Adult learner taking the plunge and learning to swim

Sep 03, 2023 | Blog

There’s something about learning to swim as an adult that’s different to doing it when you’re a kid.

For some adults, it takes a lot of courage to even sign up for lessons, and often the people doing so will have spent many months, maybe years, thinking about the decision, weighing up the pros and cons, worrying about how people will view an adult beginner in the pool, going over all the reasons that have stopped them learning during their lifetime.

Jiany Mariano, 32, was fed up of worrying, fed up of holding herself back, so she took the plunge to begin lessons at Ladywood Leisure Centre in March this year, and she hasn’t looked back.

I think, like many people, the COVID pandemic made me reassess certain aspects of my life.

During the lockdown periods, I spent too much money on Amazon on things I didn’t really need to cheer myself up, but actually the real fallout of COVID for me is a newfound determination to do the things I put off before, as I was worried what people might think, worried about being judged.

My new attitude is simply, who cares? Life’s too short to be worried about silly things like maybe someone laughing at you in the swimming pool, as your arms flap around more than they should. These things do not matter. It’s taken me a while to realise that.

Swimming lessons has been on my list for years, but as 2023 started, I knew I needed to be a bit braver and actually sign up, so I did!

But I’ll be honest, on the first day, it felt like I’d made a mistake. It was rainy and cold. Why was I going swimming on a day like this? I know it wasn’t outdoors, but it still felt a bit wrong. It wasn’t a sunny day by the beach in Calabria, where my husband is from, a place we visit several times a year. It was a grey day in Birmingham, and I was regretting my decision even as I walked into the leisure centre.

But as I entered the building, I got a lovely greeting from Mel on reception. She asked me why I was there, and I told her it was for adult swimming lessons - ‘good for you’ she said, which gave me the boost I needed.

I’ve never missed a lesson since that first day, and I’m finding the journey towards becoming someone who can actually swim, rather than just flap about in the water, so rewarding and fulfilling.

I see every challenge that my teacher Sara sets me as kind of like an assignment. I focus on what I’ve been taught and do my best to put it into practice. Learning in a group has also been beneficial. We’re all in this together and we spur each other on. We have so much fun in the lessons. That’s not really what I thought it’d be like before I signed up.

Sara is an incredible teacher. She finds ways to motivate and keep the lessons interesting for all of us, even though we’re at different ability levels. She uses metaphors that really resonate, helps you visualise the instructions she’s giving, and she brings the inner child out of all of us each week. I owe so much of my progress and my confidence in the pool to Sara.

If you’re worried about learning to swim as an adult, and thinking you’ll be embarrassed, I’d just say to keep thinking ‘who cares?’ - if someone was unkind and laughed at you trying to swim, next week you’ll be better, and the week after that better still.

I was a little worried about people looking at me when I first came to for my lessons, but to be honest, other swimmers aren’t bothered about what you’re doing. The people doing lane swimming while I’m having my lesson are too busy focusing on their stroke to look over and wonder how I’m getting along.

I have actually had a few people give me smile of encouragement from their side of the pool though, when I’ve looked up. That’s far more likely to happen than someone being unkind and laughing at you.

As a black woman, I maybe need to moisturise my skin a little more than some white swimmers after a session in the pool, and I wear a swimming cap to protect my hair, but I can honestly say I’ve had no issues with the chlorine overly drying out either my skin or my hair. I have my own routine to prepare for lesson day and another post-swim routine to ensure I feel refreshed after the session.

If you’re thinking of taking up swimming lessons, you’ll find a way and a routine that works for you, but taking the plunge and actually signing up this year is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

If you've been inspired by Jiany's story then now is the perfect time to begin your swimming journey! Our staff are on hand to help you every step of the way. Please call us on 0330 1099150 for an informal chat, or book your place here.