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You Don’t Have to Know How to Swim to Enjoy Aquatic Exercise

Posted Feb 10 2009 11:29am

Are you a non-swimmer who never goes near a swimming pool, lake or ocean? You’re not alone  - many adults never learn to swim for a variety of reasons.

One of my clients, “Pat”, never learned to swim because her mother feared water and wouldn’t let Pat take lessons. Other clients had traumatic aquatic experiences and were never able to release their fear of being in water. Personally, I nearly drowned twice before I was 2 years old, so I know what it’s like to overcome a fear of water. Ironically, today I make part of my living working in the deep end of a warm swimming pool.

As an aquatic therapist I’ve worked with many non-swimmers who bravely recognized the benefits of aquatic therapy and exercise and overcame their fears enough to exercise in water (even deep water - wearing a flotation belt). Most of them eventually took lessons to learn to swim after growing more comfortable in an aquatic environment.

The warmth of the water is an important component in encouraging non-swimmers to relax in the pool. A warm pool (86F or warmer) facilitates the relaxation of body and mind. That’s also one of the reasons I recommend adults learn to swim in a warm pool.

One of my former clients in Tucson, “Jane”, came to me after tearing her lateral meniscus on the tennis court. A non-swimmer, Jane nevertheless agreed to try rehabbing her knee in the pool with me in an effort to avoid surgery. Much to her surprise and delight, Jane not only  overcame her injury through our work in the pool, she kept up her aquatic sessions post-rehab as she found they provided an excellent way to cross-train with her tennis.

It’s never too late to enjoy the benefits of aquatic exercise and, more specifically, it’s never too late to learn to swim. The Miracle Swim Institute in Berkeley, CA has been extremely successful in their mission to help adults overcome their fear of water and enjoy swimming. If you don’t live in the Bay Area - the Institute has a network of MSI-trained instructors in other states. Many YMCAs also have adult-focused swim classes conducted in warm, shallow water pools with caring, patient instructors. The Palo Alto Family YMCA program is one example in the Bay Area.

So, if you’ve never learned to swim - or you don’t feel confident with your current swimming skills - make an effort to conquer your fear by getting involved in some form of aquatic exercise. The more time you spend in the pool, the more comfortable you’ll become and the more you’ll develop the necessary skills to become a competent, confident swimmer. And, as you reap the benefits of aquatic exercise, I guarantee you’ll enjoy the process! 

Be Well,

Carolyn

      
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