So a good buddy of mine a few years into me teaching the “learn to float” brand of swimming lesson – asked me… Can you really learn to “float” or is it just something that the body does? Well, the answer is, both actually. The body will float, if you allow it to float. Our whole program is geared to helping our swimmers become acclimated with the water, and more importantly how their body reacts in water. After some trial and error, and some collaboration with others who take a similar approach. One of our colleagues, mentors actually Kathy Hubbard, from Hubbard Family Swim School in Arizona, tells her swimmers (and the teachers) to “let the water do the work”. Here’s what she means….
The 3% Rule
Ever wonder why we teach so much back float, back stroke, and paddles with hands under the water… Well, you see most people depending on their body composition will float if less than about 3% of their body mass is out of the water… Having our swimmers float on their backs, head back, knees down under the water puts them in the most natural position for floating. So the 3% is just their faces out of the water. Also, we are helping the swimmers to position their lungs as the center of their “vessel” (their body) by bringing their knees just under the surface and their legs relaxing down toward the bottom. This gets their lungs centered and acting like a floatation device when they are filled with air. As you inhale and hold your breath, your lungs will fill up and give you a much more buoyant feeling. Letting the air out slowly, the body will begin to submerge. This is important as we time our breaths with our movements for propulsion, giving optimal chance for floatation during transportation, if you will.
Big arms come later
Once our swimmers are finding their floats independently, able to swim some with paddles under the water, roll to their float with a “low profile” and rest, we are ready to teach strokes. At this point we introduce some elementary back stroke for propulsion and return to their back to float to rest. At this stage of our progression we can begin to have them test their buoyancy positions by taking their arms out of the water. We start with backstroke arms because it is the most convenient, easiest transition from the back float, without sinking down.
Here’s my deal… If you are teaching big arms first? Or asking a beginner swimmer (child or adult) to attempt to take their hands out of the water, without first learning how to recover their buoyancy you are doing a dis-service. What happens is this… a beginner, non-swimmer will flail their arms out, splash around get to a place in the pool that is over their head, become fatigued and not be able to float for rest. The opposite of learning to swim – they are put in a precarious place, over their head and tired. You get the picture.
We have had parents watch their children in lessons for a few weeks, or months and ask us… “So when are they going to learn “real swimming” like with their arms out…?” The question is best answered with… When they are ready.
learn to float