Leaving So Soon?

There seems to be a trend across the country at the moment for parents to pull their children out of swimming lessons once they feel the children have mastered the basics.  The basics, being able to swim twenty five or sometimes fifteen metres in the beginnings of either front crawl or back crawl.  This is causing headaches on two fronts for swim schools, one from a business point of view and secondly from a water safety point of view.

Like all business, swim schools have to adapt to demand and currently the market for teaching competitive strokes and all the extras that goes with them is dwindling.  The Saturday classes that I take used to offer the whole range of stages from STAnley to Shark, but we now have spread the STAnley series over the majority of the morning and left the last lesson for the Goldfish series and up.  The numbers attending the sessions are still healthy, thus making Saturdays viable from a monetary aspect, but from a teaching point of view, it eventually could be hugely problematic.  Teaching roughly two levels of STAnley per class, makes for straight forward teaching and nothing too challenging, but having to mix up Goldfish, Angelfish and Shark series together in one lesson?  I would rather pass!  Luckily my teaching assistant has her level 1, so can take the Goldfish and from September, I won’t have any Shark levels; so that leaves me with the Angelfish.  It just means those swimmers will travel through the majority of the lessons (they are graded on ability) very quickly and then spend an extremely long time in the last lesson if they decide to stay on.  I just hope they don’t get despondent.

From a swimming point of view, to only get up to a STAnley 6 / 7 and then to leave is not only a shame, but a dangerous decision to make.  These swimmers can only just about manage thirty metres maximum (two lengths) of a barely decent stroke.  Admittedly, I do prefer it if my swimmers look fairly comfortable when swimming and front crawl is with arms recovering over the water rather than in it, so they should pass these stages with no concerns.  But thirty metres of a swimming pool is nothing and the relatively safe confines of the swimming pool is nothing compared to the dangers that accidently falling into open water can bring.  Firstly, the swimmer will be leaving without knowledge of open water, such as rip tides and what to do.  They won’t know how to rescue themselves or anyone else comfortably and safely.  Ask yourself, what would you do to save yourself or anyone else?  Do you really know the answer?  Every year, you hear of someone drowning because they have gone into dangerous open water to save their dog and yet the dog has survived.  As much as you love your pet (I am a dog owner and Amber does get treated like my fourth child), you cannot enter that water.  Never enter open water, unless you really know what you are doing.

What would your child do, if they accidentally got into a rip tide?  They would probably try and swim back to shore and even for a strong swimmer this would be an impossible feat (a typical rip tide will flow at 0.5 metres a second, but can have a top speed of 2.5 metres per second).  Their thirty metres swimming distance will mean absolutely nothing in a rip tide, their lack of stamina will quickly peter out and they will very quickly be dragged out to sea.  Do they have an awareness of hypothermia (another dangerous aspect of open water swimming) or the possible hidden dangers that quarries, lakes, rivers all contain?  If the answer is no, then they are not ready to give up swimming lesson by a long shot.

Until you are a competent swimmer, swimming teacher or knowledgeable on UK’s waters, you do not fully appreciate the dangers that swimming and water has to offer and that is why drowning is such a huge problem in the UK.  With this in mind, please reconsider pulling your child out of swimming lessons too early.

24 Hour Swim

One Hundred Per Cent Swimming

On Tuesday 21st June, Sue Brown and three friends undertook a unique marathon open water swimming challenge organised by 100% Swimming and Activities Away (Lincoln, UK).  The twenty four hour event started at 7 pm on the Tuesday and the last mile was completed twenty four hours later at 7 in the evening on the Wednesday.  To successfully complete the twenty four hour marathon open water swimming event, the swimmers needed to swim one mile on the hour every hour for twenty four hours.  This challenge could be undertaken as an individual, as a pair (alternating swimmers) or as a team of four people (rotating swimmers).

This aquatic marathon wasn’t for the faint hearted.  All swimmers had to be competent and experienced in open water swimming, night swimming, cold water management and endurance events.  All applications were considered based on experience.  The event was overseen by Paul Fowler – founder and head coach of 100% Swimming and Steve Poulton – founder and owner of Activities Away.

When Sue arrived at the site, there was a real buzz as other swimmers put up tents and organised their space for any rest that they might need during the course of the night.  This is where the learning curve began, when the realisation dawned that equipment that other swimmers had brought would make the whole experience more comfortable.  Clotheshorses might seem a bit absurd, but they come in extremely useful when trying to dry wet clothing, instead of just throwing

it into a damp pile!  Camping chairs would have been a good idea too, just to make those all important nap times a little more bearable and torches and florescent lights to light up the camp site when it got dark – maybe next time!

The whole event was very well laid out and safety was of the upmost importance.  There was a dry room where you could get some rest and meal vouchers were provided; the only challenge was to work out whether meal times clashed with the allocated swim slots whilst listening to the briefing.  Paul and Steve base the swimming event around swimmer safety and experience, so only twenty swimmers were allowed to swim at one time, with plenty of very enthusiastic volunteers onboard to help.

Swimming conditions were perfect on a beautiful evening and calm waters at a toasty eighteen degrees Celsius.  The midsummer’s strawberry moon made an appearance to make the night swim that much more memorable.  Sue’s team was made up of four people, so each member swam a mile six times each over the twenty four period.  Not everyone was in groups though, as several teams were made up of pairs, therefore swimming alternate hours and Sue does believe that there were six swimmers completing the challenge solo.

Swimming over twenty four hours was a challenge and after each of the six miles, Sue felt absolutely elated, but the hardest challenge of all was waiting for the next swim to begin.  To make the time go quicker it was best to keep busy, there were plenty of people to chat to or support by waiting with a hot drink and dry robe as the swimmers climbed out of the water.  As the

evening progressed and reached the early hours of morning, the water did not feel like the balmy eighteen degrees it had done at the start of the event and of course, with tiredness creeping in, your body is more susceptible to the cold.  But the support was constant, during the dark hours of night; each swimmer was supported by a kayak, all manned by volunteers.  It was truly magical; as all you could see were brightly lit tow floats bobbing across the water.

Sue had no sleep for the entire twenty four hours; she felt nauseous and couldn’t eat.  The night swims were the hardest of the swims mentally, as she simply couldn’t think of the queasiness and had to keep swimming; even though the “monkey mind” kept chattering that Sue couldn’t do it and why on earth was she getting into a lake at four in the morning rather than being tucked up in bed!  Fortunately, everyone else was in the same boat and as the groups waited on the lake side, one topic of conversation was the persistent mind games and once morning had broken, the swimmers then tried to fool the mind into thinking it was just a new day of swimming rather than a continuous twenty four hour slog.  The other topic of constant discussions was the exact distance of the course, as swimmers who had garmins said the course was measuring 1.2 miles instead of the 1 mile intended; which if this was the case, Sue swam 7.2 miles instead of the 6!

The mood of the camp changed with the coming and going of daylight.  Daylight brought a real buzz to the camp upon arrival and once the sun rose on the Wednesday morning, but during the twilight hours, there was a quiet calm, whilst everyone stayed focused on their next swim.  Obviously swimming such a vast distance is coupled with problems, but the organisers had thought of everything and fifteen hours of free physio was provided to those who needed it.  Yes, swimming for twenty four hours is possibly one of the maddest things a swimmer could do during their lifetime, but what a huge sense of achievement upon finishing.