When I first started learning to swim as an adult, if you told me that learning to swim in one month was possible, I would not have believed you.
It is possible to learn to swim in one month if you are comfortable in the water and can get into the pool for at least 20 hours over the month. It helps dramatically if you can afford private 1-to-1 swim tuition as this can greatly speed your process.
At the end of the day, how quickly you learn to swim comes down to water confidence.
If you have a fear of the water, then learning to swim can take a couple of years. However, from my swimming journey, I have learned some shortcuts, even if you have a fear of water.
In this article I want to look at:
- Can I learn to swim in a month as an adult?
- How to quickly learn to swim as an adult.
- How do beginners adults learn to swim?
- How long does it take to learn to float?
- Can I teach myself to swim?
- How do I get over my fear of water while swimming?
Can I Learn To Swim In A Month As An Adult?
It is possible to learn to swim in a month as an adult. Most experts agree that 20 hours of swimming lessons are enough. [source]
How quickly you learn to swim will depend on one key factor and that is, how comfortable are you in the water?
If you have a fear of water or have a fear of deep water (which is what I have), it can take much longer to learn to swim, as these are psychological barriers to learning.
Assuming that you do not have any fear of the water, you can be swimming lengths within a month and even sooner.
Personally, I think it is a good thing to set a goal, such as learning to swim within a month.
Learning to swim can be an involved and long process if you don’t have a goal in mind.
For example, if you decide to do one hour of swimming lessons a week, and not get in the pool again, it can take you 6 months to learn to swim, by which time you may have thrown in the towel.
If you have just started to get into triathlons and need to learn to swim for the water section of a race, learning to swim in a month is a great goal.
It is possible to learn how to swim quickly as an adult, and there are some shortcuts you can take, such as the Total Immersion Swim Method.
How To Quickly Learn How To Swim As An Adult?
I have had a long journey learning to swim because of my fear of water and rigid ankles.
In hindsight, one of the biggest obstacles to my swim progression was not understanding the water, how our bodies move through the water and not knowing the little hints and tips that can speed up your learning.
If you want to learn quickly how to swim as an adult, follow the Total Immersion Swim Method.
The Total Immersion Swim Method takes a different approach to swimming where the aim is to move effortlessly through the water. It will teach you the fundamental skills of swimming through swim drills you can practice and see instant results.
For example, one of the first things you will learn from the Total Immersion Swim Method is to press your head down into the water as you swim. As a beginner, you might be thinking, why would I want to do that?
When you make the conscious effort to press your head and upper body down into the water as you swim, your legs will pop up and float along the surface of the water. This dramatically reduces drag and suddenly you will find swimming effortless and much, much easier.
These are the golden nuggets of information you need to learn how to swim quickly.
If you don’t want to hold on to the pool wall for an hour, just kicking and actually want to glide through the water, then the Total Immersion Swim Method is the quickest approach to learning to swim.
This swim method applies to beginners and advanced swimmers alike, as it is all about being as efficient in the water as possible.
If you want to learn more about how to learn to swim effortlessly, I have covered Total Immersion Swimming in greater depth in this article:
How Do Beginners Adults Learn To Swim?
Most adults will join a group swim class to learn how to swim.
This is typically a group of adults, all with a similar swimming ability, who are taught the basics such as kicking, floating, breathing and swim strokes within a structured teaching format.
Typically, you will all line up along the wall in the shallow end of a pool while a swim teacher shows what you should do and teaches you how to swim from the pool deck.
I have to be honest here. I do not believe it is possible for the vast majority to learn to swim well within one month with a general group swimming lesson. I base my belief on my personal experience.
Unless the beginner swim group is based on the Total Immersion Swim Method, as I mentioned previously, progress can be slow and frustrating, especially if you have a dedicated goal, such as wanting to learn how to swim well in one month.
I define “swimming well” as being able to do a couple of lengths of a 25m pool without being out of breath.
When you are in a beginner swim group, the swim lesson must progress at a relatively fast speed so that the swim instructor can cover the course and give you all the information.
Some swimmers will pick this up quickly, while most swimmers will not.
If you do not practice what you are told outside of the swim lesson, you won’t progress quickly.
If you can afford it and are determined to learn how to swim quickly, a 1-to-1 session is far more productive. Typically, with 1-to-1 swim instruction, the swim teacher will actually get in the water with you.
This personal attention is a significant advantage as the swim instructor is focused on your needs and your weak spots, so you can progress much faster.
How Long Does It Take To Learn To Float?
Learning to swim is a life-saving skill, and an important part of the water safety process is learning to float.
It is possible to learn to float within one hour. The key to floating is to relax and to lie back in the water.
It is best to practice floating next to the pool wall where you can reach out to grab the edge and steady yourself if you feel unbalanced, or to try this with a friend who can help you relax in the water.
Try floating in the shallow end first to be safe. If you need to stop floating, you can then just stand up.
Floating is an essential life-saving skill, and it is the ability to float that will save your life if you ever get into a tricky water situation.
Many people learn to swim, without ever fully practising the skill of floating.
Perhaps floating is something that comes naturally to you, which is great, but if not, spend some time relaxing and maintaining a floating position.
If you learn to swim in a month, sign up for a triathlon and then find yourself out of your depth and panicked in a race, you need to know how to float, or to tread water until you can feel comfortable and calm your breathing.
As humans, our bodies are naturally buoyant and will float. However, if you are not relaxed in the water, your muscles will tense and you will find it harder.
When learning to swim in a month, ensure you factor in the life-saving skills of floating and learning to tread water, which is the ability to stay up in the water without swimming forward.
To learn more about floating, how to do it and why it is so important, check out my article that covers this: If We Are Naturally Buoyant, How Can People Drown?
Can I Teach Myself To Swim?
It is possible to teach yourself how to swim.
A great method to teach yourself how to swim is to follow the Total Immersion Swim Method, which you can learn from a book, an instructional DVD, or through videos on YouTube.
A great place to start is to watch YouTube.
There are some fantastic resources and instructional videos on YouTube that can help explain the basics of swimming.
Here is a very nice instructional video that will take you through the basic theories. This is well worth a watch to prepare your mind for the pool.
Once you get a few ideas for drills, you can try these out in the shallow end of your public pool.
After getting the basics, you can start using some drills from the Total Immersion Swim Method to learn to swim lengths quickly.
For example, the following video from the Total Immersion YouTube Channel shows a really nice drill to practice to get good at water balance and to swim effortlessly through the water.
When learning to swim by yourself, always stick to the shallow end where you can just stand up when things go wrong.
I know public pools have lifeguards, but there is nothing safer than looking out for yourself, and keeping in the shallow end is the way to do it.
Once you get more confident and want to try the deeper end, find a swim friend who can help you venture into the deep end and help if you need it.
How Do I Get Over My Fear Of Water, While Swimming?
From my experience, I have found that learning to swim and getting over a fear of water are two different things.
I consider myself the “sporty type” and have easily picked up sports in the past as I can copy physical instructions easily.
Because of this, I learned the physical motions of swimming quickly, but I could not fully swim as the fear of water was a mental barrier that held me back.
Imagine learning to kick a football, but you are afraid of the actual football.
You know you need to walk up to the ball and kick it, so technically you know what to do, but if you are afraid that the football will explode as you kick it, it could take you years to overcome that fear and confidently kick the ball.
In this example, one task is to learn to kick the football and a separate task is to overcome your fear of the football. Then you put these two skills together and you can do it.
The same is true with swimming. One task is to learn the technique of swimming and the other task is to learn how to deal with your fear of the water.
To overcome your fear of water, you need to focus on:
- Building water confidence.
- Learning to enjoy and relax in the water.
- Learn survival skills such as floating and treading water.
I am not an experienced swim teacher, so cannot give you an “official” way to do this, but I can share my experience and tell you what I did to learn to deal with my fear of water.
1. Understand what “type” of fear you have
My specific fear is a fear of deep water.
I am all happy and relaxed in the water, but as soon as I see the depth; I freak out.
It took me a long time to realise that it was specifically the deep water that was the problem.
I could swim lengths of a pool no problem without goggles, but as soon as I put my goggles on and could actually see the depth, suddenly I could not swim anymore!
Understanding that seeing the actual depth was my fear trigger helped me understand my fear and isolate it. Once you can identify exactly what you are afraid of, you can tackle it.
2. Build Water Confidence
It is easy to say “build water confidence”, but I have learned that there is an easy way to do this.
For me, the secret is to play in the water and have fun.
In the shallow end, duck your head under the water and blow bubbles, dive to pick up an object from the floor of the pool, do flip turns, float etc.
There are lots of ways you can be in shallow water and build confidence by enjoying the water and having fun.
Play is an important part of learning, even for adults, and if you can play and have fun in the shallow end, you will become a lot more comfortable in the water.
3. Learn To Tread & Float
It is important for all swimmers to know how to tread water and float.
Floating is the ability to lie back in the water and just float. Treading water is the ability to remain upright in the water without swimming forward for a sustained amount of time.
Both skills can be learned.
If you have a fear of water, it is essential that you practice these skills.
When it comes to survival in the water, it is all about being relaxed and being able to control your breathing. If you can control your breathing, you can control your fear.
Although I now consider myself a good and confident swimmer, I skill practice how to tread water so I know that if my fear ever creeps back in, my muscle memory will kick in and I will tread water or float until I can regain control of my fear.
Treading water is also a great workout, so if you stay up in the water by treading for 30 mins, you will develop an excellent life-saving skill that will help you overcome your fear of water and also get you fit!
4. Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy is a psychological treatment that helps you confront your fear. [source]
When you are afraid of something, it is easy to avoid it.
For me, I could just stick to the constant depth of the shallow pool for my lifetime and avoid deep water. However, I would then be an amazing swimmer who is still afraid of deep water.
It has been suggested that if you avoid your fear, it can actually get worse, as your mind builds up the fear in your mind. [source]
For me, I need to expose myself to deep water regularly in order to control my fear.
Exposure therapy needs to be done in a safe environment, so ensure you face your fear of water with an understanding friend who can help you into the water, stick by you in the water and help out if you need them to.
5. Learn to Handle Your Fear, Not Suppress It
Fear is a powerful emotion and, like all emotions, if you suppress it, fear can bubble up and take over when you need to be in control.
When I first started learning to swim, I was so eager to join the fast swim lane ranks, I just suppressed my fear.
I thought that as I could swim well, I just needed to keep swimming and the fear would go away.
This was not a healthy approach as on bad days, when I was a little tired or not as mentally strong, I would be in the middle of a lane in the deep end and my fear would creep back.
This would cause irregular breathing and I would exit the lane and cut my swim short.
By admitting that I have a fear of deep water and acknowledging that this is a genuine fear, I have learned to handle the fear and face it.
By doing this, instead of losing my breath in the deep end and having to go home early, I have the mental capacity to take a break at the pool wall, tread water and acknowledge that the deep water is not a threat as I can tread and float for hours.
I can then look at my surroundings and realise the pool wall is close by and lifeguards are on duty. I then get my confidence back and continue my workout.
When you are a good swimmer with a nice stroke, people may not realise that you have a fear of water.
It is important to learn to handle your fear and not suppress it, so if the fear comes back; you know how to calm yourself down and regain your water confidence.