How to Swim (if you haven’t for a long time)

how to swim when you haven't for a long timeRecently, a friend asked me how to swim if you haven’t been for a while.

I suspect there are a LOT of people wondering this.

If you haven’t been swimming since your school days, then heading off to your local pool can seem intimidating.

So how DO you get back into swimming after a break?

I swim three times a week, at a local health club. My favourite things about swimming are:

  • I’m exercising. I’m not a sporty person and without swimming, I’d probably just sit at my desk and slowly meld into the furniture.
  • Swimming is one of those things you have to concentrate on – so it’s a great place to NOT think about things that might be worrying you in everyday life.
  • You can’t have a phone in the pool so it’s 30 minutes of your day without any interruptions.
  • After you’ve been swimming you’re allowed to get breakfast at Starbucks. It’s practically a law.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m an amazing swimmer. When I started swimming after a break of five years, I could barely do five lengths without wanting to cry. But I stuck with it, and now I can swim for 40 minutes without it hurting too much. Promise.

What About Wearing a Swimsuit in Public?

Loads of us worry about being in a swimsuit.

You’re in public, wearing significantly fewer clothes than normal. And you haven’t done any sort of sport for ten years and everyone is going to stare…

I look like this when I go swimming.

The chlorine makes my face red and the goggle marks stick on my face four HOURS and well, the less said about swim caps the better. But, who cares?

Swimming is very forgiving.

Nobody notices if you’re slow, or if your technique isn’t 100 percent. Nobody cares if you’re wearing a size 8 or a size 28. Sidenote: if you’re after swimsuits that offer good coverage, check out this post.

Have a Dedicated Swim Bag

One of the things people often say to me about why they stopped going swimming is that it’s a FAFF.

It takes so long to get ready!

I avoid this by having a dedicated swimming bag. Inside I keep a clean towel and my swimsuit, goggles and swim cap. I also have a dedicated wash bag in there, a brush, and a dedicated make-up bag.

That way I know, on any given day, I can just pick up the bag and go.

Use the GOOD Toiletries

Speaking of wash bags, I invested in really good toiletries for my post-swim shower.

Frankly, if I’m going to make myself exercise, the last thing I want is my hair smelling of that awful unisex “body and hair wash” that the gym provides.

If you’re interested in recommendations, here are my top tips:

  • This anti-chlorine shampoo cleans your hair and leaves it in great condition – the Twi-Swim shower gel is also great if you have skin that reacts badly with chlorine.
  • Also – these little alcohol drops dry out water trapped in your ears. So you’re less likely to end up with ear infections.
  • Ooh, and this Tropic hair oil is amazing. Just pop a few drops in your hair before you swim, and when you shower afterwards, you get really shiny hair. Winning!

tropic hair oil

Get the Right Kit

Over the years, I’ve worked out what does and doesn’t work for me in terms of kit.

I wear a swimsuit with boy-short style as it’s just not worth the drama of worrying about whether my waxing regime is up to anything more daring. I’ve had a lot of luck with suits from Slazenger, and this one has lasted a good couple of years.

The key thing with swimsuits is NOT washing them too often. After your swim, just rinse the suit in clean water, and let it dry. Washing your hair while wearing a suit is a no-no – the detergent degrades your swimsuit, and it’ll end up see-through.

I have a big head and lots of hair. After snapping multiple caps that couldn’t stretch around my ginormous head, I found this swim cap for long hair (or big heads) from Speedo. Amazingly, it doesn’t hurt, and it contains all my hair quite nicely. Hurrah!

Swim Walkmans Change Lives

I used to find swimming boring. And all that water sloshing in and out of my ears wasn’t good for me.

A swim walkman solves both of these problems by providing you with music AND ear plugs. Hurrah!

swimming mp3 walkman

You might need to try a few styles to find one that works for you.

The Sony Swim Walkman ear-plugs don’t fit my ears, and let in water, which muffles the music. But this one from i360 has great music quality, AND comes with 4 different size ear buds for wet and dry use, so you should find something to suit.

Build it up Slowly

Getting decent swim stamina and technique takes time.

It’s perfectly okay to swim slowly while you’re starting out, and focus on getting your confidence and technique right. My local town has lots of older people in the pool during the day, and it was a bit shaming when they all lapped me in the early days.

But over time, I got better. I started out swimming 10 lengths. The next week, I swam 12. Then 14. Over time I kept adding lengths until I was swimming 40 lengths in 40 minutes.

Now I can swim 40 lengths of our pool in 30 minutes. I could add more lengths, but I’m lazy. Basically, I figure half an hour, three times a week is more than enough for me right now.

Track Your Progress

Swimming is a solo sport and for a competitive soul like me, that’s a challenge.

I’ve found tracking swims to be really motivating. I’ve used wearable trackers but for me, the Swim.IO app is much easier. app

I started using Swim.IO in March 2018. You log your swims in the app, noting which pool you visited, and how long you swam for. It will then calculate the lengths you swam, and calories burned.

When I’m feeling unmotivated, Swim.IO reminds me that actually, I went swimming 60 times between March and December. I can see how many hours and metres I swim, month by month. When my brain is giving me a hard time for being a sloth, the app reminds me that all those little swims do add up, over time.

Sure I’m not perfect – but I’ve achieved a bit.

So what are you waiting for? Get off the sidelines, dig out your swim cap and see if you can look anywhere near as (let’s admit it) HOT as me?  I know. That’s PRETTY DAMN HOT.


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2 thoughts on “How to Swim (if you haven’t for a long time)”

  1. top tips Sally I have put on a lot of weight over the last year and feel uncomfortable and I’ve gotten so unfit since I stopped my walking training. I need to get back to this I reckon swimming and walking a little is a good way to start. The music thingys sound great!

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