Learn something new every day
More Info... by email
The best way to learn how to swim is in-person with a certified instructor. Check the pool facilities in your area for your swimming instruction options. If you need the most basic level of swimming lessons, but can only find children's classes, then you may want to work privately with an instructor. If you feel fearful of the water, make sure you choose an instructor who is sensitive to this and do your best to practice swimming strokes and kicks as much as possible.
If you feel that you need time to get used to the water before taking classes to learn how to swim, some aqua aerobics sessions in the shallow end of the pool may be a good idea. During shallow water aerobics, your head and shoulders are always above water, while the rest of you is submerged. Taking water aerobics classes before learning to swim can make you more comfortable in the pool. You could also go to public swim sessions and hang onto the side of the pool while facing it on your stomach with your feet out to practice kicking.
To learn how to swim, your instructor will have to ensure that you are able to float, hold your head under water and drown proof. Drown proofing means being able to remain upright with your head on the surface while treading water in a deep area where your feet can't touch the bottom. Leg and arm movements help keep you afloat. You can practice holding onto hand buoys before drown proofing without them. Before learning swimming techniques, starting with the basic front crawl in which your head will alternatively be under and above the water, it's a good idea to practice submerging your whole body under water while holding your breath.
If you aren't able to lay flat on the water to float, a swimming instructor can hold your legs and back while you practice. While you won't need to have mastered floating when you learn how to swim the front crawl, which is the most common swimming stroke, you will need to for the backstroke. If you learn the crawl and backstroke, these strokes will allow you to do basic swimming and have the foundation to learn other swim techniques. Make sure your instructor teaches you proper hand and leg movements with the strokes.
As you learn each new swimming technique and stroke, remember to keep going and don't get discouraged if it seems to take longer to master swim classes than you'd hoped. The most important thing is that you try your best and keep practicing what you've learned. Once you learn how to swim, go to public swimming sessions regularly so you can practice. When you're ready to swim many laps in a row, look for public swimming pools in your area that rope off lap lanes.
@AnswerMan, I don't believe parents need to throw their children into the water and expect them to swim to safety, but I also think some children can figure out how to swim by just experimenting on their own in a supervised pool. That's how I learned to swim when I was a kid. It may not have been pretty, but it worked for me. Getting over the fear of deep water was more important to my parents that learning the backstroke.
My dad was a big fan of the "sink or swim" method, so we all got tossed into the deep end of a pool and we had to make our way back to the shallow end. I never really learned the proper way to swim, just the proper way not to drown. I still can't do much more than a dog paddle or a sloppy freestyle stroke.
I didn't want my own children to learn how to sink or swim, so I paid for their basic lessons at a local YMCA. I remember they started out in a shallow pool just to get used to the idea of being wet. It took a few weeks before they actually got
into a swimming position and paddled while their instructors held them up. By the end of the lessons, however, they were able to tread water and do a basic dog paddle. I say learning to swim by taking professional lessons is the best way to go.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!