Swim coach

7 benefits of working with a swim coach

Think that swim coaching is only for the super-speedy and for those entering races? Think again. Spending time with a coach can benefit everyone, from open-water newbies to seasoned outdoor swimmers, says Helen Webster.

One of the common misconceptions about swim coaches is that they are only for fast, competitive swimmers. We likely all had some swimming tuition at school, but for most of us that was a long time ago and our bodies, ability – and swim goals – have undoubtedly changed quite a lot since then.

A good coach can work with you on so much more than the mechanics of your stroke however. As an adult swimmer, you may want to work on developing confidence, on learning something new or towards achieving a specific goal, such as entering a swimming event or completing a certain distance. These are all things that a good open-water swimming coach or swimming teacher can help you achieve.

Here are the benefits of working with a swim coach

Improve confidence

Swimmers new to open-water can often by very nervous – and unsurprisingly, as unfamiliar environments and new challenges are scary enough, without adding in water! A coach can help you swim in open water for the first time and show you how to assess conditions, enter the water and swim safely; avoiding hazards, cold-water shock and hypothermia. It can also be very reassuring to have a safe pair of hands with you on your first swim to talk through any nerves with.

Overcome barriers

Stuck in a rut? Then working with a coach can help you move on from a position where you’ve plateaued or are not improving. A coach can look at your swimming and suggest next steps, or work with you on overcoming a barrier – such as being nervous to swim a bigger loop, or being worried about putting your face in the water.

Try something new

While many of us swim in open water for enjoyment and to be in nature, it can be fun to mix it up sometimes and this doesn’t necessarily mean training harder or faster! Why not find a coach and try a new stroke? Or visit a coach in another part of the country and ask them to take you on a guided session in a new stretch of water? This can be exhilarating and make you feel like a new swimmer again!

Learn front crawl

Many outdoor swimmers are breaststroke swimmers – and while there is nothing wrong with this, many (in my experience!) will get to a certain level and then be curious about trying front crawl. A coach will start with the basics and get you swimming a new stroke within a few sessions, which can be a handy tool for enjoying your swims, especially if you are interested in taking part in events where it is usually a faster, more efficient stroke.

Recover from injury

If you’ve had a break from swimming through sickness or injury, it can be tough to get going again and you may also be nervous. Once your GP or medical professional has given you the okay to swim again, a coach can help you take those first steps back to regaining strength and fitness and can also recommend land-based strength and conditioning sessions to complement your swimming.

Achieve a specific goal

Many swimmers have a goal that sparks a little magic when they think about it. Maybe it’s completing the 500m loop at a local venue, or going on a swim adventure, event or holiday. Working with a coach will mean these things can become achievable as they help you break down the stepping stones to your goals and help you on your journey!

Stay motivated

Even the most passionate of outdoor swimmers can reach a point where they feel a little ‘meh’ (for want of a better word!), especially in the winter when time in the water is short. Turning to a coach can give you renewed motivation and accountability – whether you choose 1-2-1 sessions or a group coached session.

Swim coach
© Daniel James Media

Find the right coach

Wondering how and where to find a coach? Well, this handy guide will help you but also check out the Outdoor Swimmer listings page you will find many coaches. Other things you can do:

  1. Ask at your local outdoor swimming venue or leisure centre who they recommend or have working with them.
  2. Talk to other swimmers either in person or online. Who have they had success with?
  3. If there are a few coaches locally, think about what you are looking for and see what they offer. Are they the right fit for you?
  4. Make sure your coach is qualified and experienced. All coaches should hold relevant STA qualifications and should be registered and insured.
  5. Ask how they coach. Will they be on the side? Or on/in the water with you? Also, do they have access to a private coaching area if you are nervous or self-conscious?

Get the best from your coach

Make sure you have a great session by making sure you get the best from your coach! Here are some tips:

  1. Think about your goals before the session and know what you want to achieve.
  2. Share your goals with your coach! If there is something specific you want to do or improve, they can plan a session around that for you.
  3. Don’t be scared to be honest. No concern or question around open water is too stupid and likelihood is, you won’t be the first!
  4. If you don’t understand something, ask your coach to explain again or in a slightly different way.
  5. Ask your coach if they also offer group sessions or workshops. These can be a good way to meet other swimmers and are also usually less expensive than 1-2- 1 sessions.

Photos by Daniel James Media

Helen Webster is a Level 2 STA Open-Water Swimming Coach and RLSS Open-Water lifeguard; helenwebsterswimcoaching.com

This article is from the Outdoor Swimmer Training Guide 2023.

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