At the age of 7, I was nearly drowning in the Bangali River. Maybe that is why I was afraid of water all the time. Since then, my water limit has been up to waist height. After that, I barely stand in the chest-height water. But finally, I decided to learn how to swim.
Starting swimming at the age of 29 is not a big deal. Most of my friends and colleagues don’t know how to swim either. So it’s better late than never.
Background Behind My Swimming Motivation
It was not a sudden call that I wanted to learn to swim. There were many factors involved. And I guess if you are like me (a late beginner), you also have gone through many thoughts before you jump into the water for the first time.
Bangladesh Military Academy
I had made several attempts to learn swimming at my college and university. But failed. The first initiative that I took was before my university admission test. I was preparing for my BMA (Bangladesh Military Academy) long course. I was 18 years old, 130 lbs. I needed to gain weight, and you must know swimming to participate in the ISSB (Inter Services Selection Board).
BMA’s long course selection process has three stages. First, the overall physical checkup, like height, weight, eyesight, etc., and a small interview. The second is the written exam. The third is the ISSB, which is four days long sequential exam, mental ability test, group task, physical ability test, and so on.
I joined a gym to gain weight. My target was to reach 140 lbs. I was about to join a swimming club, but before that, I got a call from BMA for the first screening process. I was not worried because I knew they didn’t care about swimming initially. But unfortunately, I was screened out. Not because I didn’t know how to swim, I was screened out because they thought I had flat feet.
Though in my second attempt (next year), I was selected for the first stage. I sat for the written exam and passed. After that, I went to the ISSB without knowing about swimming at all. Fortunately, I was screened out before the swimming test. Otherwise, I had to face the same (near-drown) experience that I had in the Bangali River.
Tanguar Haor Tour
One of my friends was going abroad (Sweden) for higher studies. So we all decided to have a last tour together. It was a three-night, two-day tour to Tanguar Haor, a 100 square kilometer wetland where we had to stay on the boat for two days and one night.
The tour was successful, and I had fun on the boat and on the bank of Tanguar Haor. As I mentioned, not all of my friends know how to swim, but those who can enjoy it a lot. Though I was wearing a life jacket, still my water limit was up to my waist. I couldn’t go further. At that time, I wished I could swim!
Day tour to Chuti Resort
A few days back, we (some of my colleagues) went to the Chuti Resort for a day trip. The main reason for this quick trip is to do some physical activities as we all have a desk job, doing minimum physical chores. So we played football for 1 hour (long breaks in between). The match was drawn. Then we played cricket with another team (who came to the resort for the same purpose as we did). We nailed the match. Won by significant runs (I don’t remember the exact figure). After that, it’s time to jump into the swimming pool.
I was at the edge of the pool, where the water depth was four feet. The non-swimmer colleagues were with me this time. We played water volleyball as well. Non-swimmer at the edge, swimmers at the center of the pool. In the end, we tried to make a slo-mo video on free falls in the swimming pool one by one. I didn’t attempt. Back in my mind, I thought if I fell, I might never rise again!
While returning back from the resort, I decided enough was enough. I must learn to swim. I wanted to jump in the Bangali River, where I was about to drown. I want to enjoy the Tanguar Haor again. Next time when I play water volleyball, I want to be in the center. I wish to make a slo-mo video of free falling in the swimming pool and share it with my friends.
So finally, I joined a swimming club at Krishibid Institute Bangladesh (KIB). And after my 8th session, I could swim without any fear.
How to Get Motivated: Learn How to Swim as Adult
There is no best age to start swimming lessons. No matter if you are in your 30’s or 40’s. You can start right away. But I think you must have some motivation and you should find a goal to start learning swimming.
Start with Why?
Ask yourself. Why do you want to learn swimming? If possible, make a note. For example, I wanted to enjoy my future tours where water sports will be involved. Maybe I can go to Tanguar Haor again and enjoy myself with my friends.
Bangladesh is a land of rivers, so it is important to know how to swim. Any place you go from north to south, from east to west, you will get many rivers, lakes, or waterfalls. So I just don’t want to go and watch the water body, but I want to dive in. That is why I started my swimming lesson. What’s your motivation? Think about it.
Swimming is a great exercise to lose weight too. Isn’t it a great reason to join a swim program?
Set a Goal
You may think to start with, why is it a kind of goal, isn’t it? Yes, enjoying your future vacation involving swimming activities can be one of your goals. But what I want to talk about here is thinking big!
For example, while swimming, a sudden thought comes to my mind. Can I take part in some competitions? If I can win (maybe not the first place but third), that could be a great motivation for me.
You can keep the goal short. And then, after achieving the short-term goal, increase the intensity. Look for a long-term goal.
Let’s say you want to lose weight. So, set a small goal. Lose 5 lbs in 1 month. If you can achieve that, then aim for 10 lbs for the next month. Your goals will keep motivating you to push further. So, set your goal.
Age Doesn’t Matter
Swimming is a lifesaving lesson. So you should learn it as soon as possible. It is said that the best age to start swimming is from age 4 to 6. But children can learn to swim from age 2. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn it if you are older than that. Age is not a factor unless you want to participate in the Olympics.
In KIB (where I started my swimming lesson), there were kids learning swimming aged from 6 to 12. Some are in their early twenties. I have also seen some people who were learning; they must be above 40 years old.
So if you want to start, this is the right time. Just go for it. Start with why, find your goal, and don’t hesitate if you are late. I did it; you can do it too.
How to Start Swimming for Beginners
So, now you are determined that you want to learn how to swim, it’s time to jump-start swimming. But before that, some tips from my side.
I’m not going to teach you how to swim. There is no formula that you have to memorize. Reading “how to swim” is like reading a book on “how to ride a bike.” You will never learn how to ride a bike unless you sit on a bike and test ride.
Similarly, you will never learn how to swim unless you jump into the water and move your legs and hand. There are several helpful videos out there to guide you. You can follow the below video to learn step-by-step swimming.
Here are some of my tips before you start swimming.
Don’t Wait for the Perfect Day to Start
I made the same mistake. I was waiting for the perfect to start my swimming lesson. And I guess it took almost ten years to determine my swimming motivation and start my swim classes. It could have taken longer if I had waited for the perfect swimming pool, perfect trainer, and perfect swimming motivation.
Take Random Actions
To start your swimming lesson, you have to go through some steps. First, you have to find a swimming club, then talk with the trainer and make some schedule. Buy some swimming kits and start your practice.
I will suggest you not plan for a long time. Fortunately, I did not make any plans. I just did what came to mind. For example, when I decided that I would join the swimming club, I immediately went to a sports shop and bought swimming kits. I didn’t go for the best swimming kit; I didn’t do any research on which one was best and which one was worst. I just went and bought it.
Similarly, I joined the KIB swimming club without doing much research. Just went for it.
Swim in Pair
I can’t tell you how important it is. At least for me finding a swimming partner was essential. Luckily one of my colleagues agreed to join me. So we kept motivating each other. Also, you won’t be able to start swimming overnight. So you need someone along your side for this short journey. It can be your friend, a family member, your classmate, or anyone you know with whom you are comfortable.
So, I highly recommend you to get a swimming partner and enjoy the sessions together.
Make a Swimming Routine
As I told you to take random action to take before starting to learn swimming, now I suggest you make a systematic action towards your swimming routine. First, make a plan for your next ten session. Fixed your dates, set the time, and mark it on the calendar in front of you (also on your smartphone).
Put ten sticky notes on your wall or door with the session date and time if possible. Remove one by one after each practice day. And stick to your dates. If you miss one of the dates, try to recover it within the ten days session.
Let’s say, if you start swimming on 5th July, which is your first session, you plan to finish the 10th session on 20th July. So, if you miss one of your sessions for some emergency issue, don’t push the date to 21st July. Instead, try to make it before 20th July unless you miss the last session on 20th July. In that case, you have to shift it to 21st July.
This is the routine of your swimming session date. I will not give you details of these ten days session routines here. That will be a separate topic. I will discuss it later.
Both the swimming routine of a fixed date and the session routine are essential. Stick to it. You will learn faster if you can follow the swimming routine.
Take the First Jump
Standing in the four feet water is easy. I can do this all day (like Captain America). But it took 20 minutes to take the first jump into the water to learn how to swim. So for these 20 minutes, I just did some breathing exercises (taking a deep breath from mouth and releasing it slowly underwater by nose).
After the breathing exercise, I was told to learn the dead-men’s float. Here is how it works; take a deep breath, get down underneath the water, push the pool’s side wall with your leg and try to cross the swimming pool floating while keeping your body horizontal in the water. During this time, your arms should be straight, pointed forward over your head. The same goes for your leg, keeping your toes together pointed back from where you push yourself. Then, just float in the water like a dead man.
After some floating exercise, it’s time to cross the pool. This time I was allowed to move my feet up and down to propel myself forward. Once you know how to float, moving forward is easy.
Trust me, only the first launch in the water and the first crossover swimming pool will be scary. After that, everything was bread and butter. You will get confident. You will lose fear. You will start to enjoy swimming a lot.
Congratulations! If you have made it so far, you have already done a lot! You have your goal in mind; you got the motivation, bought the kits, found a partner, joined a swimming club, set a routine, and finally did your first swim lesson.
Now you have to keep consistency in it. Follow the guideline given by your instructor. Understand the swimming stroke technique and practice. Soon you will see the result you are looking for.
You will get more confidence once you do your first lap.
How to Learn to Swim by Yourself
Yes, you can learn how to swim by yourself. It’s not rocket science. You don’t need an instructor for this. But yes, you need someone by your side (your swimming partner) to make sure nothing goes wrong. For those who don’t know how to swim, four feet deep water is threatening too.
In KIB (where I learned my swimming), an instructor monitored all our activities. He was more bothered about the kids who were learning to swim there. In my first lesson, he just told me how to do breathing exercises (which I did for 20 minutes!) and then my first jump into the water to cross the pool in a shorter length.
But when I got confident that I could survive and feel comfortable in the water, I didn’t need his assistance anymore. So if you want to learn to swim by yourself, you can do it. Here are some swimming tips from my side.
Relax in the Water
In the beginning, you will panic. I did it too. Then I learn this is the first thing to do in the water. Also, keeping your mind calm is one of the most important things you must master. Don’t undervalue this advice.
Just relax and move around the water. Feel the temperature of the water. Try to walk up to chest level water height. When you feel relaxed, take a deep breath and put your head under the water. Understand that there is nothing dangerous in the water.
Hold Your Breath under Water
Now that you are relaxed. Time to do the breathing exercise. You have to hold your breath underwater as long as possible. Initially, start with 10 seconds. It’s easy, right?
Gradually increase the time. Go for 30 seconds. If you feel uncomfortable in between, then stand in the water slowly. Don’t get panicked. The best way to practice breathing exercises is in the shallow end of the swimming pool. So you can stand easily. Also, track your timing by using a fitness tracker or smartwatch. Try to hold your breath a bit longer every time you dive.
Don’t Use KickBoard
For adults, I highly discourage using any kind of swimming kickboard or floating devices in the beginning. But for kids, it is helpful as they don’t have much control over their bodies, so that they can use swimming kickboards.
If you get the habit of holding something and swimming, it will be hard for you to swim freely in the water. You will need something to hold on to at some point. And at that point, you will feel nervous, get panicked, and this will also impact your breathing.
Swimming underwater is effortless. You need to know to hold your breath and relax. Again, practice this only in the 4 feet water depth. The maximum, you can go up to 5 feet. But not more.
Learn how to swim underwater. It’s simple. Take a deep breath, then go underwater. Let your leg float, keep your head underwater, and slowly move your hands towards your front and pull the water (or push your body forward) until your hands are by your side.
While moving your hands from front to back, slowly move your legs up and down one at a time. It’s known as a flutter kick. Don’t kick in the water with both your legs at a time. I have seen many people doing this kicking strategy. Yes, that works only when you know how to swim. As a beginner, it’s not appropriate.
Once you get comfortable roaming underwater, then it’s time to try the freestyle swimming technique. If needed ask for guidance. Follow the swimming fundamentals and be careful about the water safety rule.
This is the story of my learning how to swim. I believe motivation is the most important to start learning to swim. Age is just a number; you can start swimming at any stage of your life.
Find your motivation, and let your body feel the gravity under water. Let your ear hear the babble sounds. You may feel tired at the beginning; your body will resist diving underwater at first. But when you feel that you can control yourself in the water, your hands and feet are synchronized, and you can breathe while swimming, that is the time you will start enjoying your swimming.