Our guide to swimming
Jane McGuire

Our guide to swimming

Published April 28 2015

Michael Phelps once said, ‘Swimming is normal for me. I’m relaxed. I’m comfortable and I know my surroundings. It’s my home.’ Whether you are learning for fun, preparing for a competition, or looking for a change in career there’s nothing like taking a dip in the pool. Did you know swimming can help reduce stress, strengthen the lungs and heart and tone nearly every muscle in the body? You might not be the next Michael Phelps or Ian Thorpe, but what are you waiting for? Dig out those goggles and make a splash with a swimming course.


Swimming for fun

It’s a fact of life that we all have to exercise to stay fit and healthy. Swimming is one of the best ways to do this; in fact, an hour of swimming can burn up to 650 calories. Proven to improve psychological well being, this low impact form of exercise is great for anyone who is pregnant or recovering from an injury.

As fun as swimming is, it is also a potentially lifesaving skill, so most parents will enrol their children into swimming lessons from a young age. Swimming is also part of the National Curriculum in the UK, which means by the age of 11, all children should be able to competently swim 25 metres and be able to demonstrate simple life saving techniques.

Saying that, it’s never too late to learn how to swim; there are plenty of adult beginner’s classes available for adult learners.


Swimming as a career

Most professional swimmers will have started from a young age, so you might be too late to win a gold medal in the next Olympic Games. However, if you are a strong swimmer and looking to find a job where you can use your skills, there are plenty of options available.

Swimming teacher - As a teacher you will need to be a confident swimmer in order to gain your ASA or STA teaching qualification. As mentioned, the popularity of swimming classes both in and out of school means there will always be a demand for swimming instructors in the UK. As a swimming teacher you can work independently in schools and clubs, or be employed by a leisure centre.


Swimming coach - Pretty similar to a swimming teacher, as a coach you will spend your time training and developing competitive swimmers, rather than teaching beginners in the shallow end. As a swimming coach you will need to have an in-depth understanding of the strokes, strength and stamina needed to enhance a swimmers performance. Swimming teachers and coaches are usually paid on an hourly rate, which can range from £10-£30 per hour.

Lifeguard - In order to gain the relevant qualifications to work as a lifeguard you will need to be able to pass an intense swimming test. This will involve a timed swim and a task where you will be expected to implement relevant life saving techniques. Like swimming teachers, lifeguards will always be in demand in pools and beaches all over the UK. The average salary for a lifeguard ranges from £12,500-£18,000, and a lifeguard supervisor can earn up to £29,000 a year.


Other careers - You might be expected to pass a swimming test if you are working in any job that might involve coming into contact with water in an emergency. This includes working in the Navy, on a cruise ship or as part of a cabin crew.


But I can already swim?

Swimming courses are not just for beginners!

Improver courses - An improver course is for the swimmers who have already mastered the basics, but want to get better. This will involve aspects of stroke technique and training to build stamina and strength to improve your performance.

Location based courses – If you are training for a triathlon, or an open water swim, it might be worth taking a look at the relevant courses. Even the most competent swimmer will struggle for the first time out of the pool, so it’s a good idea to get prepared.

Diving – If you are looking to gain your diving qualifications before you go on holiday, or need to learn how to complete rescue diving for your job there are a number of courses to help. These will run through the planning and preparation needed to complete a safe dive, as well as performing diver rescues and assists. 


Five famous UK swimmers

If you need that final splash of inspiration to jump into the deep end and get swimming, take a look at five of GB’s most accomplished athletes.

1. Rebecca Adlington – a retired English freestyle swimmer, Adlington became a household name when she won two gold Olympic medals in the 2008 Games. Adlington went on to win two bronze medals in the women’s 400m and 800m in the 2012 London Games.


2. Kerri-Anne Payne – a marathon open water swimmer, Payne is famous for her long distance swimming. With a number of achievements under her belt, she became an Olympic silver medallist for her 10km open water event in the 2008 Games.


3. Mark Foster – now retired, Foster is one of the most successful British swimmers of all time. With a career spanning over 20 years, Foster won six World Championship titles, two Commonwealth titles and ten European titles.


4. Sharron Davies – Winning a silver medal in the 1980 Olympic Games and two gold medals in the 1978 Commonwealth games, Davies was awarded an MBE for her ‘services for swimming’ the 1993 Honours.


5. James Gibson – competing in a number of breastroke events, in 2003 Gibson became a world champion in the 50m long course. Awarded an MBE in the 2004 honours, Gibson now coaches the teams at Loughborough University, where his swimming career began.


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