Why you should learn to swim. Advice from a Coach.

Why you should learn to swim. Advice from a Coach.

Welcome to our Seashell blog posts where we dive into the stories of the Seashell people. We hope to use this space and platform to inspire others and to start important conversations.    

Today we are looking at why we should learn to swim even if we are just heading out for a cold water dip.

Man at the sea in snow

"Swimming is such a valuable life skill that I believe that everyone should learn"!

Why should we all learn to swim?

Are you a dipper but don't know how to swim confidently? 

Don’t worry, you are not alone. 

There has been a huge increase in people taking to the water, especially cold water. Many go out to swim but many also head out to go for a dip.

The idea behind this is to reap the benefits from the cold water physically and mentally. Read our blog about the benefits of cold water dipping.

I wonder how many of us dippers would say we genuinely feel comfortable in the water and could swim to the side for safety if need be?

Dipping is still getting more and more popular as people begin to realise how accessible it is. However, the risk of people getting into trouble, especially if they are not strong swimmers therefore increases.

We all as a community, need to make sure we are all as safe as we can be to keep dipping a positive activity. 

" But I just dip"?

Yes, there is an element of risk in everything that we do. From driving our cars or even walking down the street there is risk involved but anything to do with water (especially cold water) is potentially more so.

Make sure to do your research before heading out to swimming spots, find groups online to ask about the location, try to find spots that are safe and easy to get in and out of the water. Try to never go alone or at least tell people where and when you are going.

There are many more things to do to keep you safe but today we are going to focus on why learning to swim could actually save your life. 

Even if you think you are just heading in for a quick dip into the sea right next to the shore, in a small loch or river, you never know what could happen.

Never underestimate the power of water. It is powerful beyond measure. 

If you panic and don’t know what to do or what not to do, you can get into real trouble and quick!

Waves and currents are often not seen or felt until you are in the water and by then it can be a struggle to know what to do especially if you are not prepared for it. Waves and currents do not just occur in the sea but can be in any body of water so this is something work being aware of. 

Am I too late to start swimming lessons? 

Many people say that they are too old to learn to swim now. They say it is harder to learn when you are older but I can tell you for sure that this is not the case. I have many adults coming in to learn to swim for the first time ever and end up learning so quickly.

This is probably because they can process the information I am giving and demonstrating better due to their life experiences in comparison to children. Again, we are all different and all take different times to learn.

Please know that you are never too young or old to learn to swim. 

Man smiling with cup

Do you think swimming is too difficult to learn?

Learning or improving your swimming can be quite a daunting prospect because of how technical swimming is. However, another way to look at it is that because it is so technical it means there is more likely for people to make huge changes very quickly if done in the correct way.

Everyone is different in the way they learn and the time to learn and process the skills will be different for all. 

I have been swimming coaching for 15 years now and throughout all these years, it is clear that a lot of our fears with learning a new skill like swimming comes from our own heads and thinking we cannot do it. If we believe in ourselves and give ourselves the space and time, we can do it. 

With practice we can all do the physical stuff but as long as we allow it in our own minds first.

Swimming in the sunset

Will learning to swim help with dipping?

Now, if you have done any cold water immersions, you know exactly how the cold water can take your breath away, literally! 

You feel like you lose control and it can be very scary. 

A way to combat this and to help us stay calm (often stay in longer to get those cold water benefits) is to focus on your breath before, during and after being in the water. 

Taking these breaths allows you to focus your body and mind on what you are about to do. You are giving yourself some control in an environment where you may have very little. 

However, if you are hit with a wave, there is very little you can do to control it.

So what happens if you are hit by this wave and you go under the water and you weren’t expecting it?

If you don’t know what to do with your breath under the water, things can get very uncomfortable and scary very quickly. 

"Ideally build the stroke up piece by piece until you are comfortable to then go practice yourself. ".

Hiking in the mountains

What should we be learning?

You may not realise but actually learning how to exhale and inhale when under water is one of the most underrated part of cold water dipping or swimming. In theory it is simple to do but is hard because of the nature of it. Often it is just knowing what to do and what not to do that is daunting. 

Having a coach there taking you through each part step by step allows you to experiment with what works for you in a controlled environment so you can build your confidence so that if something happens in the open water, you are more able to deal with it and be okay. 

Many people get too scared to put their face in the water and try to revert to swimming breaststroke as it seems easier. It is to begin with but over time, you will find it hard to swim longer distances doing breaststroke.

You may also find that your lower back gets sore along with your knees, your calves may cramp up and if there are waves, you may find that you are constantly getting a face full of water.

Sea swimming

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What should we be learning?

When we are swimming, we are ideally in what we call a “ streamlined” position. Basically as aerodynamic as possible so that we don’t waste any energy. 

As soon as we lift up our heads or kick from the knee, we break the streamline line and it becomes harder to swim as our body position starts to sink.

Ideally, learning front crawl will allow you to get more streamlined on the water and more efficient which allows you to swim for longer and use less energy which is overall safer. 

Many people learnt to swim as a kid but have gone for years without looking at their technique. It is often that we just need some pointers from a coach to help consolidate what we were taught as kids. 

As a coach, I have seen the technique of swimming adapt and change over the years. So you will find that drills and things you were told as a kid are probably very different now. In particular how and what we do under the water for propulsion. As a kid, I was taught to make a light bulb shape under the water but now we focus on a high elbow and following a line from in front of head and then back towards the hip. 

Many people are taught to kick as much as they can and in particular make “lots of splash”. If you are making big splashes, it probably means that your feet are coming out of the water. 

As soon as your feet come out of the water, they are doing absolutely nothing to help with power. If your feet are coming out of the water this also probably means that your knees are bending rather than the kick initiating from the hip. It is quite hard to know that we are doing this unless someone points it out and lets us know HOW to be aware of it.

Man at the sea in snow

We are also taught to turn our head to the side to breathe, however this is more than likely to promote a flat body as we swim front crawl which in turn promotes a lack of rotation.

Ideally we are rotating every stroke and the head comes with the body only when we take a breath so that we have the space to get those arms out and over for each stroke as we rotate. Most people end up reverting to lifting their head out of the water and then the legs sink. 

It is being aware that there is a lot to think about but these small changes often make the biggest difference. 

If you can get in with a coach, they should go through all of this with you. Ideally build the stroke up piece by piece until you are comfortable to then go practice yourself. 

We want to be able to head out to water whenever we like and feel like we are strong enough to swim to safety if need be, even if we are just heading out for a dip.

In conclusion.

One of the most amazing feelings out there is to be able to swim anywhere!

You feel like you are free to explore a different word when you are in the water.

Swimming is such a valuable life skill that I believe that everyone should learn for safety and for the enjoyment of exploration physically and mentally. 

Think of all the new places you could go and all the new experiences whilst in the water. Whether its dipping, swimming, surfing and stand up paddle boarding for example.

If you would like some help with your swimming, please just get in touch with me on my coaching page. 

Let’s get swimming! 

Coralie Dee Arthur. 

Man walking into water with snow

Thank you very much for reading our blog about why you should learn to swim. We hope it has inspired you to get out there and get working on your swimming.

Our aim is to share other people's stories. Whether you have a story about mental health, community or why you started wild swimming for example. 

If you would like to be featured in our Seashell stories then email us on: support@seashellcsc.com    

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