How Long Does It Take To Learn To Swim? Swim Instructor Explained.

How Long Does It Take To Learn To Swim?

By Maria Rezhylo

3x World record holder in swimming & swim school owner
March 20, 2023
In this post, I'll answer the most popular question: how long does it take to learn to swim?

You'll learn:

  1. What will influence your swimming journey
  2. How to start learning
  3. Do you need swim lessons to learn to swim
  4. And more

If you want to become a confident swimmer but don't know where to start the learning process, this article is for you.

I am a certified swim instructor with years of experience turning total beginner students into advanced swimmers. Today, I'll help you navigate a (not) so complicated world of swimming.

Let's dive in.

How Long Does It Take To Learn To Swim?

When learning to swim, it's essential to understand that this process has no standard amount of hours, weeks, or lessons. The time required to gain basic swimming skills and swim confidently varies from person to person. In addition, individual factors influence the speed of the learning process, such as prior negative experiences in the water, fear of water, body composition, self-confidence, quality of swimming instruction, and more.

What Influences an Ability to Learn How To Swim

Read a quick list of the most common reasons why some people learn faster while others struggle to learn the basics for months.

Prior negative experiences associated with swimming

Recent research indicates that prior negative experiences associated with the pool limit one's ability to gain water confidence and become a proficient swimmer.

An example can be observing a traumatic event (i.e., drowning or near-drowning) or going through one at a young age.

Additionally, initial swimming lessons and the quality of the instruction can traumatize both adults and children, leaving them in fear of ever trying swimming.

Fear of water

In DSM 5, fear of water is classified as a specific phobia. One of the ways that it can be developed in adults and children, as we discussed earlier, is by observing or going through an accident in the water. But not everyone develops aquaphobia this way.

Many factors that influence the development of aquaphobia are still unclear, and further research is needed to understand it better. Nevertheless, the severity of the symptoms will ultimately affect how much time you or your child will spend learning to swim.

Body composition

It's not a secret that our body composition affects our buoyancy, influencing how quickly we learn to swim. A person's body fat to muscle mass ratio can primarily affect their buoyancy in the water.

The higher the body fat percentage, the more buoyant the person will be, making it easier to stay afloat and learn the strokes. However, excess body fat can also make it more challenging to move through the water, as it creates more resistance.

On the other hand, strong muscles can help a person generate more power and move through the water faster. This can be particularly important for more advanced swimmers. But, contrary to fat, muscle mass is denser, therefore, less buoyant.

It's important to note that most people can still master swimming with enough practice. Focusing on the proper skills and technique, you'll be able to learn all the strokes and become a confident swimmer.

Quality of swimming instruction

An unqualified swimming instructor can slow down your learning process due to a lack of experience and knowledge of swimming. Besides, it can become dangerous and traumatizing.

That's why it's important to check certifications and the program's success rate before signing up for a swim school. You can also request to observe a lesson and ask your potential instructor questions.

Willingness to learn

Learning to swim can be challenging, and it may take time to master the life-saving skill. An ability to learn how to swim depends on many personality traits, including a positive attitude and a willingness to learn something new.

People who approach swimming with a growth mindset, viewing challenges as opportunities for improvement, tend to learn faster and have a more enjoyable experience.

On the other hand, those with a fixed mindset may become discouraged by setbacks or mistakes and quit learning to swim before seeing any progress.

Time and practice

Like any life skill, learning to swim takes time, practice, and discipline. Some people progress quickly, while others might barely see any improvement after the exact hours spent at the pool.

So before committing to the process, promise yourself that you'll learn how to swim, no matter how long it will take. Then, make swimming your weekly routine, and practice the skills regularly.

Road to Swimming Laps: a Step-By-Step Guide to Progress Faster

Step 1. Getting used to the pool.

Whatever was holding you back from learning to swim, it's time to break this vicious cycle.

If you are living a busy adult life, try to find free time in your week and spend it at the pool. If you don't have a home pool, there are plenty of public pools to start the process.

For adults who fear the water, I want to emphasize this: there's no easy way to overcome it. You'll have to embrace it and immerse yourself in the pool to finally feel comfortable. The learning process starts with small steps.

If you are a beginner in swimming, staying at the shallow end of the pool is crucial to avoid accidents.

The same advice I give to parents before signing up for swimming lessons. For your kids, you are the closest, most trusted person. That's why exposing your child to water on your own is essential at first. Early exposure to the water with parents or caregivers creates a strong feeling of comfort, security, and confidence associated with the water.

Step 2. Get essential swimming equipment.

Swimming equipment is a great way to differentiate your workouts in the pool. Besides, there are lots of tools that can help beginners learn swimming easier and faster.

In my practice, I recommend adults get a kickboard, swimming noodles, fins, and goggles to speed up the learning-to-swim process. That set of equipment can help you learn different skills with ease, engage different muscle groups, and make your time swimming more fun and enjoyable.

For the full list of the essential swimming equipment for beginners, visit this article.

Step 3. Gain basic swimming skills.

The next point is to master basic swimming skills before learning complex strokes technique. Start by getting back and front float to build a solid swimming foundation. Once you understand how to float and the importance of the body position, start practicing treading water.

Treading water is more than a swimming foundational; but is a survival skill that will help you to navigate in the emergency situation in the water. It's an essential skill that will give you a sense of security and water confidence.

Step 4. Begin to learn swimming strokes.

Once you feel comfortable in both shallow and deep water, it's time to learn how to swim strokes. Both adults and children should prioritize learning to swim easier strokes first.

Typically, my clients would start from the front crawl and elementary backstroke. These two strokes have a simple technique that involves alternating arm and leg movements while breathing regularly. This simple technique makes it easy for beginners to learn and practice.

Step 5. Sign up for swimming lessons (if struggling).

Sometimes, it's best to seek professional help. A good instructor will be able to pinpoint your mistakes from afar, making the learning process easier, faster, and more efficient.

Additionally, many swimming pools offer group lessons, and it can be a good way to meet new people with similar goals.

If you are someone who learns better in a one-on-one setting, you can always find private lessons. Nowadays, many instructors are willing to travel to a home pool to teach swimming lessons in a more private and convenient setting.

Step 6. Enjoy the process.

As we said earlier, almost every adult and child can become a confident swimmer. Whether it's going to take you two weeks or two months, with enough practice, patience, and dedication, you'll get there. Don't beat yourself up, but rather enjoy the time you spend learning something new.

Now I want to hear from YOU!

What has been stopping you from learning to swim all this time?

Is there something that you struggle the most with?

Let me know in the comment below! I'll be happy to help!