Guest Blogger Wanda Stockdale: It's never too late to learn how to swim


Learning to swim, can be a daunting prospect. The first piece of advice I would offer is, tell those you know of your plan to learn to swim. You may find yourself receiving questioning responses and raised eyebrows, as I did. You are never "too old" to learn to swim, swimming lessons are not the preserve of children. Supportive friends and family will prove invaluable on your journey. 

Secondly find lessons that suit you.  Fewer leisure centres offer lessons for adults, then children. I once, inadvertently gate-crashed a children's lesson! Things to consider are, are the lessons aimed at the level you're at? Can you work with your teacher, do they listen and respect you? Good communication is key, inform your swim teacher of what you want to achieve, they are your lessons, but be realistic. Listen to their advice too.

Lessons at my local leisure centre were beset with frustration.  My fellow students, were at different levels and the teacher didn't really understand my health issues. This culminated in me, flinging a kickboard, across the pool! Fortunately, I was able to find another a swim school, which was prove excellent. 

Purchase swimming kit you're comfortable wearing. You find yourself feeling self-conscious, I find bright costumes, give me more confidence. If you feel uncomfortable, wrap your towel round you, mine has "Wanda, Swimming like a fish" on in, which raises a few smiles. If you use a mobility aid, such as I do, you may also feel judged by the fact you have a disability. Get in the pool and show people what you can do! I will never be able to run, but I can happily swim 2.5km!

Learning to swim is not easy, there may be times where you feel you have plateaued. This where support from others and having a good swim teacher can be invaluable. Enjoy your lessons and socialise with other swimmers.

Practice what you've learnt, outside of lessons. If people make negative remarks, explain that you are learning to swim and ask them what advice they would offer you? Don't be put off by the attitudes of others!

Who can swim? Anybody, absolutely anyone can give swimming a go. Young and not so young, male, female, disabled etc. Swimming is an amazing sport, which benefits both physical and mental health. I could never of imagined, when I stood terrified, on the side of the pool in 2015 awaiting my first lesson, that I achieve so much, through swimming. 

Ensure swim teachers and lifeguards are made aware of any support you might need. They can't help you, unless you ask. My inhaler, sits on the pool side along with my nebuliser which is in a waterproof bag, keeping my walking stick company. Many pools now have hoists. Most pools also run male/female only sessions. Some pools also now offer, reduced price entry if you have a disability

I love the freedom of being in the pool. I often feel that I have left much of the symptoms, particularly the stiffness I experience, in my joints, on the side of the pool with my water bottle. I still experience pain and I always will, but I can move in ways, that would be impossible on land. I can even do a handstand!

Learning to swim has been one of the best things I ever did for myself and I would encourage everyone to get down to their local pool and give it a go. You never know what you are capable of, until you try.