Monday, 11 May 2015

Choosing Swimming Lessons

For a month now I've been getting automated emails to remind me that I'm almost out of pre-paid swimming lessons and I should buy some more. In January I took advantage of a members deal with my local council-run leisure centre and signed up for a set of 10 minute sessions. Although it's helped, I started to wonder if I'd progressed beyond what they could offer.

I've enjoyed the lessons, even if I've had three different teachers. All of them have brought something different to the table. Courtney taught me tumble turns, Cathy introduced me to pull buoys and Lynn gave me the confidence to pay the local tri club a visit. The lessons were very inexpensive and I got a little personal guidance each time but they were also short and somewhat unstructured. So I started to investigate alternatives. There are several options but the main ones seem to be as follows.

Council-run / Leisure Centre sessions
Pros: Cheap, local and run by qualified swim instructors.
Cons: Potentially short classes. Groups can mean little 1-2-1 assistance. Need to understand current ability.

Swim or Tri club
Pros: Could be very cheap with the first session sometimes free. Like-minded people. Structured, progressive sessions. Often have access to open water locations.
Cons: Can be intimidating and may require a certain level of ability or confidence.

Private lessons
Pros: 1-2-1 or small groups with focused coaching. Very structured and tailored to your goals. Often held in private pools.
Cons: Expensive!
Guildford Lido
When you're choosing the swimming lessons it's worth spending some time thinking about what your ultimate goals are, how far you're willing to travel, and your budget. That's the fairly easy part. The more difficult thing can be deciding what level you need to start at. I've noticed that leisure centres or council-run sessions have a sometimes bewildering array of adult classes at different ability levels. What's the difference between Improver and Pre-Advanced? What if I can swim 200m breast stroke but only 25m front crawl? If in doubt, call the centre, ask questions, take advantage of any trial sessions. It's well worth it.

Go with an open mind and a student mindset. No I don't mean planning to go to the pub straight after, but be willing to learn and take on board feedback graciously. You have paid your money to learn. You are not the expert. As adults it can sometimes be hard to rediscover that mindset. Being a beginner doesn't come easy and we can be impatient.

I've decided that the best next step for me is to join the local triathlon club. I mentioned Lynn earlier, one of my instructors at the leisure centre. She also coaches at the tri club and was adamant that I was strong enough to join in. This was a HUGE confidence boost as I still have little idea of how I compare to other swimmers. Although I'm a member of Team Bear, because we're so dispersed we just don't have these sorts of meets (yet...) so it's a good option for me. I'll get coaching that's a step up from what I've had so far and I'll have the opportunity to meet more like-minded people. I'm looking forward to it!

What are the swimming facilities like near you? Have you "out grown" your swimming lessons? What was your next step?


  1. Really enjoyed reading this. My husband has recently completed his first triathlon and it's made me think about swimming. I've never been much of a swimmer so it seems like a good challenge to take on at some point. I'd like to get back to my running pb and then maybe start something different for variety.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment :) I think it's wonderful that you're inspired to do some more swimming. A triathlon is definitely within your reach and will give you a great focus. But you don't have to wait to get back to your running PB to start entering and planning!