Swimming is acclaimed to be “the best exercise in the world.” Sadly, not all of us can reap the great advantages of the water sport. No, it’s not the unavailability of resources. It’s not disability either, as Paralympic swimmers have made it possible. If there’s something that keeps us out of the water, that’d be fear.
If you enter the pool feeling overwhelmed by fear, then you’ll have a difficult time listening and learning. You get mind-blocked when you’re scared. The pounding heart and racing thoughts will keep you from moving forward. As Nick Vujicic once said, “fear is the biggest disability of all – and it will paralyze you more than you being in a wheelchair.”
Fortunately, there are ways to cope with your fear, get comfortable with the water, and potentially learn to swim.
Step One: Conditioning yourself
Before you step into the water, do the following:
Demystify the water
Individuals with Aviophobia (fear of flight) feel a sense of panic and dread when they’re high up inside an airplane because they’re afraid of crashing. Although the feeling of anxiety is inevitable, aircraft professionals try to banish the perception by lecturing them about the science behind flight, including the real causes of moderate turbulence (which are nothing to worry about.)
In the same way, boning up on facts about water and swimming is one way to fight fear, as experts suggest that a lack of knowledge is a major factor behind the fear of drowning. Debunk the properties of buoyancy. Learn what actually happens when we’re in the water and when it goes into the eyes, ears, and nose.
Visualize positive things
Another way to curb anxiety is to paint a beautiful picture in mind. Focus on envisioning yourself successfully swimming in a calm, comfortable, and stress-free environment.
Practice breathing techniques
Sometimes, breathing deeply is all it takes to calm the nerves and focus. So while you’re on land, practice proper breathing techniques to expel stress.
Seek help from someone you’re comfortable with
Besides learning from a professional swimming coach, practicing with people you’re comfortable with, such as your friend or your family members, also helps. Everything will feel a lot easier when you have someone close to you encouraging you to overcome your fears and lending a helping hand so you’d get comfortable with the water.
Step Two: Acclimating to water
The first step to making friends with the water is to get comfortable with it.
Chill by the pool
Sit on the pool edge and slowly lower your legs into the water. Sweep your feet back and forth, like a child playing by the river. Don’t rush. Simply enjoy the sensation of water flowing around your legs
Splash water onto your face
Scoop water with your hands and splash it onto your face. This allows you get used to having water in contact with your face. Hold your breath and notice that the water can’t get into your mouth and nose.
Touch the floor
Using the pool ladder/stairs, step down and slowly touch the pool floor with your feet. Start immersing in the shallow water. Once you get comfy, gradually get deeper into the water until it reaches chest level. Don’t submerge your neck or head yet. Just take the time to breathe deep and relax in the aquatic environment that opens up to you.
Step Three: Submerging your head
Some folks are afraid of submerging their head because they’re worried about accidentally swallowing or breathing in water. The purpose of the next exercise is to ensure you that it’s okay to have water touching your mouth, nostrils, and eyes.
Submerge your lips
Hold your breath then crouch down until your lips are above the water surface. Take your time to get comfortable with your chin submerged. Stand up to breathe.
Now, try to crouch down until your closed lips are below the water surface and your nose is slightly touching the surface. Hold the position for a few seconds. Stand up to breathe.
Submerge your nose
Hold your breath then squat down until your nose is underwater. You’ll see that it’s okay to get some water into your nostrils as long as your head is upright and you’re holding your breath.
Do the same exercise but this time, slightly tilt your head forward. Notice how some water gets into your nostrils. It doesn’t rise very high in your nose, which is why it doesn’t hurt. Try to hold the position for a few seconds then stand up to breathe.
Submerge your ears
Hold your breath then gradually crouch down until your nose is submerged. Tilt your head slightly backward. Move down until your ears are below the surface. Notice that some water gets into your ears and causes hearing to become muffled. Don’t panic – remember that the water will be prevented by the eardrum from going any further. Water will soon flow out of the ear as soon as you emerge.
Submerge your eyes
Wear a good pair of goggles. Hold your breath then slowly crouch down until your eyes are below the water surface. With your eyes closed, hold this position a few seconds. Once you’re comfortable with your eyes underwater and you can still hold your breath, slowly open your eyes. Simply observe the strange, blue world underwater.
Practice rhythmically submerging and emerging your head.
Step Four: Floating
Don’t rush! If you think you have mastered submerging your face into the water, you may start floating.
Float on your stomach
Lay your face in the water and allow one leg, and then the other leg, to relax and naturally lift out of the pool floor. Then, stretch out your arms onto the surface of the water. Relax. Stand up on the floor to breathe.
Float on your back
Find someone who’s got your back – literally. Stand on the shallow end of the pool and ask the person to hold your back as you float. This will help you push your hips and chest up to the surface. Put your head back as far as you can. Remember to breathe deeply, as having your lungs filled with air allows you to stay on the surface.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is one of the writers for Swimprint, a go-to shop for swimming enthusiasts, specializing in swim caps in the UK. While she’s fascinated in writing articles focused on sport fashion, health, and wellness, she swears to never give up pizza.