Wait! If you’re about to click through to something else because you’re thinking “I’ll NEVER be able to swim”…stick with me for a little bit!
Peoples’ gut reactions to the thought of swimming usually fall to one extreme or the other. On one hand, there are those who grew up with a readily-available pool or were on a swim team. These guys wouldn’t give a second thought to jumping in the water and gliding through at least a few hundred yards. Then there are the rest of us: folks who, at best, took enough lessons in our childhood to drown-proof us (we hope), but would never, ever consider themselves “a swimmer.”
Obviously, swimming is a more technical activity than a lot of other sports, but if you can master the very basics (and believe me…anyone can!), you’ll be left with a skill that you can use for the rest of your life. For all of the gains you’ll make in your aerobic fitness, swimming is arguably one of the most gentle and serene (dare I say “meditative”?) activities out there. There’s a reason why so many of the lap swimmers at the rec center appear to be past retirement age, and elite land-based athletes turn to the pool to help train around injuries.
Fortunately, even as adults, there are many, many routes to becoming competent in the swimming pool. Most local recreation centers and YMCAs offer intro to swimming classes or stroke improvement courses for adults. Or, you can see if they maintain a list of coaches who offer private lessons (if they weren’t advertised already).
There is also the wonderful organization with the unfortunate name, US Masters Swimming. I say “unfortunate” because every non-swimmer who sees it thinks that you have to have some sort of mastery of the sport to join. You don’t! “Masters” is only a very polite way of saying that you’re not a kid anymore. While it’s true that some local Masters swimming clubs are more competitive than others, many, many welcome weak (or even totally new) swimmers with open arms. I highly recommend contacting your local club and seeing how you can get involved. (If a web search doesn’t reveal a local club, you can browse through the US Masters local programs directory.) If you don’t quite believe me yet, check out this self-descriptive video that they put together:
(I’m not going to lie: I got a little weepy when I watched this. People working together to accomplish amazing things gets me every time!)
If you want a bit more reassurance or inspiration, the US Masters site has compiled some nice advice on how to get started with swimming. YouTube has lots of intro-to-swimming videos for your to study. And you must read this totally funny, non-nonsense blurb written by Susan Lacke, explaining “How to Start Swim Training Without Embarrassing Yourself.” In my opinion, she pretty much nails it.