This April, I taught an Adult Learn-to-Swim class at the Oregon City Municipal Swimming Pool. The class met for a half hour on Monday and Wednesday evenings for four weeks. We had a total of eight classes and I had four adults participate in the class. My first class had three women: Bonnie, Mary Jo (Mo), and Christine, and my second class had one male, Aldo. Not one of these participants had any prior swimming experience and they were reluctant to even put their faces into the water. The progression of the ALTS program works perfectly to ensure a smooth transition into the water, and the skills taught allow anyone to become familiar with the water.
The first few classes were spent on getting comfortable putting our faces in the water and then transitioning into a streamline position on our front and back sides. The remainder of the classes we worked on incorporating our arms and legs into the freestyle and backstroke. The overall goal of the class was to become familiar and comfortable in the water. I also expressed to all of the participants that each of them would be able to swim to the end of the pool before the end of our class. In the first few weeks, several of the participants were doubtful that they would be able to overcome their fear of the deep water, and in turn, not be able to swim the length of the pool. However, on the last day of class, all four swimmers were able to swim the entire length of the pool.
This is Christine’s story as she kept a diary of her class experience.
“On the first lesson I was nervous and couldn’t stop shaking in the water. I have never put my face in the water on purpose. It’s not stressful as long as my feet are on the ground. I was relieved the class was the only one in the pool and that there are just a few of us.
“It’s all about the goggles. The goggles make all the difference. The goggles help me focus and I don’t think I could learn without them.
“Tim’s perspective on the water is relaxing. I think of the water as dangerous and uncomfortable. But Tim is all about how peaceful the water can be, and it is helpful.
“I don’t mind holding my breath for streamline.
“We used flippers and kick boards (really fast and confidence building). I can’t imagine going to the deep end without the kick board.
“Mo had a scare in the deep end and it was frightening to watch. She got tired with the kick board and instead of floating on it she started to let it go and struggled in the water. I pulled the lane line over as far as I could toward her and she grabbed it. Tim swam up and helped her get back to the kick board.
“I can’t figure out the breathing. I can focus and move my arms and think about moving my feet. But when I try to leap forward and move forward my head goes down, the water comes over and when I try to breathe to the side my head is sometimes still under water and I inhale water. I drop my feet to the bottom of the pool and try again.
“Until I can figure out breathing I don’t think I can swim. Theoretically I understand it is possible to float. I understand I can move forward in the water, but if I can’t breathe I will flip out and not be able to move forward and I will drop below the water and without help that will be terrifying.
“I am supposed to try to swim to the red line. I am so nervous about it I don’t want to go to lessons. I don’t think I am ready for it.” – Christine
The following comments are from Christine, after having completed the ALTS class.
“When you spend 40 years thinking of yourself as someone who doesn’t know how to swim it becomes a part of who you are. It takes a huge shift in thinking to change that and the fear of it still being true that I am not a swimmer has been hard to shake–even if it is possible that it is not true in the same way that it was before. May has been insanely busy with travel and work but I have time to practice again and wanted to let you know the biggest change is that I am looking forward to getting in the water. Thanks for teaching me to want to swim!” – Christine
The following comments are from Bonnie.
“For years I had talked about learning how to swim, but never saw a class for adults. I didn’t want to be in a class where I was the only adult in a group of children. My husband Nick and I had planned a trip to Hawaii in July with our friend Kathy. Kathy texted me the advertisement for adult beginner swim class and said, ‘It might make you feel more comfortable in Hawaii.’
“I decided to join but with a lot of apprehension. Would I feel comfortable? Who would our instructor be? Would I feel safe? I was pleasantly surprised as I met our swim instructor, Tim, who was not a teenager but a grown man who appeared to be in his 40s. Being in my mid 50s, I was not sure I could relate to learning from a young teen, though I know there are many talented swimmers of all ages. The two other students in my class are lovely women who also share the desire to learn to swim but had not learned as children.
“Each week we have been learning the basics of swimming. Becoming comfortable with the water, breathing, arm movements, etc., even when we have not done well, or become fearful, Tim is encouraging and patient, making us feel comfortable and safe to try again.
“I am so happy I made this step. It has been fun and I have learned an important skill that could save my life. Learning to swim has opened up opportunities for me that I had not been able to do. Many times in my past I was on the sidelines, watching my husband and friends swim while I would wave and smile at them from the shore or a lounge chair besides the pool. Now I can participate! It is my goal to continue to practice and learn more about swimming.” – Bonnie
I really enjoyed teaching this class. To witness first hand their fear of the water and the final triumph of being able to overcome their fear, and to finally swim a length of the pool was incredible. Christine, Mo, and Bonnie continue to meet at the pool and practice their skills. Aldo and I have met once, so far, to refresh his swimming skills. The best part of teaching this class is knowing that all four of these swimmers will now be participants and not spectators. They will embrace the water with courage and be able to enjoy the peace and solitude the water offers to all of us.