Erin Carr, DPT
As a native of Los Angeles, I have many fond memories of the summer months. From synchronized swimming routines with my best friend, to birthday pool parties, or spending endless hours teaching the neighborhood kids how to swim I spent many summer days in my backyard pool. So, to commemorate summer, I wanted to write a blog on swimming.
Although a passion of mine, and an activity that has helped shape my life path, ironically, swimming wasn’t my favorite activity as a young child. In the early years, I hated the water. I didn’t like getting my face wet. I remember hanging onto the side of the pool wearing this hideous yellow bathing suit that had a floating belt built in while I watched my sister and grandpa dive off the diving board. I had so much fear of the water.
I started formal swim lessons at age seven. I am not exactly sure what turn of events occurred, but by age nine I joined a club swim team and continued on in high school, college, and onto masters for a few more years.
I started teaching swim lessons in high school, and ended up teaching for ten years. I was the one helping kids and adults overcome their fears of the water. I knew how stubborn I was as a kid, so I never pushed them beyond their limits, yet I challenged them and focused on building confidence. With that being said, I will never forget when one of my advanced swimmers came for a lesson one day after summer camp where she actually had to be saved by a lifeguard after someone pushed her in the water. Even though she knew how to swim several strokes, flip turn and dive, everything she knew went out the window. Fear took over. From that moment on, I realized its possible to forget everything when something unexpected occurs. I had to make some changes. I had to get into her psyche. From that point on, she had to start every swim lesson jumping in the water first. Although we spent most of that summer talking as she stood on the edge of the pool looking at me hoping I would just let her climb in at the steps, by the end of every lesson she would finally face her fear, jump in, swim a few laps and get out. Those were challenging days for both of us, but we worked through it and were able to move on. She conquered her fear while I learned there was a lot more to teaching swim lessons.
Here a few simple yet effective tips I used over the years to keep in mind if you or your child are learning how to swim.
- Build Confidence. I probably sounded like a broken record telling my students “yes you can” or “you can do it” over and over again. I never once said you can’t or won’t. I built confidence. It was to be a positive experience.
- Make It a Game. Just like anything in life, everyone loves to play. In the water, sing songs like the hokie-pokie. Push off walls blasting off like rocket ships. Swim with big arms scooping your favorite flavor of ice cream. Ride noodles like a horse. Whatever it is, use your imagination. The goofier the better.
- Safety First. Safety should be number one. If you or your child doesn’t know how to swim, making sure someone who does is with them. Use noodles, kick boards, or other flotation devices. Feeling comfortable and in control is helpful while having fun and conquering fears.
- low Bubbles. Pretend you are a motor boat. Blow bubbles through your mouth or nose. This helps prevent water from going up the nose or in the mouth. However, I think getting water in one’s mouth or nose is almost a right of passage when learning how to swim. It’s not comfortable, but once you have experienced it a couple of times, you realize its no big deal.
- Open Your Eyes. These days many kids and adults, think they can only learn how to swim wearing goggles. I always made my swimmers learn how to swim without goggles. Learn the basics first and add the fancy accessories later. This too builds confidence.
- Patience. You or your child may not learn how to swim in one summer. Sometimes a little more time experience, and maturity is needed. Whether its taking private lessons or group lessons pick what is right for you or your child. Everyone learns at their own pace.
- Wear Sunscreen. I have to say I have had my fair share of sunburns over the years. Having fun in the sun while protecting your skin from those UVA and UVB rays is essential. Make sure to re-apply especially if you are spending time in and out of the water.
Erin Carr, PT, DPT, is an Integrative Physical Therapist at The Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. She works with individuals of all ages and variety of conditions using a multi-faceted treatment approach. When appropriate, she likes to incorporate aqua therapy, water aerobics and swimming in the rehabilitative process. She also spends time educating her patients on their injury and healing process creating a team approach with the goal of diminishing pain and restoring optimal function.