I hope that whether you’ve listened to Podcast #109 Swimming as Cross-Training for Running, or read my blog posts about swimming as cross-training, you’re convinced that you need to swim, that swimming would be a tremendous complement to your swimming, but what if you don’t know how to swim? I realize that is the very thing that holds back many runners from cross-training in the pool.
I know many people never had the opportunity to learn how to swim growing up. That certainly does put you at a disadvantage, but you can learn how, and in this post, I’ll explain the way to get the instruction you need.
First, consider these other reasons for learning how to swim:
- You might want to entertain the idea of doing a triathlon one day. You may laugh at that, now, because you’re not a swimmer, but if you were one, would you think about it? Maybe you would.
- It’s sort of life a social skill. Haven’t you been in situations before when you were embarrassed that you couldn’t swim, situations when being able to swim would have made you more comfortable? Whether a pool party at a friend’s house or when you were invited on a friend’s sailboat or a time when you were at the beach, there are plenty of reasons why it’s good to know how to swim.
- You might get a running injury one day. Okay, let’s be real. You will get a running injury, and swimming will be a great way to stay in shape while you’re healing.
- If you’re a parent, it’s a safety issue because you want to teach your kids to swim, and you want to be in a position to rescue them if they get into trouble, even if that’s in a backyard pool.
Swimming is one of the few forms of sport that you really cannot teach yourself. Really. You can learn to do some form of dog paddle, but you need to be taught how to swim. I think it’s the coordination of breathing in freestyle that requires a coach. So, then the question becomes how is the best way to find someone to teach you?
I’ve known many people who took swimming lessons in order to add it to their training regimen or because they wanted to do a triathlon. Heck, I’ve known people who couldn’t swim who registered for a triathlon and THEN signed up for swimming lessons. I know that seems crazy, but it’s one way to do it, and as long as you learn before the triathlon, that’s just fine.
If you want to swim, and you don’t know how, you must find a coach or instructor.
How to find a swim coach:
- Ask around; ask friends who swim regularly or who do triathlons. They might be willing to teach you or they may know someone.
- Check out the local YMCA’s; they almost always have someone who can provide private lessons.
- Check with any competitive pool. If they have a swim team, then they have coaches. If they don’t teach lessons, they’ll certaily be able to provide the name of someone who does.
- Contact triathlon clubs or teams; they will either have a coach or know one, for sure.
- Search for a masters swim team in your area.
How to practice/learn:
(I really don’t think you should try to learn on your own because it’s not really safe, unlike other sports, with swimming, you actually can drown.)
But once you know how to swim well enough to be safe in the water, here are some things to consider:
The more time you spend in the water, the more relaxed you’ll become. And the more relaxed you become, the better, smoother your stroke will become, largely because your breathing will improve when you feel relaxed in the water. So, try to swim every other day when you are new to swimming.
Tailor your strength-training to emphasize strengthening the muscles that you’ll need for swimming.
Learn to do flip turns. Most people wouldn’t consider this critical, but if you plan to swim laps, you’ll really need to learn flip turns. And, honestly, they’re not that hard to do.
Watch YouTube videos. This really will help.
Get a friend to shoot video of you swimming. Like with many other things, self awareness is seldom accurate. In other words, what you think you’re doing is not often accurate. Taking lessons and then seeing yourself, actually seeing what you’re doing, is the best way to accelerate learning.
Practice won’t make perfect, but it will make you much better in a short time. So practice, practice, practice. Like with running or any other sport. Once you’re learned how to swim, just doing it more is the #1 way to improve. Just put in the time, swim the laps, and you’ll be rewarded.