Thinking of dipping your toe into swimming, but a little wet behind the ears? No worries! These five tips will help any beginner swimmer on their road to swimming success.
Maybe you’re thinking of entering your first triathlon or perhaps you just want to join in on the swimming fun this upcoming summer… Either way, learning how to swim is a valuable skill – it can literally save lives! – and it can be a fun sport!
Five tips for beginner swimmers
1) Calm your breathing.
Before you get in the water, calm your breathing rhythm. This helps you to stay calm when you’re in the water. Short shallow breaths can create feelings of stress or panic. Feel the natural rhythm of breath and try to tap into this feeling when you swim. Swimming can be a meditative exercise.
2) Breathe in through your mouth.
Once in the water, breathe in and out through your mouth. Ideally, your exhale should be about twice as long as inhaling above the water as it helps build a comfortable rhythm to your breathing. Remember to exhale while your face is in the water. You can practise this by standing in shallow water and breathing in as you twist your face to the side and breathe just “above your shoulder” as your face lifts out the water.
3) Slow down.
Most new swimmers get into the pool for the first time and when they attempt to “swim a length” they often go out too fast and are left exhausted by the end of 20 metres. Go slowly – this is not a running race. Give yourself all the time you need.
4) Focus on your fingers.
If you let the fingers split apart, water will get through and you won’t pull down effectively. With each stroke you reach forward and pull down, so that your hand and your forearm create an effective pull.
5) Get the right gear.
Ready to swim? You will need three items of essential swimming gear: a swimming cap, goggles with adjustable straps and a swimsuit. If you have an afro or long braids, check out a South African company called Swimma for large swim caps.
There are loads of Youtube videos demonstrating correct form, but what is often hard is that we don’t know what we look like when we’re swimming and what we’re doing wrong. If you can afford it, find a swimming coach to observe you and teach you how to swim correctly.