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Learning To Swim As An Adult - Peter's Experience (Part 6)

Now It's Time To Tackle Freestyle

We find that Peter whilst learning to swim as an adult is becoming stronger with his Backstroke and Breaststroke. Now it's time to tackle Freestyle.

Wait... Get Your Lesson Plans Here

It was now May 09, and the next few weeks were spent refining both strokes, and I used the flippers a lot in training to get me into a better position in the water. I really liked using the flippers, they gave me heaps of speed, but when I took them off it felt like was going nowhere. At this stage, I still could not freestyle and I also wanted to try the butterfly.

Richard tried to get me started on my freestyle, but I could not breathe properly, had no momentum or rhythm and my head was coming up at an angle as I felt I had to get it out of the water completely to breathe. When I did this, my body dropped and I just stopped. I could only do a few strokes as I was not able to breathe properly and this went on for months.

I practised many drills with the kickboard and used a catch-up stroke technique but I did not improve very much at all, and I just could not get my noggin in the right position to breathe. The other strokes continued to get better, and I was swimming longer and quicker each week. I was also swimming more underwater with the flippers on and had started to learn the dolphin kick which came easy to me, and I enjoyed doing it.

Learning To Swim As An Adult Is Not Just About Swimming

My wife Lynne came to a lesson to see how I was progressing, after everything I had told her. She came after I had finished doing my standard backstroke and breaststroke, so she missed this. For the remaining 20 minutes, Richard and I were deep in discussion, standing in the pool about my freestyle issues, and planning what we should do. I took a few strokes but I hardly swam as we were more intent on working on my technique. Learning to swim is not just about swimming!

Richard is also a Judo Coach. He often used his Judo coaching experience and knowledge to discuss psychological issues I had with swimming, which I found very helpful. Lynne said “You didn’t do anything. All you did was stand in the pool and talk.” She was right and wrong. We did talk, but we achieved plenty, as far as I was concerned. Richard also believed not to overdo it, when learning something new. Do it as many times as you can but when you get tired and stressed stop and do something else, or just relax floating in the water. “You just won’t learn anything if you are trying to do it when you are tired and stressed,” Richard told me. So I made sure all my sessions were a combination of pushing myself and then relaxing by doing something else.

Learning to swim as an adult part 6: an Image of a mail swimmer doing cofident freestyle in the pool
From Adult Non-Swimmer To Swimmer
One day I was training on my own with the flippers on and I tried some freestyle. Wow, I made it halfway down the pool in no time. The extra speed made all the difference and while my head was still in the wrong position to breathe I could keep going. This increased my confidence, and I very quickly made it down the length of the pool. During that session, I tried butterfly with the flippers.

Trying Butterfly

I had no coaching on how to do this stroke but had seen enough people do it to have some idea and I knew I could dolphin kick and Richard had told me to move my body up and down pivoted from the hips. So I jumped in and gave it a go.

I took quite a few dolphin kicks under the water then I came up for the first time and got both my arms over and did my first stroke, raised my head and took my breath. This feels good I thought. I’ll keep going. I took a second stroke, OK keep going. The third stroke feels OK to keep going until before I knew it I had managed to reach the wall. I was absolutely exhausted, but I felt just great.

I had done a full length of butterfly on my first attempt. Initially, I was breathing every stroke and at my next lesson, Richard suggested only breathing every second stroke. When I showed him what I learnt on my own he was very impressed. Breathing every second stroke was interesting. I could do it OK, but it felt like my head was in a washing machine, there was a lot of turbulent water swishing around when my head was in and my arms were coming over and stroking.

Continued To Struggle With Freestyle

For another two months I continued to struggle with Freestyle, it was frustrating. I found it a chore, and I always ended up swimming the other strokes instead, as I could do these quite well and they were enjoyable.

I then decided I would not swim the others strokes for the next few sessions and work only on my Freestyle technique. I was trying to decide with Richard what was more comfortable for me, breathing every two, four or six strokes on one side, or 3 strokes with bilateral breathing.

I tried all sorts of combinations but it was still a struggle I could only swim about 6- 8 meters, and I was exhausted. I also noted I was not really taking in much air and when I discussed this with Richard, we realised quite a simple problem.

I was only exhaling underwater out of my nose and my mouth was shut, therefore I was not getting out enough air from my lungs so when I took the next breath I could not take much in. Richard said, “Sorry, I did not pick this up earlier, but I can’t tell from above the water where all the bubbles are coming from.”

Learning this new skill ie. opening my mouth underwater to exhale, took some time to get used to as I always had it firmly shut. (it was probably from my previous fear that if my mouth was open underwater I would swallow all the pool water and drown). To improve and get used to this skill, I also introduced it to my breaststroke and butterfly and this helped me to get used to it.

I was finally getting more comfortable with freestyle. I was breathing better had nearly decided on how many strokes before breathing and my body position was improving, head just below the waterline, and my kick was improving and providing some propulsion.

Next, Peter begins to put into practice all he has learned about swimming so far.


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