NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Are you an adult who can't swim? This is the perfect time of year to conquer your fears, take the plunge and sign up for a learn-to-swim class, says Newtown swimming instructor Karen Black.
"Swimming is a life skill. It's something you should know how to do, especially if you have children," Black said. "Also, you want to be able to enjoy going on vacations. You don't want to be so terrified that all you do is sit on the sand the whole day and watch your friends and family have fun."
Black, 34, is a Red Cross Water Safety instructor who teaches swimming at the Dive Shop in Brookfield. She shared some tips for adults to have a stress-free learn-to-swim experience.
First, she recommends adults sign up for a group swim class rather than take an individual lesson. "In a group, you can exchange experiences with other adults. Sharing stories and knowing you are not alone in your fear gives you another level of confidence," she said.
When learning to swim, rather than blowing bubbles, Black advises people make "chipmunk cheeks" to hold their breath.
"A lot of people's fears come from having taken in water when they blew bubbles. Instead, when you puff up your cheeks like a chipmunk, you get a visual. You can see your own cheeks puff up out from the corners of your eyes," said Black. "Chipmunk cheeks give you more buoyancy. Your lungs are like a built-in balloon."
When learning to swim, try and stay relaxed, Black said. "When adults go under water for the first time, they tend to tense every muscle in their body as if they're taking their last breath. Instead, just as you would do when making a yoga pose, soften your muscles. Make them squishy."
When learning how to float, Black recommends "learning on your stomach first. A lot of the fear of learning how to swim is being afraid of putting your face in the water, so floating on your stomach brings you to conquering this fear right away," she said.
Black recommends that new students wear goggles. "Goggles enable you to see under water. It's more comfortable if you can see where you're going and everything isn't fuzzy," she said.
Above all, when it comes to swimming, having patience is essential. "Learning to swim is not a sprint. It's going to take time," Black said. "Adults tend to be very hard on themselves. Mentally, prepare for about a year when learning how to swim.
"You're never too old to learn how to swim," she said, adding that her oldest student was in her 70s.