View Full Version : Learning to Swim

July 1st, 2003, 02:35 PM

My husband is just learning to swim after 48 years of being terrified of the water. He's doing very well, and can do the crawl from one end of the pool (25m) to the other, but he does it with his face in the water the entire time, because he hasn't conquered the breathing technique. Needless to say, he can only do one length at a time. When he tries to breathe, he has difficulty with the timing, and ends up getting mouthfuls of water. He is getting frustrated, but he knows he can't continue the face-down crawl and expect to improve his swimming.

Any advise would be greatly appreciated. He has spent some time with a swimming coach, but because of schedules, it is limited. He is also reading Total Immersion, but that really doesn't address new swimmers' issues such as this.


July 1st, 2003, 04:43 PM
Hi Deb,

Solution is pretty easy (well sounds easy) your husbands sounds like he has some anxiety in regards to breath control and submerging his face (not uncommon). What he needs to do is get comfortable with working on his bretah control and rythmic breathing. There are a variety of ways on how to build this:

The simpliest is doing Bobs, start in about chest deep water and take a breath and submerge, once underwater exhale moderately - once almost completely exhausted of air come up just long enough to take a full quick breath and then repeat. Continue doing this until you can do 15 to 20 times without a problem.

You can continue doing bobs and work to deeper water, eventually getting to water that is over your head so you need to jump of the bottom to get yopur head above water, and be a little quicker at catching your breath before submerging and exhaling again.

Another way to practice is to hold onto something (wall, kickboard, floating barbell etc.). Hands outstretched, face in the water and start kicking slowly exhaling when you need a breath take 1 armstroke and turn your head to the side to get a breath. This method of progression start of holding onto the wall, then use a kickboard then eventually just holding your hands out in front will help develop his breath control.

Good Luck.

Matt S
July 1st, 2003, 05:18 PM

I have two ideas:

First: a mask and snorkle. I chatted with a lap swimmer who uses these all the time. He has some neck injury issues, and he does not want to turn his head to breath. Use a snorkle, and voila, problem solved. Sometimes we swimmers get wrapped up in learning how to do strokes that are legal for competition. But, if someone is not interested in competition, what's the point? Your husband might use this as a way to go farther without having to wait to get proficient with breathing. It can also let him get real comfortable with the TI recommended head position.

Second: Since he is reading TI, just learn the drills in the order they are presented! He won't get to whole stroke swimming for a number of practices, but so what? If he simply learns each drill in sequence, he will not need to learn how to breath until the end of the drill sequence, and he will learn how to swim well at the end of them. (And, since he may be buying a mask and snorkle anyway, get a set of fins too. He can use them to get more comfortable with the early drills that require kicking to move forward. Like the book says, fins are not cheating. They are a training aid so he can relax and learn the skill, rather than exhaust himself because he has a weak kick.)

OK Paul, feel free to flame me again for shilling for TI, but let the record reflect that they were already reading the book BEFORE I said a word.


July 2nd, 2003, 09:49 AM

If your husband is trying with the blue and yellow Total Immersion book--there is a better way. That book is the old one--I was hoping that is was no longer in print as it is not the way taught anymore. Now drills start face up and not face down and you do learn the sequence to breathing. See the TI website www.totalimmersion.net for current methods and materials including books and accompanying videos/DVDs.

Bobs are a great way to learn the breathing--how to breath in fast and develop a regular rhythm and to form a habit of exhaling under the water.

Yeah Paul she mentioned it first. Just trying to steer her in the right direction. And there are other methods to learning to swim--Red Cross, YMCA, SwimAmerica.

July 2nd, 2003, 10:26 AM
It depends on what his ultimate goal is, but if he wants to be comfortable in the water, I think wearing a mask will only postpone that. He won't ever learn when and how to breathe out to keep water from coming in. That has to be a tough thing for an adult to learn, but maybe worthwhile??? Or maybe he'll be satisfied to wear a mask every time he swims.

July 2nd, 2003, 03:25 PM
Well, I don't have any advice to give, but I just wanted to offer a few words of encouragement. I myself never ever swam until age 40, when running injuries limited my exercise options. I'm still a lousy swimmer, but I've gotten much better, and I really enjoy it. Tell your husband that if I can do it, then anybody can.

Two books that really helped me were: The Complete Book of Swimming by Phil Whitten, and Swimming for Total Fitness by Jane Katz. The latter is appropriate for beginners, and will address the issues you raised. Whitten's book contains not only technical instruction, but talks about swimming in the context of health and living life to the fullest -- it is most inspiring.

July 2nd, 2003, 03:57 PM
I have had all kinds of difficulties with breathing when swimming the crawl. So I just gave
up and only swim backstroke. Just my 2 cents worth for whatever it is worth. BTW I try to swim a mile
4 times a week. I am also 72.