getting into the water for the first time can be a scary experience for many special needs children. Try to reduce water anxiety by making their experience fun and giving them plenty of praise and encouragement.
- Plan for safety — Make sure that safety is a top priority in your swimming program. Safety measures include having a small class sizes, clean water, good leadership, qualified swim instructors, and a documented emergency plan.
Swimming is an important skill that can save the lives of special needs children. Parents and educators can work with swimming instructors to create adapted swimming programs that fit the need of each child individually.
Written by: Teressa Dahl