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Swim Master

The Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Yourself to Swim

The benefits of learning to swim can create long-lasting ripples that impact health, relationships, and more. Swimming is a great workout opportunity, but can you teach yourself to swim? Is it safe? While it’s possible to learn to swim on your own, getting started can come with challenges. If you aren’t an experienced swimmer, teaching yourself to swim can even be dangerous.


Suffice to say that if you’ve never been comfortable in the water, taking steps to get your feet wet and learn can be daunting. The good news is there are ways to improve your swimming ability without rushing. The potential challenges of teaching yourself should not deter anyone from becoming a strong swimmer; instead, you should be motivated enough to seek out resources that help take care of any issues that might arise from self-taught swimming. Keep these top five mistakes in mind to avoid when teaching yourself to swim.

Not Starting With Basic Water Safety Skills

Learning to swim can be challenging. It’s important to start with the basics, and not starting with basic water safety skills can make swimming feel overwhelming or even dangerous.


How do you start with the basics? Keep safety in mind. Be sure someone else can observe you swimming or help you out if you get into trouble. Always have a swimming partner with you. This should be someone who is a strong swimmer and someone who routinely checks in on you even in shallow water. Swimming with a partner is one of the most basic water safety skills you should keep in mind while you learn to swim on your own. Don’t practice by yourself in unsupervised water. Instead, choose a swimming pool with a lifeguard.


Stay in the shallow end of the pool, or choose a teaching pool with a shallow end. Start near the wall and practice bubbling. Get used to the water going into your eyes and ears. Take your time. You should be able to return to the surface, float or tread water for one minute, and turn around in a full circle in the water and find an exit. If you’re in a pool, you should learn how to exit the pool without using the ladder so you can get out from any side on short notice.


Never dive into the water without knowing how deep it is. You can build up confidence by getting used to the water in the shallow end. Work your way toward deeper pools only when you have mastered the basic water safety skills.

Not Learning Proper Breathing Techniques

Another mistake new swimmers make is not taking the time to learn proper breathing techniques. Outside the water, breathing comes completely naturally to all of us and is something we don’t often think about. In swimming, proper breathing techniques are key to being safe in the water. Holding your breath for too long while swimming can be dangerous. Make sure that you understand how vital regular breathing really is. Learn how to hold your breath for different periods so that you know what feels right to you as a swimmer.


When you breathe during the wrong time of your stroke, you might breathe in a lungful of water. Breathing too early is a common mistake when you’re learning to swim while practicing a breaststroke. When you breathe too early into the stroke, your arm might scoop water directly into your mouth. Instead, time your breathing to be during the pull part of the stroke. 

Not Using the Proper Stroke Technique

Incorrect and improper form during self-taught swimming increases your resistance and slows you down. The instinct is to look ahead while swimming, which causes your hips to drop in the waterline and makes you swim lower. The easiest way to fix this problem is to teach yourself to focus on the bottom of the pool while swimming, as a proper head position is with your head lower in the water. Mastering this skill is key to becoming a much stronger swimmer.


Can you teach yourself to swim a proper breaststroke? Yes, but it may take longer if you don’t focus on the proper stroke technique early. You must get used to water being in your face so you can understand the right moment to take a breath. This can be difficult for a beginner, but not impossible. Keep at it, and always have a swim partner or a teacher nearby to offer advice as they observe you.

Bent Knees and an Unfinished Stroke

Your swimming speed does not depend on kicking more. Your arms are actually one of the more powerful muscles in your body while swimming in the front crawl position. Kicking orients you and regulates your body while it is suspended in the water, but if you are expending all of your energy in the kick, you will tire yourself out earlier. Keep your legs as straight as possible, and visualize kicking from your hips, not your legs.


Along with this, keep in mind that you should be thinking of your arm as a giant paddle. Keep your elbow high as your hand enters the water and drive the forearm through. You should push this ‘paddle’ all the way back until you reach your hips.

Going Through It Alone

Even if you learn to swim on your own, it can be hard to stay motivated without other people to swim with. See if you can join a swim group or even an adult swim class to connect with other people trying to learn to swim. Swimming is a great social sport, and by making friends who are also interested in it, you’ll be more likely to pack up and go to the pool to relax.


Swim classes are a great way to meet new friends and build water confidence. Learn basic water safety so you know what to do in the water, and you’ll even learn how to swim a standard four-stroke with proper breathing techniques.

Enjoy Swimming

So, can you teach yourself to swim? Yes! It will take time and hard work, but getting comfortable in the water is possible–and quickly, so you’ll be able to enjoy holiday pool parties with your family before long. If you are still struggling and want to make things easier, try private swimming lessons. Even a few lessons can give you a solid foundation to swim confidently. If you’re feeling discouraged and unsure if you can learn to swim on your own, try out group swimming classes or seek a qualified instructor to ease yourself into the water. Even a few lessons can go a long way on your journey.


As you explore your interest in learning to swim, be patient with yourself. You might find it frustrating at first, but over time you can build up your skill to be a better swimmer. Just like anything else in life, you need practice for it to get better with every attempt. There may have been some mistakes along the way that slowed down your progress, but don't let that stop you from enjoying the water. Once you gain confidence in your swimming, you’re sure to fall in love with the pool.

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