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Pool Survival Lessons for Beginners

The pool is a safe place to learn survival swimming. This page contains lesson plans for survival swimming beginners. Adapt them to the needs of your class.

This training should be done fully clothed to build water confidence. Inexperienced people often drown because they never learned how to swim in clothes. This lesson addresses this problem in a fun and entertaining way.

Check that everybody in your class has at least one full set of clothing to swim in and one dry set for their way home.

For hygiene reasons always shower in your training clothes before each session. Lifeguards will check for dry spots.

First Time with Clothes in the Pool

This lesson helps you get familiar with the feeling of clothes in the water. In an emergency you may not have a choice of swimwear.

This training prepares you for an emergency, even if you are a non-swimmer. Don't worry, this is quite a pleasant experience and requires no swimming skills, so it is also fun for non-swimmers.

Recommended dress for your first time:

Make sure it fits well and doesn't move too much when wet. Wear it first in your shower or bath at home. A waistband or belt will keep your pants in place. Avoid any lined garments as they fill up with air or water pockets.

Feel free to add more clothing as your confidence grows. Try out different kinds of clothes to gain a more varied experience. Water sports clothes are best for swim training as they are designed to get wet.

Get Started

At the shallow end sit on the edge and dangle your legs in the water. Feel the resistance your clothes make as you move your feet.

Next lower yourself into to the water and wade until you're in about chest deep. Move around until you gain full confidence wearing clothes in the pool.

Now take a deep breath and duck under. Float underwater for a moment. Notice that clothes will slow you down, but not pull you down. You may even get a lift from trapped air pockets.

Once you've got used to wearing clothes in the water, swim a few length to feel how much they slow you down.

Ladder Training

Next move to the ladder put your feet about two steps down from the surface. Hold on to the ladder and pull yourself out. As you come up from the water you will feel the weight of the wet clothes.

Go up and down a few times. This is a great strength building exercise for legs and arms due to the weight of the wet clothes. Do this in every swimming session from now on to build your arm and leg muscles.

Finally relax back into the pool. Move around, play with friends, have fun while you enjoy the feeling of clothes in the water.

Easy Training Sequence

Life Jacket Float
Jump into the pool, put on a PFD (life jacket) on top of your clothes, and assume the HELP position for 3 minutes.

Swim with Life Jacket
Wearing a PFD (life jacket) on top of your clothes, roll forward into deep water and swim four lengths, then huddle with others.

Inflate Clothes and Huddle
Back roll into the pool, swim 10-15m, remove pants, inflate them and float for 3 minutes.

Jump into the water and practice underwater one forward and/or backward somersault. Then try it continuously until you run out of air or feel the need to stop.

Head-Up Swim
50m head-up freestyle or breaststroke. Assume ready position and scull directionally.

Eggbeater Kick
Practice the eggbeater kick in a stationary position for at least 30 seconds. Now do the eggbeater kick with the ability to travel and change direction. Finally do the eggbeater kick while raising one hand out of the water, then both hands.

Head-up swim, head-first surface dive 2m, swim 5-10m underwater, surface, foot-first surface dive to 2m recover an object and return.

Underwater Swim
Starting in the water, swim underwater for a distance of 10m or one width of the pool. Do not hyperventilate.

Lifesaving Kick
Legs-only 25m swim with a 4.5kg (10 lb) object using the lifesaving backstroke.

Front Crawl versus Breaststroke
Swim several lengths using different swimming strokes. See which swim strokes work best for you as they may vary depending of what clothes you wear. Swimwear lets you get away with a very bad technique, whilst clothes force you to do it right, or you go nowhere.

You may find that with many clothes on, front crawl is not much faster than breaststroke or backstroke. Many people don't know this simple fact and wear themselves out with front crawl when breaststroke is just as fast. Knowing this difference may save your life one day.

Weigh and Measure Wet and Dry

This experiment will show you how clothes affect your movements and weight in the water. Although your clothes won't pull you down, they will resist your movements and give you a hard workout. One litre of water weighs one kilogram.
  1. First weigh yourself without any clothes on. Write it down.

  2. Next get fully dressed in jeans or sweatpants, T-shirt, a hooded sweatshirt, and possibly a pair of lightweight sports shoes and socks. The difference in weight with clothes on should be 2 or 3 kg. Write it down.

  3. Now hop into the water. Stay in for a while to make sure you get everything fully soaked, so we can check the weight difference. Cotton garments soak up a lot of water.

  4. As soon as you come out of the water, weigh yourself again while still shiny wet.

    The difference in weight compared to wearing no clothes should be about 4 to 8 kg, depending on your size.

    So the water in your clothes weighs between 2 and 5 kg, about 2 and 5 litres. About half of it runs off in a few minutes.

  5. Now that you have an idea how much weight is involved you can start your power training.

    Do a few push-ups or sit-ups on the pool side.

    Next climb out and jump in as often as you can in one minute. This may sound trivial, but you'll soon find out that it can be quite tough.

heavy wet clothes

Reader Comment

Good Training for Beginners

from Joey, Bangkok, Thailand

This is a great fun training for anyone who starts out with survival training. In our team we ask new swimmers to wear at least t-shirt and shorts, so it kind of mimics having some workout clothing on.

Gradually they wear more kit in the water to train at a higher level, like sweatshirt, hoodies and long pants. Finally they can do it in full gear.

Training Tip: Write down your weekly training results. Time your swims. Add more clothing layers over time. Compare notes. You should see improvements. It builds massive aquatic confidence.