My First Triathlon!

I’m still in shock after Sunday’s (3rd September) triathlon organised by NiceTri Events. For the last 6-months I’ve been training for the St.Neots Sprint Triathlon. Part of my training plan was to do the super-sprint at the beginning of July in Bosworth, Leics to help me prepare for last Sunday’s triathlon. But, it wasn’t to be.

Unfortunately I fell off my bike the end of June, which put me out of action for 2-months. I was on the Redway Path in Milton Keynes, came around a corner, only to swerve to miss a child’s scooter, clipped the handlebars on a wall, fell of my bike and ended up in A&E. No broken bones, but tore the tendons and ligaments in my left wrist and hand.

The pain was pretty intense, couldn’t drive so I took a week off work and from the gym. Feeling miserable is miserable! It was time to take action and change my goals. Biking was out as I couldn’t put any pressure on my wrist, swimming was ok as long as I didn’t pull on my left hand, so the alternative was running in the pool.

As the weeks ticked by (8-weeks) my wrist was healing nicely, and enough for me to think I could take part in the St.Neots Triathlon Event on the 3rd September, which was just 2-weeks away. Enough time, hopefully for more healing. During that time I did very little road cycling, it was mainly Watt biking. When I did go out on the roads I wore my splint, but felt nervous as my right arm was mainly taking the weight. But with time I became more confident and started to lean on both arms, which made me feel more comfortable and stable.

Eventually the day arrives and my friend Burti picks me up at 5.45am. We were welcomed to the new day by a spectacular sun-rise. We arrive early, register, racked my bike, squeezed into my wet-suit (its Burti’s really) and I’m ready to rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s all so new to me, and there’s a lot to take in, so many rules. Thankfully I had Burti pointing out exits for the swim, bike and the run and explaining the transitions of what and not what to do.

Before I knew it we are all listening to the briefing, and the next thing we’re in the River Ouse with the swans and ducks. We had a few minutes to acclimate to the temperature of the water, which I thought was quite warm. The gun fires and it becomes a manic of flailing arms and kicking legs. At one point I had a body swim over me and found myself swimming under water to get away, when I did eventually come up for air, I was too close to somebody’s feet and got kicked in the face. If this was the name of the game, then I needed to toughen up.

It took me a good half of the race to settle, but to be honest I didn’t really find my rhythm. I think more than anything it was definitely a lack of training and experience on my part. Getting out from the River Ouse was a little slippery, but OK. Burti was there cheering me on and taking photo’s.

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You know when you see triathletes running and unzipping their wet-suits, well I tried to do the same. But the swim seemed to have zapped the strength out of my arms, swimming against the current was hard work. So I asked a marshall to unzip me, who happily obliged. Now to find my bike.

Transition 1. Wet-suit off, helmet on, socks and shoes on, gloves and glasses on and a quick slurp of water. Then I was off,  trying to run with my bike when my legs didn’t want to play ball was not easy.  Through the bike exit and now allowed to ride my bike. It felt good to sit, get my breath back and focus on the job in hand. I felt strong and fearless, maybe that had something to do with the crazy swim.

I really, really enjoyed the bike ride, countryside was pretty and the route wasn’t too demanding. In less than an hour I was back at the event, jumped off my bike, but wasn’t quite expecting my legs to buckle, and no I didn’t fall over, but close though. It was a funny feeling!

Transition 2 was quicker and funnier. I tried to run, wanted to run, but my legs felt like they were not attached to my body. Must have taken about a half km before I could run. I managed the two laps of the course and somehow managed to cross the finishing line.

 It was only when I crossed the finishing line that it dawned on me what I had just achieved. I punched the air with sheer joy. No injuries, just a feeling of “I want to do it again.” Biggest smile ever!

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Burti and my family were there to support me, and it felt soooo good to share my achievement. My first triathlon, it was the best feeling, ever, and amazingly I was first in my age category.

Winning my age category was a bonus and it definitely wasn’t about winning. It was about the journey in getting fit to be able to take part in the triathlon. I could have so easily pulled out because of my wrist, but in many ways that was my driving force in adapting to change and focus on what I could do at that time, and not what I couldn’t do.

Three-months later after my accident my wrist is still not 100%, but its getting stronger every day. I now have 6-months of training for next year’s triathlon season. Yep, I’ve been bitten by the bug!

On my journey that day I learned that if you believe in yourself, one can do whatever they want to do and achieve their wildest dreams. It’s never, ever too late!

Steph:triathlon 2017

 “The miracle isn’t that I finished. It’s that I had the courage to start”

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From Fear to Euphoria!

From Fear to Euphoria!

I am compelled to write this in admiration of the Mind/Body Awareness Programme and of Stephanie Dutton as the experienced teacher who has been working with me.

My background is working as a Director and Managing Consultant over the last 20 years with many of the most aggressive blue-chip companies in programmes of change. I enjoy my work; love my family; and have always thrown myself into any sport going – as long as it’s on land! I have played competitive league tennis (qualifying with the LTA as a tennis teacher in 1983), played hockey, cricket, netball, football, I’ve abseiled, climbed sheer rock faces, been potholing, horse-riding and parasailing. I see myself as a sportswoman – so how could I admit to anyone that I could not swim?

I have had injuries that have resulted in three operations over the last 3 years (the result of being thrown off a horse whilst my foot was stuck in a stirrup!) I now have a titanium plate in my neck that holds together vertebrae that have been fused with bone from my right hip. My right shoulder has been operated on twice and still gives me pain. Not that any of this stops me from getting on with my life, playing sports and being active. But I knew I was missing a fundamental therapy by not being able to have water as a comfortable domain where I could relax and exercise. I have a great logic and this “flaw” was a missing piece of my life’s jigsaw puzzle. I had found it impossible to overcome my fear of water on my own. I was perfectly at ease standing in a swimming pool, just as long as I didn’t have to take my feet off the floor. I could take my feet off the floor as long as my hands were clinging to the side. I have a recollection of being knocked into a swimming pool when I was about 7 years old and being fussed over by my non-swimming mother who vowed she wouldn’t let me near a swimming pool ever again!! Such is fate that a very sporty child became very uncomfortable in water.

As I grew older and certainly over the last ten years, I have increasingly visualised myself gracefully swimming – but making this come true was completely beyond me. I found it baffling, frustrating and illogical.

Determined to tackle this, I entered Learn to Swim on the Google Internet search engine. As I browsed, I felt elated as soon as I read about learning to swim with The Mind/Body Awareness Programme; I knew this was the one for me. It tackled the essence of fear, describing the need to learn relaxation in water, and it embraced the body alignment and stretches of the Alexander techniques that I felt would be so valuable for my body. It had it all. All I had to do now was bite the bullet, decide NOW was the time to realise my dream of swimming, find a teacher and book my first lesson.

How fortunate to find Stephanie. I wanted to learn, I needed someone I could trust and someone who could understand my fears and my needs. After lesson 12, eight weeks after my first, I was swimming a length in a very relaxed fashion at my Gym – unbelievable! Truly unbelievable. I LOVE the water; I want to be in it all the time. I now go to the Gym and work out with the “treat” being the swim afterwards! I even pop in for just a swim. I have listened and I have practiced. Stephanie has taken me step by step and my learning curve has been rapid – not the theory but the reality of moving in and through water comfortably. I LOVE swimming and it is now part of my life.

Thank you Stephanie – you are involved in a really life-changing event.

Pat Way Hertfordshire UK

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Developmental Coordination Disorder

A parent shares her experience of her son learning to Swim with The Mind/Body Awareness Programme…

As a parent it’s difficult to gradually realize there is “something wrong” and your child is not developing typically as expected. At age three and a half I suspected my son’s fine motor skills were significantly delayed as compared to his peers. Every other aspect of his development, his social emotional, self help and cognitive skills were strong and age appropriate. Faced with the choice of waiting and watching his fine motor skills continue to fall further behind from his peers or to find out what was happening, we chose to have Mark evaluated by an occupational therapist. After a few sessions of occupational therapy Mark was formally diagnosed with “Developmental Coordination Disorder”.

Developmental coordination disorder affects children in different ways. Mark’s gross motor skills are essentially within functional limits, but he’s not coordinated. His fine motor writing skills seem to be the most significantly affected. My son, currently at age 5, cannot sequence his shoulder, elbow, wrist placement and angle or finger grasp correctly on a pencil. He uses a special pencil grip. In addition, while Mark understands how specific letters of the alphabet are formed, he becomes frustrated when he can’t make his hand move the right way to form them. He’ll write a simple letter such as capital L and then be unable to change the motor pattern to next formulate a letter A. Mark knows and understands how the letters should look, he has trouble making his hand move the right way. He hated writing, became frustrated by it and tended to avoid it all cost.

After reading about children who have this problem I became acquainted with Stephanie’s website and wanted to try swim lessons for Mark. His occupational therapist agreed that learning to swim would be wonderful body coordination work for Mark.

As Stephanie says, swimming does involve coordination of the whole body; arms, legs, breath, body positioning and buoyancy. Stephanie’s work with my son over the past year can only be described as magical and fun for him. Her sessions with Mark have provided significant improvements in body awareness, movement and sequencing which directly positively impacted his fine motor skills. His overall coordination and most especially his fine motor coordination have improved so much. Through her years of experience and study, Stephanie has developed her own style of teaching swimming that focuses on an individual’s strengths. Mark was relaxed, having fun and enjoying learning breathing and buoyancy first, then smoothly learning to integrate his arms and legs in an easy, graceful and coordinated manner. Her methods for teaching swimming are 100% different than what is traditionally taught. Here in the States, from my experience and observation, swim instructors teaching young children to swim typically have children tense up their legs and arms to kick and paddle like mad. They next yell out at the child to “swim faster”, “kick faster” or “paddle faster”. The result is an uncoordinated flurry of arms and legs fighting to stay afloat in the water and the child struggling and gasping for breath.

Mark’s work with in learning to swim with Stephanie and using a special writing program called Handwriting Without Tears have significantly helped my son. While it takes approximately 70 multisensory trials for Mark to learn to write a

new letter, his writing skills now are essentially age appropriate. In addition, he’s actually swimming quite well and in a more coordinated way than his same age peers.

Children with developmental coordination disorder typically have difficulty in the motor planning and execution aspects. The American Psychiatric Association indicates that children with developmental coordination disorder have a “marked impairment in the development of coordination”. It is estimated that 6 percent of children ages 5 to 11 in the United States have developmental coordination disorder. Developmental coordination disorder is often not identified until a child has failed at learning to write in kindergarten and first grade. By the time it is typically diagnosed, a child’s peers have excelled in fine motor skills for writing and in actual written language skills. A child’s classmates are writing paragraphs while the child with developmental coordination disorder is still struggling with individual letters, capital and lower case. The fine motor aspect of writing is central in developing skills for both their reading and written language skills development. Being able to write a word promotes a child’s ability to visually recognize it.

I am extremely grateful to Stephanie and her wonderful technique in helping children to learn to swim. Her work has provided significant benefits for Mark. Stephanie’s style and method of teaching children is remarkably different. Mark is actually swimming with increased grace, coordination and speed.

Kate Kempe-Biley

Cleveland, OH

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Ken Snowdon BBC Tees Writer and Broadcaster Learns to Overcome His Fear of The Water

I was genuinely scared about what was about to happen next. The last time I was in this situation I was 10 years old, so obviously it was a long, long time ago. I was on the side of a swimming pool having a word with my mate Michael when person or persons unknown thought it would be funny to push me in. It would have been, except I couldn’t swim. However, as it turned out, I was an expert in nearly drowning. After I plunged in headfirst, and discovered that the water was taller than I was, I panicked. I flapped around underwater and got stuck behind the steps, breathing my last. Just in time I was fished out, pumped dry by someone violently encouraging me to cough and, having being certified as shocked but alive, I was sent on my way. But that was just the start. For two years after that I suffered the most vivid nightmares about drowning, so severe that I used to wake myself up. And well after that, I avoided water at all costs (apart from the morning shower of course.)

But now I don’t want to be on the side of the pool pretending I’m having just as good a time as everyone who is in it; I want to join in. I also want to keep fit without putting undue strain on whatever muscles and functioning joints I have left. It was time to face that nightmare.
And that is why I’m sitting on the shallow end of a swimming pool, ankle deep in water on the steps, listening to Stephanie Dutton. And being scared.

Stephanie sees a lot of people like me, from the aqua phobic to people who just never got around to learning and she says she has helped them all. Will she be able to claim that after our two sessions?
Well, I’ll soon find out as it was time to join her in the water. I held on to Stephanie’s forearms while we just walked, chest deep, from side to side in the pool. She talked calmly about becoming more mindful of my breathing. I tried to listen to her and at the same time not get anxious about the ever-rising water level.

The first big hurdle for me was to overcome my fear of submerging. Submerging. Even typing the word makes me feel sick and it was only Stephanie’s calm and encouraging words that stopped me making a run for the car. Yes I know I only had swimming trunks on but that wouldn’t have stopped me.

We went through a series of in and out breaths, me holding my tummy to feel the in breath and allowing my lips to dip into the water so I could hear the bubbling on the out. The emphasis is working WITH the water, not against it. After half an hour of calming reassurance from Stephanie, and breath control practice a plenty, it was time to confront my fear. I bent my knees and – breathing out as instructed – went slowly into the water as far as my chin, then came up again, all the time watched and encouraged by Stephanie. This process continued until I managed to get my mouth in the water, blowing bubbles as I exhaled, standing up and inhaling, and gaining confidence all the time.

One step at a time

One step at a time

The next exercise was to float on my front. Stephanie explained that it’s much easier to float – and a lot less stressful on the muscles – if my neck and head were aligned with my back – and that meant putting my face in the water. After a bit of encouragement from Stephanie – and it seemed a completely natural thing to do – I put my face under water for the first time since The Baths Incident. This was a major step forward. I still didn’t like it, but I was calm enough to resist trying to swallow half the pool like I did last time. This giant step eventually allowed me to eventually float and glide, head in the water, calm and tension free. A good day all round.

Taking The Plunge

Taking The Plunge

Overall Stephanie teaches about greater body awareness and alignment, strengthening the relationship between the mind and body. And it’s not a one size fits all approach. “My philosophy is not what I’m teaching the pupil, but what they are teaching me because everyone is different”

The next day we recapped and progressed to a doggy paddle, and also practised how to end up standing in the water after the glide. This meant I could be anywhere in this particular pool and be OK. Well it would have done if I could get the hang of it. Knees up towards the chin, arms out behind THEN take your head out of the water. Easier said than done, for me at least. Stephanie was patience personified, gently pushing my bum under me so I could stand up without falling backwards, or offering her arms so I could steady myself first, while I practiced.

Stephanie specialises in helping people overcome their fear of water, and just one of a few teachers in the UK who has melded the Alexander Technique, the Shaw Method and Watsu (water massage) into a unique programme called the Mind/Body Awareness Programme. She is amazingly positive. “Everyone and anybody can learn – it’s not about swimming it’s about enjoying the water for what it is. Swimming will happen later after you have learnt to enjoy the basics and gained a solid foundation”.

Despite my feet scrabbling for the umpteenth time trying to get a grip on that solid foundation known as the bottom of the pool, I was well on the way. I did almost master the knees up manoeuvre at the end. As I left the pool I felt extremely relaxed, like you might after a yoga class or a massage and I was more than pleased with myself. I could immerse my head in the water without panic, float face down, glide, and doggy paddle. This is the first step in my swimming journey and the main thing is I want to get back into the water soon. And that – after the trauma of 50 years ago – is nothing short of a miracle.

Ken Snowdon

BBC Tees Writer and Broadcaster

May, 2014

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The Power of Touch

 For the last 3-weeks I have been working with an extraordinary young adult. Shivan was born at just 24-weeks old. He developed cerebral palsy due to a lack of oxygen during birth. He has autism and is blind.

Shivan’s mother contacted me as she wanted her son to potentially learn how to swim. She also realises that the benefits of exercising in the water, would improve Shivan’s health and well-being. Shivan’s family have always encouraged him from a young age to enjoy the water.

I first worked with Shivan when he was 14-years of age. My first meeting with him was memorable. He was sitting in his wheelchair, listening to classical music through his head-phones, and he had this wonderful peaceful look on his face. Shivan loves music!

My first session with him in the swimming pool was also memorable for me. When I first held Shivan I was very conscious that he didn’t know who I was. I smelled differently, he didn’t recognize my voice, or my touch, and I’m sure his senses were on high alert. For the first half of the lesson I spent time moving him through the water in a horizontal position. This is normally the first step in my process with children as it allows me to get a feel how the body responds to gentle movement, touch and how buoyant they are.

As we progressed through the lesson, I sensed maybe he was ready to explore the feel of water on his face. There is a particular move that I practice that gives me an indication of how comfortable children are with water on their face. I gently turned Shivan, but HE wasn’t ready. He responded by pinching me, which caught me off guard. I could make all sorts of excuses, “he was confused, he didn’t know me” etc. The problem wasn’t with Shivan, it was me. I was not listening to his body language. I took note of that, and found the less I did, the more open I was to receiving the signals his body was giving me. I could start to feel the difference in him. I could feel him relaxing, which was a sign that he felt safe. He did submerge, when HE was ready, and not when I thought he was ready. That was my last lesson with Shivan until 4-weeks ago.

My specialised work with Shivan came to a halt as I had the opportunity of working and living in the United States. Shivan is now 18-years of age. I have been teaching swimming for over 25-years, and with that experience I have melded the 3-disciplines that I practice; The Shaw Method, Watsu and Ai Chi, and created my own unique method; Learn to Swim with The Mind/Body Awareness Programme. In essence my method is about touch, relaxation techniques, and adapting my swimming method to suit the individual, which has more of an impact for Shivan, than voice or facial expression. Shivan has been blind since birth, so touch is an important feedback for his sensory awareness.

My second session with Shivan took place recently in the hydrotherapy pool at his school, which is a Specialist Sensory and Physical College. As I waited in the pool for Shivan to be hoisted into the water, I couldn’t help but think “he looked unsure”. When the hoist was removed, his body was coiled up in the foetal position, so rather than trying to encourage him to stretch out, I brought him closer to me, I connected to his breathing pattern, and listened quietly to what his body was telling me. I gently moved his body from side to side, which is very calming for children and adults who are unsure where they are. Shivan slowly reached up and touched my face. Could he remember me after 3-years, the answer is I don’t know. But, what I do know, that it was a very tender touch, which spoke volumes.

During that second session Shivan slowly started to unfold, it was like watching a flower open up. I could sense his body ‘letting go’, it became lighter, and more relaxed. The more his body ‘let go’ the deeper he stretched, and the more he stretched, the freer he became. That freedom of movement not only released the tension in his neck, spine and muscles. But, was also a time for his mind and body to connect to the natural, rhythmic movement that flowed through his body.

With session 3, I felt Shivan was learning to trust me, there was a bond of “You’re safe, I’m here.” His water confidence was growing, and on several occasions he took the initiative in exploring being under water. I could see he liked the “stillness” of being under water. During those sessions my hands never left him, and at all times he could feel the reassurance of my touch, which gave him the confidence to discover and explore for himself the freedom and joy of being in water.

After Shivan’s water therapy, his mother can, not only see a difference in her son’s face, but can also feel the difference in his body. He’s more relaxed, calmer and more focused. From my perspective; Shivan is more water-confident, he’s exploring movement, which is helping his balance, muscle strength, mobility, and he’s happy. That initial experience with Shivan has stayed with me. I may be the swimming teacher/therapist in Shivan’s life, but its not what I’m teaching Shivan, its what he’s teaching me.

As a swimming teacher/therapist it’s my job to listen, encourage, and to help my pupils achieve freedom of movement in their bodies. I am in this job because I want to make a difference to my pupil’s lives. Whether one receives, or gives, as a therapist, carer or parent, and the only language is touch; touch fully expresses what we feel, and how we feel.

“Change your thoughts, and you change your world.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993)

Stephanie Dutton founder of ATSSI (Aquatic Therapy & Specialised Swimming Instruction) is a specialised swimming teacher, Watsu and Ai Chi Practitioner. She trained as a student in 1999 with Steven Shaw. This new method of swimming applies the principles of The Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique works on the relationship between the mind and body, helping us to unlearn automatic patterns of thought and action, which can have a detrimental effect on our health and well-being. It helps to develop co-ordination, allowing greater ease, and freedom of movement.

Stephanie also trained with the founder and creator of Watsu in 2005, Harold Dull. Watsu is a unique form of bodywork that combines shiatsu, massage, and gentle stretching.

Stephanie specialises in fear of water, disabilities, sporting injuries, meditative swimming, and relaxation techniques for children and adults. She has earned an international reputation for positive results from her unique, and gentle method. She is passionate about Learn to Swim with The Mind/Body Awareness Programme because it works.

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Do you need a helping hand to overcome your fear of the water?

 Meet Grant! He contacted me 12-months ago when he was 21-years of age. He had been living with a fear of the water since his childhood. Somehow during his school years he slipped through the net, and never learned how to swim. More importantly, he never learned to relax and enjoy the water.

His first swimming lesson with me was on a cold, wintery afternoon. It’s not always easy slipping out of warm clothes into bathing trunks, and it’s easy to feel anxious and uncertain of what to expect. Thankfully I work in a private pool, which is warm and in a peaceful and calm environment.

I like to start students off either sitting on the side of the pool with their feet in the water, or walking in the pool with me. Grant chose to walk in the pool. Whether it’s your feet, or all of your body, just being in the water helps the student face their fears and connect with how they are feeling at that present moment. For some people it can evoke very deep emotions, and for others their fear kicks in and they panic at the thought of being in water.

The key to my method is the one-to-one gentle support during the process. The Mind/Body Awareness Programme that I have created helps the student to mindfully listen to their bodies; to consciously connect to their breath, and to mentally and physically slow down. By slowing down, the student is better able to understand not only the dynamics of their body, but their connection with the water. Water makes up 80% of our bodies, and is already a bigger part of us than most people realise. Whatever feelings run through our bodies, those same feelings resonate into the water we are immersed in. If one’s feelings are of fear and anxiety, the water will reflect those same feelings and turbulence is created between the student and the water.

To help Grant understand his fear, I introduced him to Ai Chi, a programme that I practice. Ai Chi is slow and controlled, with movements that flow endlessly into one another. The slow movements help the student to understand their breath control and the flow of energy, which helps the physical balance calm the emotional balance. When these two components connect, the student is often better able to deal with their fears and anxieties.

Over the weeks Grant learned to submerge, float, and glide comfortably for the first time in his life, which is a huge accomplishment. If, or when his fear surfaced, he had the tools to deal with it. No longer was his fear guiding him. The process empowered Grant, giving him the confidence to trust in the relationship that he was building with the water.

During most of my work with Grant, I video a portion of his lesson so that he could see his achievements for himself. Grant was able to visually experience how far he had come in his swimming journey. As Grant progressed with his swimming he learned that it was not about the destination, but about his swimming journey. Through his dedication and commitment he fulfilled his dream. He swam a length of the pool comfortably, yet at the same time not quite believing he did it.

Grant has kindly agreed to allow me to share his swimming journey video, which hopefully will inspire others to fulfill their dream, and knowing that it’s never too late to learn to swim. If you would like to achieve your goal, to be comfortable and safe in the water, then follow Grant’s lead and explore enjoythewater.  

To view a youtube video of Grant’s swimming journey please visit; Grant overcomes his fear of the water.

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The Art of Teaching Swimming

First published in The Swimming Times, August 2007

“Pupils arriving for swimming lessons have a right to expect understanding and enthusiasm from their teacher,” says ASA swimming instructor and aquatic therapist Stephanie Dutton.

I recently visited my local to pool to observe two new clients who regularly took part in group swimming lessons. To say I was shocked at the lack of interest from the swimming instructor would be an understatement. I am not willing to accept that she was just having an off-day.

Many adults and children are anxious or fearful of water but want desperately to learn to enjoy their swimming journey. Most of them will book lessons at their local authority pool expecting understanding and enthusiasm from the teacher.

More than 25-years ago, I qualified in England with the ASA as a swimming teacher and since then I have been gaining knowledge to help in my quest to teach adults with skill, knowledge, empathy and humour. My understanding is that a swimming teacher needs to have a proficient knowledge of scientific principles, physiology and psychology coupled with the vital ability to apply them to the individual. A thorough understanding of these elements allows the teacher to work within the physical and mental capabilities of the non-swimmer or swimmer, to adapt the strokes and to achieve a comfort level in every session.

As adults, we can feel emotionally inadequate and this is fully exposed in a swimsuit. So it’s important that adults feel safe before they can relax and learn. People who have had traumatic experiences first have to accept their fear. Then they need to learn how trust themselves in an unfamiliar territory. This takes time, patience and understanding from the teacher. When teaching adults, the pace must be slow and dictated by the individual or group. The most important skill you need as a teacher is to read the individual’s face and body language and have the empathy to know when to by sympathetic, and when a little pushing is required.

Before learning to swim, the pupil needs to know the fundamentals of breathing patterns above and under the water, how to float prone and supine and regain a standing position in a calm and balanced way. Only when these skills have been taught and the pupil is comfortable can swimming strokes be introduced.

Learning a new skill is about being in a relaxed, safe environment, exploring feelings, fears, having fun and learning how be at one with the water in a happy, calm and balanced way.

As teachers it’s our job to encourage and support the individual or group. We are in this job because we want to make a difference to those people’s lives. If we are to inspire others, we must apply our knowledge and expertise and remain open so we are able to learn from other others and our pupils, and gain experience to pass on to others. Teaching is an art and poetry in motion.

First published in The Swimming Times, August 2007

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