Overcoming Anxiety when you are Learning to Swim

Overcoming Anxiety When you Are Learning to Swim

When the sun is out and it’s a beautiful day outside, slipping into a nice cool swimming pool has long since been a passion of mine. I find swimming and being in the water to be almost therapeutic. I feel like I’m floating and I’ve just lost about 100 lbs. And because of this, I’ve always had a passion for showing others how to succeed in and around the water. It’s even more rewarding for me when those people are struggling with overcoming swimming anxiety.

I’ve been teaching swimming for a few years now and I’m still always shocked when I meet people who tell me that they can’t swim.

They can’t swim.

I’m always puzzled by this sort of thing because in actuality, they would be able to swim. They just haven’t learned to swim.

They made that choice to NOT learn to swim.

Whatever might be holding them back, they aren’t swimming for some reason and they are holding back on destroying this simple limitation that they have in their life. And it’s usually because they are scared.

I will always remember one person who I taught. It was this man, how about we call him Randy?

He was about 5′ 11″ and you could tell, he was just the kind of guy that gets what he wants in life. He drove a gorgeous Porsche. Had a beautiful blonde bombshell of a wife. Wore expensive suits. Looked like he was the offspring of Ryan Reynolds. Like, damn, this guy had it all.

He had it ALL. And he came to me asking if I could teach him to swim.

Since it was my job, I really didn’t have much of a say in the matter. So of course I told him yes.

Right after our first lesson, I realized that I had bitten off a BIG challenge.

This guy could not even get his chest into the water without seizing up and panicking.

The first lesson was actually pretty hilarious. Because we stood in chest-shoulder deep water for about an hour. People watching would think that we were just standing around being lazy.

I asked him what he wanted to get out of our lessons together, because I had two more sessions with this guy and somehow, I needed to make him into a competent swimmer.

He told me that he had accomplished all of the goals he wanted in life.

Success in Business.

Success in Relationships.

Success in Keeping Healthy.

But he had always been held back by his fear of the water.

He owned a small speedboat that he liked to drive around out at the lake where his cabin was.

And he said he could never fully enjoy it because he had to much anxiety around the water.

What did we do about it?

I ended the lesson by telling him what we were going to do. We were going to accomplish his goal, no matter what. And with that said, I gave him some homework. For the next week, until I saw him again, he was not allowed to use the following phrases:

  • Can’t
  • I’m too scared to do that
  • Won’t

When I was younger I began to realize the power that words can have over your psyche.

The first step to changing something is believing that it can be done (Thanks Tony Robbins ;))

So this guy came back to my lessons and with his new found beliefs, we began to work through some exercises I had designed to take this guy’s paralyzing fear away.

Firstly, we went to the inclined shallow pool and I had him lie down with his ears in the water while his back laid on the pool bottom.

He immediately seized up. So I sat him up and explained to him that the first thing you need to obtain before you learn swimming is to have some sort of a sense of comfort. Your BODY LANGUAGE is super tense, and you won’t be able to get yourself to float if your entire body is more rigid than a brick wall.

The next time he laid down, he used conscious effort to relax his entire body. He kept his neck relaxed. His shoulders relaxed. He didn’t fuse his knee caps to his legs while he kicked anymore. When he breathed, he kept his neck and shoulders loose while he turned to the side to breathe.

This was the key to getting him to swim I immediately discovered because everything began to get easy for us.

Randy had decided in his mind to shut down the negative feedback that he had been providing before. He realized that he had basically hardwired into his brain that this task he was proceeding to do was impossible.

And then he consciously chose to use relaxed body language while we was attempting floating, kicking, breathing, and eventually a full front crawl. And it was now easy for him because he was doing it while remaining fully relaxed.

The keys for anyone to make learning swimming an easy task, even when you’re terrified are:

  • Making a solid and concrete goal and refusing to give up until it’s achieved
  • Making a commitment to not bashing your self-esteem and to not making any negative beliefs for yourself that can and will hold you back
  • Watching your body language as you try the new exercises and making a focussed and conscious effort to keep things loose, especially the shoulders and neck

There is plenty of ways that you can overcome your anxiety in the water. And they all come back to making sure that you just feel comfortable with what’s going on when you’re in the water. I have another article that you can check out that goes deeper into how you can keep building that comfort in the pool here:

How to Build Comfort in the Water

If you enjoyed this article, please let me know in the comments below! If you take my advice and find that it truly helps you with overcoming swimming anxiety, please let me know.

Also if you have any feedback, good or bad, please fire it off to me! I’d really appreciate it.

For more, head over to swimmingfearless.com



  1. Your article was wonderful. I decided finally after fighting my phobia of driving and getting my license 6 years ago. Being an ex New Yorker living in Midwest we’re it’s slower I needed this. Having diabetes and inflammation I know the swimming will help my symptoms. My work gives incentives through wellness programs so now I finally signed up and start tomorrow morning. Thanks 🙏 for your article and putting all this information out there. My yoga 🧘🏻‍♀️ is the way I start my day so before I hit the pool I will be aligned.
    Namaste 🙏

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