View Full Version : Learning To Swim At Age 27

February 13th, 2007, 08:47 PM
I'm 27 years old and very afraid of water but I've decided I want to finally get over that fear and learn how to swim. My only previous experience of being in the water was five afternoon swimming lessons through school when I was 11, couple of trips to the lake where I waded in up to my chest and stood around and 2 aquafit classes when I was 24. I recently signed up for lessons at the YMCA that are once a week for an hour, plus I usually go to the pool for a couple of hours on weekends. I've taken 6 weeks of lessons now and I've improved a lot but in some ways I feel like I haven't improved enough. I used to be afraid to even put my face in the water and after about 10 hours of pool time I finally figured out how to blow bubbles out my nose. I still haven't figured out how to blow bubbles out my mouth without inhaling water and I don't feel like I can blow bubbles or hold my breath long enough to even do a short front glide. I'm still afraid to even do a back or front float without assistance of some sort because I'm worried about my head going under. I've bought some nose plugs, but none of them seem to work very well for me. I've figured out how to tread water but of course I'm only comfortable doing that because my feet aren't far from the bottom and my head isn't underwater. I'm getting frustrated because I'm the only one in my adult class who seems to be afraid of the water to such a large degree. I've signed up for an additional set of lessons to the ones I'm taking now, but I'm worried that I'm not going to improve significantly because of my fear. My fiancee's sister is a lifeguard and she says I could be swimming laps by next summer but I'm not so sure. I know a child who isn't afraid can learn quickly but I'm not so sure about myself. I was hoping that someone here might have some advice or encouragement on how I can become more comfortable in the water and give me some idea of how long it should take an afraid adult to learn how to swim. Thanks.

February 13th, 2007, 08:50 PM
Hiya GIG ;)

Look at this link about fear of water: http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/e/x/exk7/Fear%20Of%20Water/Fear%20Of%20Water.html

Get all that under you belt then come back for tips or other things to get going on swimming more but you have to conquer that fear first!
Best of luck...we'll be waiting for you in the water!


February 13th, 2007, 09:43 PM
I know several adults who are scared of drowning and won't go near the water, much less take lessons, put their head in and blow bubbles. Facing something you fear takes guts, and you've apparently got them.

I don't think you should be too hard on yourself after 6 lessons. Even kids with no fear sometimes pull up short for awhile on the face in the water thing. I've seen the link that SwimStud recommended, and it's a good one.

I've also seen a different approach to swimming than the Y's which I'll put out here for food for thought. When my daughter was first learning to swim, she learned first to float on her back. At first, the instructor supported her head on their shoulder then eventually just had their hand on the back of her head, then just let go...and she floated on her back, being able to breath the whole time. Only then did the instructors work on dipping below the water, and then being held close, not prone on their fronts. After two weeks (10 one hour lessons with 3 other kids), they all were able to jump off the side, bob up on their backs and scull over to the side. Only when they accomplished this, did they flip on their bellies and start learning forward arm strokes. And the first steps to that were instructor assisted stroke, stroke, stroke then flip on their backs and repeat. Step by step they progressed to a full freestyle. My point is that you might feel more comfortable putting your face under water if you can trust your natural bouyancy and know that you can flip over on your back at your will.

There are other schools of thought on learning to swim as an adult and other more familiar with them will have to comment on them. I know that Total Immersion (I'm pretty sure it's www.totalimmersion.com) works with comfortably introducing a person to water.

Good luck and let me know how you're doing with it. (You can PM me if you like).

February 13th, 2007, 10:02 PM
Getting in the water is the first step and that's huge! So congrats!!

Take things slow is the best advice I can give. If you push yourself farther than you're comfortable you can end up making your phobia force rather than better. Don't get discouraged. Once your comfortable doing something go slowly and add more components. Don't rush yourself or let any body else rush you. Overcoming fear is a tricky process.

Starting on the back is good thing too. I had a girl who was just like you, she was terrified to put her face in the water. But with help on her back, she'd glide for almost half the pool.

As for inhaling water, make sure your mouth is completey out of the water before you breathe in. Do something like making a noise so that you can hear when your mouth is out of the water, and then start to realize the feeling of mouth in water and out.

Also, work on all this where you can touch the bottom. Once you're ok going under with your feet on the ground, hold on to the wall where you can't touch, then let go.

Like I said though, take things slow. Slow and repitition is the best thing you can do.

GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!

Brian Stack
February 13th, 2007, 11:16 PM
Hiya GIG ;)

Look at this link about fear of water: http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/e/x/exk7/Fear%20Of%20Water/Fear%20Of%20Water.html

Get all that under you belt then come back for tips or other things to get going on swimming more but you have to conquer that fear first!
Best of luck...we'll be waiting for you in the water!

Sounds like you're already doing some of the things recommended on Ruth's site, but I think you might be working beyond your comfort zone. It's not possible to learn and integrate new skills if your afraid for your safety in the water. Check out http://conquerfear.com/ for some info from folks who work with people afraid in water exclusively. I've taken their instructor training, and even with over twenty years in aquatics, I saw people make progress toward swimming who were almost paralyzed by the thought of getting in the pool. They use a very different approach than most folks who teach swimming.

Concho Pearl
February 13th, 2007, 11:57 PM
Congrats on learning to swim. Your not afraid of water - you respect the water.
Water deserves alot of respect - we should all respect it, my brother who swam competitively drowned in scuba dive accident. No your limits and go from there, small steps is want it takes, no need to take risks.

When I teach swimming, I don't allow holding the nose or nose plugs.
Think of it like this.... blow out your nose like your blowing into a kleenex, don't sniff like your smelling a flower, that is when the water comes up the nose. If your blowing out the nose, there in no way for the water to go up. As you get tried though you may find you start to breathe wrong and you may sniff the water.. that's just a signal to rest.
I also teach to blow bubbles out the mouth... like a boat motor.... with just your mouth in the water, once you get playing "motor boat" down, start to slowing put you head in the water, and blowing out your nose. Its take a few times, but you'll soon get the coordination down. Have you gone after diving rings at the bottom of the pool in the shallow end??

I think once your breathing is more comfortable, you won't be as worried out floating and will feel more comfortable.

Do even feel bad about treading water and able to to touch bottom at this point, it sounds like that is exactly were you need to be. NO reason to go father just because ....

Every time you get in the water your facing your fears, when we face our fears, they soon disappear and you are empowered.

Hope this helps,

February 14th, 2007, 06:55 AM
My husband took lessons in his 20's and he was afraid of water. One thing they gave him to help was a snorkle. By the end of class he loved going into the deep end with the snorkle. Considering anything over 3 feet made him very uncomfortable, this was a big advancement. He never learned to like the water, but he did learn not to be afraid, and could tread water well enough to save himself.

February 14th, 2007, 08:38 AM
As a child, up to age 10 or 11, I too was afraid of the water. Sure, I'd get in and float on an inner tube but only where I knew I could touch bottom. Then one day I got flipped off the inner tube and went in head first, eyes and mouth wide open. When I came up, even though I was spitting and sputtering, I was laughing. I don't quite recall how it went after that but by 13 I was swimming on an age group team. While I do recommend proceeding at your comfort level, sometimes, when you hit an impasse, you may have to take a radical move to overcome your fear (just be sure to let the lifeguard know what you're about to try). Based on where you're at right now, I'd recommend doing breathing exercises (i.e. holding your breath and exhaling slowly - push out what you think is all your air and then hold it for 5-10 seconds longer) then, when you are ready, start these same breathing exercises on the side of the pool. Keep yourself calm, close your eyes and slowly submerge. When you do instead of pushing all your air out, stop when you think you still have 50% of your air left. Open your eyes, look around and then stand up, get your breath and repeat.

February 14th, 2007, 08:59 AM
Congratulations on combatting your fear. Just try to realize that it will take time. Do not be self-conscious about "slow" progress. Every supposedly small advancement is really a huge step forward for people that have fear of the water.

When I was 6 and unable to swim, I slipped on an icy dock along the Hudson River and fell into frigid water. I remember looking up after I fell in on my back and seeing white ice blocks all around me. I don't remember struggling because I didn't know how to. I didn't even feel the cold water (maybe because I was in shock). My grandmother who was supposed to be watching me didn't realize that I made my way down to the river to play, so I was all alone. By luck or whatever you choose to believe in, the next thing that I remember was awakening to my grandmother's sobbing voice on the shore. As a result of this incident, I shyed away from the water (even our dinky backyard pool) irrationally blaming it on the movie "Jaws" for 35 years.

The other important thing that resulted from this was for my wife and I to ensure that our kids did not fear the water the way I did, so we signed them up for lessons at a young age. After years of watching my kids and wife at swim meets, I decided to give it a try which incidentally is the biggest step.

A little over 2 years ago, I got back into the water at a pool that was no deeper than 4 1/2 feet to start learning to swim and to conquer my fear of the water and to get some exercise. I didn't take lessons, probably because I was embarassed, but I took it one step at a time. I was paniced and tense at first (for weeks), but I gradually learned by imitating my kids. I could not swim 25 yards without stopping or at least feeling an overwhelming panicy feeling for several attempts, but I decided to keep at it until I could feel more comfortable.

To make a long story short, I am in my second year of training with a Masters swim team and aside from my family and friends, it is the most important thing in my life. I can now swim all 4 strokes and swim about 3000 - 4000 yds 4 times a week. The key for me was persistent baby steps and realizing that while not every day will bring improvement, my confidence would grow and with becoming reasonably assured that I was not going to drown I became more relaxed. And with relaxation comes buoyancy.

So please stay with it and I am sure that you will be singing the praises of this great sport in years to come. Good luck!!

February 14th, 2007, 09:12 AM
congrats on the courage to overcome your fear! That in itself is a true accomplishment!

Try this: stand in the shallow end, at a spot your are comfortable, but deep enough that when you bend your knees some the surface of the water touched your chin and jaw. This doesn't have to be done fast, just do it at a rate you feel comfortable. Stand back up. 'Bob' like this a couple of times so you learn how it feels when the water touches your jaw. Now, this time start 'blowing out a candle' when you feel the water hit your chin and jaw. Repeat until you get the hang of blowing out when you feel the water hitting your chin. Once you have the hang of that, bend your knees, blow out a candle when the water hits your ching but go a bit deeper until the surface of the water is at your lips... you should be producing some bubbles right on the surface. Repeat this until you are comfortable. Then go a bit deeper, Repeat, etc.


February 14th, 2007, 12:03 PM
I won't add to the great advice people have already given, but I think it's awesome that you are facing your fear!

When I was a kid, it took me a long time to overcome my fear of going beyond standing depth. I could swim but there was this irrational thought that if I went into deep water, I'd forget how and sink. Point about fears though is that they're based on some type of self-doubt. I doubted my swimming ability, so wasn't about to test it....

But one day someone suggested that I put on a life preserver and try going into deep water. I did so, and no disaster happened. For some reason, this seemed to pave the way for me to try deep water without a life preserver (go figure...).

What was weird was that my first attempt just going in by myself in deep water occurred without any friends or relatives being around. The beach was patrolled by a lifeguard, yes, but the lifeguard wasn't watching specifically for me, and I'm not even sure I wanted him/her to do so. While in the deep water, I was jumped on by a couple of bully kids, and they held me under so I had trouble breathing. Somehow at the last minute I either escaped or they let me go, not sure which. That SHOULD have scared me off deep water for good, but for some odd reason, after that incident I had more courage, not less. Of course, for a while I checked around to make sure the boys who'd dunked me weren't there. ;) Maybe the idea for me was the triumph of having survived something. I don't recommend hiring such kids to jump frightened swimmers, however. ;)

February 14th, 2007, 03:22 PM
I started swimming a month before i hit 26 (3 months ago). One of the best decisions I've ever made. Don't give up!

February 15th, 2007, 12:05 AM
GIG, welcome, and welcome to the water! There have been a lot of great advices given out here so far. I think the sitting next to the wall is a good one. I think it was mentioned as well, but a lot of times something as simple as buying goggles helps a lot - just the being able to actually see clearly underwater is a true calmer in a lot of cases.

The only thing I can add is that in the end, you MUST have confidence in yourself and trust that you will be able to do what you need to do. Believe in yourself. But most of all, relax and have fun. Maybe one day jump into the 6' deep section just for the heck of it and see what happens. Sometimes it takes something drastic like that to turn your confidence to the good side.


February 15th, 2007, 05:55 PM
I think it's great you're taking up swimming! I learned at 17. I had a "near death" experience when I was very young, and didn't touch the water for a decade. Now I'm on a club team churning out the yards by the thousands and loving every minute of it. I'm proud of your decision, good luck! You can do it!

March 4th, 2007, 12:05 PM
SwimStud-I have seen that link before and I am able to kneel down in the shallow end for on average about 5 or 10 seconds and blow bubbles, but I've never been able to sit right down and do it.

ensignada-When I was first starting lessons I found it easier to be on my back because I couldn't blow bubbles but now that I've learned how to blow bubbles out my nose I find that I'm scared to be on my back and I'd rather be on my front. I still need help getting into and out of my backfloat and I find that sometimes my bottom half likes to sink, especially if I'm kind of out of breath from doing laps with the flutter board and belt. I feel like I understand all the steps of the back float now, I'm just too chicken to them by myself. The total immersion link you gave isn't right. I did look at a book on total immersion, but it seemed to be geared more at people who could already swim but wanted to improve.

Seagurl51-I like your advice on taking it slow, but it is kind of hard when I feel like the instructors are trying to push me along sometimes. I felt like my YMCA class once a week wasn't enough practice so I signed up for Red Cross classes at another pool but I don't like the instructor as much. Her style of teaching seems to be more about taking people out of their comfort zone. I signed up for 2 sessions with her, but I'm thinking I might drop the second session because it feels like too much sometimes and the last couple weeks I've been nervous about going to the pool most of the time. On the other hand, this week I finally learned how to kick on my front for a few feet and recover, which is a huge deal for me. I wouldn't have done it if the instructor hadn't insisted.

Brian Stack-I do have the book by the person who founded that school and I found that it did help me get started. Unfortunately, I can't go to any of the classes because I live in Canada.

Concho Pearl-I like what you say about having respect for the water. You made me a little nervous with the story about your brother because one of the additional reasons I want to learn how to swim is so that I could possibly eventually learn scuba diving or at the very least go snorkelling. I like the motor boat idea for blowing bubbles, I'll have to practice it. I have gone after rings in the shallow end but I can only kneel to get them, so I still find it kind of hard to do and I usually run out of breath before grabbing the rings half the time.

dorothyrde-I have been contemplating whether a snorkel would help me or not, I think one of the things that is holding me back from getting one is that I'm paranoid about water coming in through the top of the mouth piece if I get too low in the water, though I suppose that isn't very likely.

I have to get going now, but I'll come back later because I haven't finished all my responses. Thanks.

March 4th, 2007, 03:21 PM
waves101-I like your breathing exercise idea and I'm going to practice it.

bbpolhill-Your story is really inspiring. I'm not sure if I'll make that much progress but I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to swim laps although I know it's going to take a long time.

laineybug-I've blown out my mouth at the surface but I find it still doesn't work so well under the surface. I'm thinking I might just stick to blowing out my nose anyway since I'm less apt to get water up my nose that way.

FindingMyInnerFish-I've started going into the deep end sometimes with either a life jacket or belt. I'm still not comfortable jumping in but I have done lots of laps either with the flutter board or on my back with a life jacket.

dorianblade-It's nice to see someone else who's as much of a beginner as I am.

Muppet-I bought goggles when I started going to the pool and I love them, but I think I need to get better ones because the ones I have now tend to fog up a lot, especially when I'm kicking a lot and warmed up.

Nathan-Stories like yours give me hope that I will be able to do this.

I've now taken 8 lessons at the YMCA and 3 at another pool. As I mentioned before, I'm not sure if I want to continue on with the second set of lessons. The lessons at the non-Y pool end this week, so I'll decide then whether I want to continue or only take lessons at the Y from now on. The instructor of the lessons at the second pool said that this coming week we'll be treading water in the deep end which doesn't worry me so much if I can ease myself in and then tread. I'm worried that she's going to ask us to jump in and tread (which I guess would simulate accidentally falling into the pool and needing to save ourselves) and that I won't be able to do it without panicking. I've sat or knelt at the edge and jumped in and I don't like the moment of impact because I find I tend to get water up my nose and sometimes in my goggles too. I've probably spent about 30 hours in the pool now of class time and my own time. My treading is pretty good now and this week I finally tried kicking on my front for a few feet and recovering on my own without any aids. I find that sometimes I'm really relaxed and sometimes I'm panicky and that it goes back and forth.

March 4th, 2007, 04:05 PM
I am just so happy that you are trying to learn to swim and overcome your fears. This is a big step. And being able to swim will give you such confidence and pleasure when you finally can!!

I have a question: are you afraid to put your head underwater only while in a pool? Can you put your head underwater in a bathtub? It would be interesting to see the answer to this which would then tell you if it is the environment, not the water, that you fear.


Dominick Aielloeaver
March 4th, 2007, 04:52 PM
Well Once you learn how to swim, Reasonibly well, you will always know how to swim, I did not swim for 45 yrs. But I never forgot. DOM IN AZ.:applaud: :shakeshead: