View Full Version : A Real Sinker

June 5th, 2006, 07:21 AM
I am attempting to help a beginner swimmer who is a real sinker. He is of substantial size and not in the "best shape of his life". He tends to hold his breath and panic in general - so suggesting the use of lungs for increased bouyancy nets a loss. I've been reminding him the importance of trying to relax - but that proves useless since he's feeling (and is) sinking. Yes, the kick is important but that too is compromised by the panic and general sinking feeling.

Anyone have any suggestions from their bag of tricks for this?

"Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps . . . "

June 5th, 2006, 08:30 AM
First of all, he needs to be comfortable going underwater. If he's scared of putting his face in the water, he'll never learn to swim properly. If this is an issue, tell him to get a big bowl of water at home and work on putting his face in that and exhaling. Also work on floating on his back and relaxing. If he's not in great shape, he may actually have an easier time learning to float because he probably has more body fat, which is lighter than water. After he has these skills down, then it should be easier to learn 'real swimming.'

June 5th, 2006, 10:33 AM
I've taught adult lessons for years, and I have gotten into a routine for teaching that seems to work best. I tell my swimmers that there is a simple step-wise learning process to learning how to swim. the order is:

1) Float
2) Float and kick
3) Float and kick and armstrokes
4) Float and kick and armstrokes and proper breathing

I tell them that when they master one, they try out the next level up. If they find that they are panicking or having trouble with the next step up, drop a step. If they are still having trouble, drop two steps, if possible. Thus, a person that is mastering kicking and pulling while floating should, if panicked, drop doing the arms first, but maintain doing the floating and kicking. If still panicked, he or she should stop kicking too and just float until he or she regains control.

Floating is the foundation skill of all swimming. So, if he can't float, he'll never swim. I bet that he doesn't like getting his face wet. Demonstrate to him front float first. Then demonstrate front float with your face out of water; you will sink to a new equilibrium point below the water while trying. In this way, stress to him that he needs to rest his body on the water as much as possible. Ask him what happens when a leaf falls in the water. Then ask him what happens when an acorn falls in. Stress that he needs to distribute his weight across the water as much as possible if he will ever float. That means getting his face in. Now work on floating. Have him hold onto the wall of the shallow end with both hands. Ask him if his feet are touching the floor. He will say that they are, and when he does tell him that he needs to remember that no matter what he is doing while practicing, his feet can always touch the floor if he feels panicked.

Stress to him that since he is always in the safety of the shallow end, this is the time when he needs to really test his limits. Since he knows that he can touch the ground if he really needs to, he should really push himself to not touch the ground unless he has to, since there is no harm in doing so because he is in the shallow end where he can touch the floor. Ask him to stretch his elbows out while his hands continue to hold the wall and practice having him get his face wet for ever lengthening periods of time. When he can get his face in for a few seconds, work on getting to get his face in the water for a few seconds while holding on to the wall and stretching his legs behind him on the surface of the water. A pseudo-float. Have him practice doing that on the wall for a while until he feels confident about that. Now tell him to do it again, but to loosen his grip on the wall a little bit. When he is no longer white knuckled doing that, tell him to open his hands so that they rest on, not grip to, the wall. Now have him do the pseudo-float exercise but with his hands open on the wall, balancing on the wall. As he gets better at that, ask him to perform the same exercise again, but this time to have his hands push ever so slightly an inch or two off the wall while he does it. If he does it, then have him practice it a while until he can do it with ease. If he can't, stress that he needs to remember that he is in the shallow end where he can stand and that he will only be pushing an inch off the wall while he floats and that you will be right next to him. If still no dice, go back a step and have him master balancing his hands on the wall while he floats for a while longer. If he can float an inch off the wall, the next step is to have him practice floating from a standing position a few feet from the wall. Once he's mastered that, it's on to step 2.

The earlier the step, the longer it seems to take to teach. Floating takes the longest. Expect that progress through each of these drills will be slow, and you may have to go back a step a few times, then repeat the step that you were on before you went back, and then finally go up a step when the swimmer is ready. To teach adults, you have to ooze supreme confidence from your very pores; supreme confidence in your abilities to make him a swimmer and supreme confidence in his ability to swim across the pool once he has a little practice. Make jokes to break up the tension, practice your motivational speaking abilities constantly, and keep the class upbeat and fast tempo with not enough time for the swimmer to get worries back into the head. Get a personal relationship with the swimmer, discussing amusing things that happened to you that day or asking about how things are with him or where he went over the weekend. Small talk while he does the scary stuff. And it's all scary to him.


July 31st, 2006, 03:23 PM
That's great advice. You can also utilize floatation devices as teaching aids. Use barbells while he learns to kick, and as he gets better start using less buoyant devices such as a noodle or leg buoy. That way, he still has the confidence that a floatation device provides but is really doing it on his own. Then you can have him do it by himself.


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August 15th, 2006, 10:33 PM
Spend a little time on teaching him to get up in shallow water.

November 16th, 2006, 05:01 PM
As a beginner adult swimmer myself and someone who has posted a bunch of questions on this forum, I'm SO HAPPY I can actually take the role of advice-giver rather than advice-receiver in this thread. =)

On my very first day in the pool, I kept getting water in my nose, I didn't want to get my face/head wet, and I wasn't terribly keen on the idea of sinking to the bottom.

I found that the following drills really helped me get comfortable:
-- bobbing in and out of the water: inhale, crouch, exhale/bubbles, stand up, inhale, repeat 10 times with no stopping

-- floating until I sink... even until I hit the bottom... breathing out through my nose the whole time to avoid getting that 'water in the nose' feeling

-- learning to recover properly from a float (tuck chin, bring knees up to cheest, arms around your knees if need be, then just stand up)

-- learning to breath in and out near the surface of the water by holding on to the pool wall, putting half my head in, and just breathing and/or inhaling slightly out of the water and exhaling slightly in the water

It's only been about a month since I got in the pool and I never panic now. I used to have to stop during backstroke if I splashed myself and got water in my nose/mouth, but now I just plough through. (I also have a lighter stroke that doesn't splash as much :))

In fact, just yesterday I nearly drowned myself with a so-called floatation device that actually, ironically, kept me from getting my head out of the water. I just patiently detached it from me and then came up for air.

Oh, and once I learned to scull with my hands, that really helped my floating. Before I learned that, I would just jump to the surface and beg the water gods to keep me afloat. Now I can use my hands and core muscles to adjust my float and basically do it indefinitely (albeit with some minor leg sinking)

November 26th, 2006, 07:54 PM
His size should be irrelevant. Infact the fatter the better, as fat floats. Imagine how much he'd sink if that fat was muscle!

As a very bad sinker myself, I know what this kid is going through though :(.

Floatation devices are definatley the best idea to make him feel comfortable (a pull boy seems to have the biggest effect with me, or at best a wetsuit).

It really is amazing how much different, comfortable, and easy swimming is when you are floating on top of the water.

I'm assuming your just teaching him how to swim, I might sound cynical but only thing a sinker is going to be any good at with swimming is sprinting anything 50m or under. You will have alot of trouble teaching him a correct and economical technique.