Train Confidence Like a Muscle

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Of our four participants, two had confidence issues at the start that could have been classed as debilitating when it comes to getting into the water. Blogger Elle and Journalist Amy both struggled at the deep end: the former had to psych herself up to get into the pool; the latter panicked when in there. For Elle, it was due to the fact that she’s not used to the feeling – while being an expert at most dry-land pursuits, this was her first swimming experience. For Amy, it’s something a little more harrowing: having nearly drowned twice, once trapped under a boat, it’s understandable that she didn’t take to the water with ease. With perseverance, both overcame their issues and were able to undertake the challenge with aplomb. With the right psychological and technique knowhow, you can do the same…

Step 1: Find a mentor

At first, finding someone who’s willing to keep an eye on you in the water will help with both your technique and confidence. “[Speedo swim coach] Dan is such a calming presence,” says Amy. “Having someone there who isn’t panicking can help to stop you from worrying too much.” Either go to classes or rope in a friend who’s a bit more experienced in the water than you. Training with a partner has been shown to improve the likelihood of you sticking to a plan, too, so it pays to bring pals along to your pool days.

The lesson: Join a swimming club or train with a friend or partner

Step 2: Slow it down

Sometimes, finding confidence is as simple as feeling more confident in your technique. “In week one, I was splashing around, exhausting myself even doing one length, which could leave me panicked,” says Elle. “Knowing this was going to happen made it hard for me to get in the water. Sometimes I’d be sat poolside for half hour!” As counterintuitive as it seems, the trick is to slow down. “A calmer, more fluid stroke not only stops you panicking but also actually speeds you up,” says Speedo swim coach Dan Bullock.

The lesson: Focus on a slow, controlled freestyle stroke at first

Step 3: Get the gear

The benefits of floats are pretty obvious: you’re more buoyant, which allows you to isolate different muscle groups while staying afloat and, hopefully, panicking less. But it’s not just these little lifesavers you should put to use. “My absolute favourite piece of kit has been the Speedo snorkel,” says Amy. “Not having to worry about breathing and the head turning lets you focus on the stroke. It’s amazing how much of the panicky feeling comes from rush of gasping for breath while trying to swim.” Breathe easy.

The lesson: Invest in a float and snorkel to feel more in control