Beginners Guide to Swimming

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Article by Olly Drew,  Sport and Wellbeing


So. Swimming. Splashing around in the wet stuff!

I’m going to start with a statistic that I’m sure that everybody has heard. 70% of the planet that we exist on is water. In my mind therefore it seems like a pretty good idea to be able handle it.

Now I would harp on about swimming, I’ve been doing it for over ¾ of my life, and I love it. Not only do I compete, but it also pays my bills as a swimming coach and lifeguard (among other jobs!) As a lifeguard I have seen how water can be dangerous, of course it can, if it wasn’t I wouldn’t have a job!

My name’s Olly by the way. I work as part of the Sport and Wellbeing team. I started swimming as a kid because I had asthma, and was overweight, and my doctor told me to take up swimming and a Brass or woodwind instrument, because it would help. (However the less said about me playing the Trumpet the better!) Swimming on the other hand did help tremendously, and I would say that training and competing the way I did as a kid until now is a big part of what makes me who I am, as well as meaning that I’m pretty fit, healthy and committed to what I do.

So you’re now thinking, whoop go you, what has that got to do with me, and why should I care about swimming?

  • It’s a crucial life skill, with more and more people living in proximity to coastlines and rivers’, being able to swim is important.
  • It’s good exercise, working the majority of the muscle groups in your body.
  • Swimming is low impact, like cycling, so it doesn’t cause much wear or tear on muscles or joints.
  • It can be very social- Seeing people coming into the pool either in their lunch-break or after work and swimming up and down, chatting in groups is a standard occurrence, one seen in pools all over.
  • Swimming has its uses in many other sports revolving around water too: Triathlon, Surfing, Kayaking, Water-Skiing, Wakeboarding, Sailing, Power-Boating, and the list goes on!

So I say now, if you can’t swim, then LEARN!!

How to start swimming:

If you can’t swim, here at the Jubilee we offer both one to one and group adult swimming lessons, so it’s easy to learn to swim, even if it’s just a few to get you started, making sure you are safe and can move fairly efficiently through the water. It may seem daunting as an adult going along to swimming lessons, that’s for kids right?? WRONG! There are hundreds, if not thousands of people in the UK that cannot swim and wish they could.

At the Jubilee, our adult lessons are oversubscribed every single term, and whenever I tell people about what I do, quite often I’m asked about adult lessons, because they or someone in their family wants to learn to swim. Obviously I’m only going on my experience and that of friends and colleagues, but looking around at various swim programmes advertised online in various places, there always seems to be some sort of adult swim programme or lessons.

Where to do it:

There are 3 or 4 main places that you can swim (not including the Bathtub!)

  • A pool
  • lakes and rivers
  • The sea.

That’s right; it’s not all about bashing out laps in a pool anymore! Wild swimming or open water swimming is becoming a bigger and bigger thing as an organised past time, with many open water swimming societies and clubs opening up on the coasts and around lakes and rivers all over the world. Combined with this, there are the many triathlon clubs who mostly swim in open water meaning more people are getting involved in swimming.  However more on that in another article.

If you are just starting out swimming, just wanting to work on technique and for a bit of aerobic fitness, then the pool is probably the best place to start.

What you need:

So you’ve come into the jubilee, got a timetable to see when you can swim, so what do you need?? Simple answer not a lot:

  • Trunks/Swim shorts or costume,
  • Goggles
  • Drinks bottle

 The last one is important, because just like doing any other physical activity, you do sweat and dehydrate when you swim, just all the other water hides it!

As/if you get more into swimming, and want to add some more variety, a kick board (float) and a pull buoy (Figure-8 shaped float that goes between your legs) would also be a good investment. You don’t need a lot, and you don’t even need to buy any specialised equipment really to start, you can go swimming in a pair of Boardies or a Bikini to start if you wish, and again if you get into it you can look into getting a one piece costume/trunks. Gents don’t worry, you don’t have to get tiny Speedos,  nowadays most competitive swimmers wear Jammers (the knee length trucks that you see people like Michael Phelps race in) and triathletes favour boxer short length trunks, both of which are more modest, but still good to swim in!

How to get better:

Firstly, just like anything else: Practice!

However when I’m working I get many people who want to get better at swimming asking what they should do, and here at the Jubilee we have different options:

1.    Firstly here at the Jubilee we offer Swimming assessments and Programmes: A one to one session where one of our qualified instructors will take a look at your swimming, and spend the 45 minute session both working on improving your technique, and discussing what your goals are in the pool. After the session the instructor will go away a write you a programme for the pool, which will help improve speed, stamina and technique.

2.    If you are student, then join the Swim Team! As a student I was a member of swim team, and they have both a competitive section and a recreational section. Both sections are coached by coaches from the City of Southampton Swimming club, which is currently the best club in Hampshire, with swimmers swimming in national finals. These sessions will help improve technique, speed and stamina, in a friendly, fun environment.

3.    A similar alternative we run at the Jubilee is Swimfit. This is coached by one of our experienced instructors, and these sessions will help improve technique, speed and stamina, in a friendly, fun environment. This is a popular session with both staff and students, with many regular attendees.

Whatever way you choose to get into swimming, get stuck in and enjoy it!