Published: 22 April 2021. Written by: Lizzie Simmonds.
Hi everyone! My name is Lizzie Simmonds—I’m an ex-Olympic swimmer and now a Vitality Performance Champion. Like many of you, I’m really excited that the pools are now reopen, and I can’t wait to dive back in after so long out of the water. Over the course of the next few days, I’ll be sharing all of my top tips, to get you and your family swimming like pros in no time!
Swimming is the perfect exercise to get your whole family fit, as it can be easy and accessible. For adults it can help you improve your cardiovascular health and is a full-body workout like no other. And for children there are so many benefits from looking after joints to increasing mobility to helping young children learn to swim and develop a passion. But the benefits don’t stop there for making swimming part of your regular routine—swimming is also a great fun activity, for people of all ages and abilities.
- Swimming keeps our hearts and lungs healthy, and improves our stamina, flexibility, balance and posture
- Swimming can be beneficial for our mental health—giving us time out from daily worries and increasing those mood-boosting endorphins!
- Because of the supportive nature of the water, swimming can be a great option for people with a disability, or those who are recovering from an injury
- Swimming can provide a fantastic competitive environment, with challenges and galas at all levels of the sport
- Being at the pool offers a great opportunity to socialise, build confidence and make new friends
- Swimming opens the door to many other water-based activities, such water polo, triathlon, kayaking, sailing and scuba-diving
Swimming for Beginners
It’s never too late to start enjoying all the benefits of this awesome sport. Here are my top five tips for those who are just at the beginning of their swimming journey:
1) Find out what’s on offer
Call up your local leisure centre, or check out their website, to find out what types of pool sessions are available throughout the week. Many centres will have dedicated times for beginners, kids and club swimming, and some will even have special women-only or over-50s sessions. If you and your family are complete beginners, I recommend signing up for some lessons, as having some one-to-one time with an instructor will help you build the basics and your confidence.
2) Take it slowly
It can feel intimidating to turn up to the pool and see swimmers in the fast lane, speedily completing their laps. Don’t be disheartened if your own progress doesn’t seem as rapid—some of these people may have been swimming their whole lives, or (like me) may even be retired pros! When you’re just starting out, even putting your face in the water can feel scary, so take it one step at a time, and make sure you stay in the shallow end until you are comfortable swimming beyond your depth.
For even the most accomplished swimmer, getting back in after a long time away from the pool may feel odd, so take your time and try to appreciate the feeling of being back in before you try any serious moves!
3) Make it fun!
One of the biggest misconceptions about swimming is that it’s only worthwhile if you go and swim 20 laps of perfect front-crawl. While that might be some people’s idea of fun, it doesn’t hit the spot for many of us. Try mixing up your strokes, distances, or the equipment you use. For kids just starting out, make sure their time at the pool is exciting, by introducing floats, flying saucers and relay races. Once competent, challenging them to dive down to the bottom to collect pool-safe objects can be an exciting mission! When they have fun in the water, kids barely notice they’re exercising, and you’ll have them begging you to take them back next week…
Remember to keep an eye on young children at all times, and save the races for the water, not slippery poolsides!
4) Don’t worry too much about what you look like
It’s easy to imagine everyone is judging your backstroke, or silently laughing at your attempt at butterfly. In reality, it’s always so impressive to see swimmers challenging themselves to try new strokes, even if it doesn’t look very coordinated at first. Just remember the majority of people at the pool are perfecting their own form, and not concentrating on what others look like. Even though it can be exciting to build your skills within each of the four strokes, it’s also absolutely okay if you have a slightly ‘unconventional’ style or prefer just one stroke. As long as you’re moving your body and feeling comfortable in the water, embrace it!
5) Set yourself some goals
When you’re just starting out, you may only be able to swim for a few seconds at time, before grabbing hold of the edge of the pool, or standing up to catch your breath. Over time, as your fitness and confidence increases, try creating mini challenges each time you head to the pool. A few more strokes before standing up, or a couple more lengths at the end of your session. Hitting your goals, however small, is going to help you feel great about your progress, keeping you on track with your new healthy habit.
Remember, there may be additional Covid-secure measures in place at the pool and in the changing rooms—don’t forget to check these in advance to make sure you and your family are prepared for a successful and safe session.
Not quite ready to embrace the pool just yet? Then why not discover swimming outside by looking at the benefits of wild swimming.
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