If you don’t know how to swim, you’re not alone! According to a 2014 survey by the Red Cross, only 56% of American adults can swim well enough to prevent themselves from drowning.
There are numerous reasons why someone may not know how to swim, including fear or anxiety around water, and no access to swimming pools or swimming lessons growing up.
You may be a grown up, but it’s not too late to learn to swim! Check out our top 5 tips to feel confident in the water. With enough practice, you just might start swimming laps one day!
5 Ways to Learn to Swim
Before we dive in, a few important notes: Take your time learning to swim and only do what you’re comfortable with. There’s no rush! Always swim in a pool that has a lifeguard on duty. It may be helpful to take a few in-person swimming lessons with a licensed instructor as well.
1. Get Comfortable
Start out in the shallow end of the pool, and focus on getting comfortable standing in the water. Walk around and try splashing your face with water.
Related: Mindful Swimming: How to Reduce Anxiety
If standing is too much for you, try sitting on the edge with your feet in the pool instead.
When you feel ready, try putting your face in the water while holding onto the edge of the pool. Try blowing bubbles underwater as you exhale out of your nose or mouth (Tip: Humming as you exhale will help you blow bubbles!).
At this stage, it’s all about finding ease in the water. If you feel anxious, take a step back and try some deep breathing exercises to calm your body down. Spending even 1 minute in the water is a win!
2. Bob Up and Down
Once you feel comfortable in water that’s about hip or waist height and can put your face in the water, it’s time to try bobbing up and down.
As you drop below the surface, exhale out of your nose or mouth. Press into your legs to pop back up, and inhale. You can try this with or without holding onto the wall – it’s up to your comfort level!
As you get more comfortable with this exercise, try staying underwater for a second or two longer to get familiar with holding your breath.
3. Learn to Float
Next, you can try floating! Floating on your back and your stomach are important basics to master if you want to move on to more advanced swimming skills.
Related: Learn to Float in 10 Minutes or Less!
How to float on your back:
- Standing in the shallow end, lean back slowly until your feet lift off the bottom.
- Press your hips to the sky, and gently move your arms back and forth, like you’re frosting a cake.
How to float on your stomach:
- Standing in the shallow end, dunk your face underwater. Start sweeping your arms side to side.
- Lift one leg, and then the other. Keep those hips close to the surface!
- Exhale through your nose or mouth while your face is in the water. To take a breath, place your feet back on the ground and lift your head.
While you float, you might find that you start to sink after a second or two. This is for two reasons:
- You are exhaling, which will encourage your body to sink
- You aren’t moving forward.
If you’re comfortable floating on your back, try kicking your legs to add some momentum into the equation, which will keep your body higher in the water. Soon enough you’ll be kicking a full length of the pool!
When you’re ready, you can practice floating and bobbing in the deep end of the pool. Stay close to the wall for safety!
4. Practice Pushing Off the Wall
To keep your forward momentum going, next you can try pushing off of the wall.
Start with your back to the wall. Bob under the surface, place your feet on the wall behind you and push off in a streamline position (with your arms stacked overhead, squeezing your ears). Think about making your body like a torpedo!
Once you push off, try to glide for a few seconds. Your body will naturally float to the surface. As you start to slow down, place your feet on the ground and stand up.
5. Try Freestyle
When you’re comfortable with those first 4 steps, it’s time to try a few strokes of freestyle!
In the shallow end of the pool, push off the wall like you did in step 4. Start kicking your legs as you rise to the surface. When you reach the surface, begin freestyle arm strokes. When you need to take a breath, turn your head to the side rather than lifting it forward. Get tips to master your freestyle here >
Freestyle can be pretty challenging and takes lots of practice, so don’t be discouraged! Even if you take just 2 or 3 strokes before you need a break, that’s a great start.
For more beginner tips, check out the MySwimPro app for a personalized Training Plan tailored to your skill level. Learn proper stroke technique with drill videos and technique tips in the app, and get 1-on-1 coaching with our ELITE subscription. Try it free for 30 days! >