Next time you walk into a swimming pool, take a look at your fellow swimmers. In one glance you will see which adults were former swimmers in their youth, and which weren't. Former swimmers seem to move effortlessly, fluently and efficiently through water. They started off young which brings along some lifelong benefits, however with the right tools and training methods, adults with no swimming background can learn to move like former swimmers do. Let’s dive into it!
Learning new skills seems to be easier for children than for adults, especially swimming. Children are open to trying new things, and their minds are like sponges. Unlike adults, they haven’t been conditioned yet to believe that certain skills are beyond their reach. They tend to go all in, unhindered by fear or self-doubt. For that reason alone swimming at a young age might be considered, however there is more, it brings along some permanent lifelong benefits. These benefits can be matched by adults with no swimming background later on in life, but only with the right tools, consistency and focus. What follows are the benefits of learning to swim at an early age, and tools we use to let adults profit from the same benefits when starting off swimming later on in life. Whatever the past, everything is still possible.
Learning breath control
Learning how to control the breath when swimming at a young age, brings along the freedom, confidence and competency to swim in pools, lakes and oceans. We often coach adults who have never learned how to swim. Their biggest struggle is to feel confident and at ease in the water.
We have a very effective course to teach you how to breathe. We notice that it takes adults more time to learn how to breathe and to feel relaxed because they are a bit fearful. The biggest challenge is to break through the mental block they have created. When we break through that block, they seem to grasp it as quickly as children can. Breathing while swimming doesn’t come natural to us, however teaching our young ones or taking the time and patience to learn it ourselves later on in life, will guarantee freedom and competence in water for the rest of our children or our own lives.
There is no research to back us up here, but we notice something quite interesting when coaching adults in our swimming pool. Adults who have been swimmers in their youth seem to keep their mobility regardless of being inactive for plenty of years. It seems like the mobility that was created in their shoulders as children is something that remains throughout their life. Adults that haven’t done a sport in which shoulder mobility is a necessity, seem to be immobile and find it very difficult to build and to maintain that mobility in the shoulders.
Weekly mobility exercises improve mobility significantly however skipping a week or two brings their mobility back to ground zero. In swimming, shoulder mobility is necessary for drag reduction and force production, however it has an even more important role if we forget about swimming for a second. A greater mobility increases the quality of life as you get older, and is also linked to a prolonged life. If you want a long, healthy and mobile life for your children, swimming might be the answer. And if you want the same for yourself, then schedule in weekly mobility workouts to build mobility and maintain the mobility you have created.
Creating feel for the water
Swimming is a sensory rich sport, reasoning being that you're submerged in water. Every part of the skin constantly receives feedback from water, and in every direction there is a force in play that either increases resistance or increases propulsion. When children often get in touch with water they seem to learn how to work with all the forces, especially creating propulsion on something as fluid as water. Some coaches refer to it as “the feel for the water”, or “hold on the water”. It deals with how the swimmer can create grip on the water, and how they can keep hold onto it while creating forward propulsion. It’s not only about the way you hold your hand and forearm but also the way you tense and relax your muscles to produce propulsion.
When you're young, you spontaneously play around with producing different forces and explore what works, which creates “feel for the water” naturally. This “feel” is something that you pick up again later in life when you go back to regularly swimming, which is why adults who have been swimmers still seem to move effortlessly through the water when they jump in.
Adults who weren’t swimmers seem to struggle quite a lot to get this feel. It takes more effort and requires paying precise attention to the pressure you place onto the water. You have to consistently and mindfully play around with different positions (of the forearm and hand) and different force impulses to feel how they affect forward propulsion. At SwimGym we use specific drills to create this feel: the front scull, mid scull and combination scull are just a few examples of effective drills. You will have trouble at first, and the feeling will come and go. However with the right practise and the right focus, you’ll be able to develop it like children do.
It is important to realize that children at the swimming club practise swimming three to five times a week. Partly because of this they learn so quickly. If you want to be able to swim as effortlessly, fluently and efficiently as former swimmers you should swim at least twice a week. More sessions is better in this case, so don’t be shy to practise three to even five times a week if becoming one with the water is your goal.
As you can tell swimming is a sport every child should learn, however you’re never too late to learn. Just jump unto our beginner course and see the magic happen.