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Learning to Swim as an Adult: Overcoming Fear or Nervousness

By Whitney Jelmeland, YWCA Minneapolis Aquatics Instructor
August 10, 2018
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Whitney Jelmeland has been a steady part of our aquatics team since 2005. In her role, she lifeguards and teaches private swim lessons, as well as coaches and administers swim teams. Recently, she sat down to answer a few questions about learning how to swim for the first time and why it’s important to take the time to learn, even if it’s later in life.

Why is it important to learn how to swim, even as an adult?

We live in the land of 10,000 lakes and there’s a relatively high chance you’re frequently near or in water. There are lots of different options to stay active, like playing basketball, going for a run or biking, but it’s important to consider swimming as a necessary survival skill. It’s really a benefit to be comfortable and feel safe around water, in case you or someone else gets into a sticky situation in a pool, lake or other bodies of water.

How do you get past possible fear, embarrassment or nervousness of not knowing how to swim as an adult?

Revel in it. Accept it. Get used to it. It’s not as big of a deal as you might think to not know how to swim as an adult. It’s actually incredibly common. One study found that more than half of all Americans (57 percent) either cannot swim or don’t have all the basic swimming skills. There are lots of reasons people might wait until later in life to swim. Some of which include: disinterest, life background, cultural differences and barriers, opportunity and access issues. You are not alone.

Accept that it may feel weird and uncomfortable – at first. In just a few swim lessons in a safe environment, you’ll be amazed with the progress you’ve made and the confidence you’re building. Everyone gets nervous, embarrassed or frustrated when they try something new.

What can you do to be more comfortable in the water?

Take swimming lessons. Adult group swim lessons are offered at YWCA Midtown and YWCA Uptown. Whether you’ve never gotten your feet wet or have competed in 20 triathlons, there are lessons that can help you feel more comfortable in the water. If you don’t know how to swim, start with adult beginner lessons – this a group class that helps adults feel comfortable in the water while learning basic water safety skills. It is ideal for those wanting to overcome a fear of the water or learn the basics of swimming.

Group or Private Swim Lessons

From there, you can decide if a group or one-on-one private swim lesson works better.

With group lessons, you’ll be on the same track at the same time as everyone else in the class. The instructor is able to modify for each student, but a private lesson is all about you. For some people, the personal attention is too much right away. For others, it’s exactly what they need.

For private lessons, there are multiple level instructors who teach based on their experience and qualifications. As an adult beginning swimmer, you’ll be partnered with a Level One or Level Two instructor. It’s going to be focused and moving at your own pace. As you take lessons, keep in mind that becoming a successful swimmer takes time and patience.

How do you sign up for swimming lessons?

YWCA Minneapolis offers adult group swim lessons, Tri-Swim-Prep, Masters Swim for advanced swimmers and private lessons with four levels of instructors. Visit the Member Services Desk at any YWCA Minneapolis location to learn more about which swimming lessons are available or for registration assistance.

Learn more about YWCA Private Swim Lessons