If I had a nickel for every time this question gets brought up. Unfortunately, there is no magic number of days or lessons that will lead you to become a swimmer. Everyone is different and every learning experience is different. As a guide, the average adult can learn in about 20 hours of lessons while a child will learn over the course of years. As mentioned, everybody’s experience will vary.
Many factors affect the rate at which someone learns to swim: age, structure of lessons, frequency of lessons, and fitness level.
The age of the person taking swim lessons will always be a factor. In general, adults will learn at a faster rate than children. Due to this, lessons are normally structured differently for the two. Adults can grasp concepts and techniques at a faster rate than children allowing them to learn to swim in a shorter time period. Children’s minds are still growing and do not have the background of an older brain to build off of when learning to swim. Due to this, children will take longer to learn, over the course of years. It is important to understand not to rush your child’s progress as it can be counterproductive.
Structure of Lessons:
Are you taking lessons in a group setting or privately? Since learning styles differ with each student, it is best to know in what setting would be most beneficial. Small group settings are the most popular option in class offerings and are typically cheaper than private lessons. This could be the option for yourself or your child you work well in a group environment. Also those who learn by seeing and then repeating would fit in this class. Private lessons would be the choice for someone who needs more one-on-one instruction or learn mostly by doing and getting immediate and direct feedback.
Lessons for children are normally structured to learn steps over a period of time such as months or years. The first steps are normally the “basics” of swimming. Some parents feel as though this is all their child needs to be a swimmer. Other parents keep their child in the lessons until they graduate the program; this is the preferred option to better assure that the child understands the full concept of swimming.
Frequency of Lessons:
The frequency that you take swim lessons play a big part in how fast you pick up the aspects of swimming. Studies show that it takes 10,000 repetitions to learn a new skill. However, you can’t expect to fully learn that skill or have it become ingrained in your mind if those repetitions are spread out over a long period of time. The repetitions are the way that your brain and body learn that that movement or skill is successfully completed a certain way and for it to feel normal. On the flip side, you do not want to cram everything in one lesson, as you want to give your brain and body time to process the skill.
Taking 2 or 3 lessons a week would be ideal to learn new skills or to further develop those that you already know. Continuous exposure and completing technique drills or repetitions allow for your subconscious brain to in grain that skill or technique. Also, the fact that the ingraining process requires you to actually do the skill. Doing it once or just watching it be done is not beneficial. The more you do something, the quicker you catch on and learn that something.
Your fitness level will play a part in how long it takes you to learn to swim. If you do not have the physical capability to swim a decent length because you are out of shape, how can a swim instructor know that you are able to successfully swim? One big aspect of your fitness level will be health of your respiratory system. If your body can’t successfully circulate oxygen because you are out of shape, your muscles will not have the strength to complete the drills much less swim distances. It is recommended that everyone participate in some sort of physical activity each day. Swimming is a great activity and is very beneficial to your body.
After looking over these factors and seeing how they apply to you, you can then make a plan for yourself. Remember to set realistic expectations as no one will learn to swim overnight. Also, don’t try to cram everything into a short period of time; spreading everything out over an exaggerated period of time might also be counter-productive.
Here at SwimRVA, our instructors are more than welcome to talk with you about your progress and learning rate. We provide progress reports so that you can know where you stand in the lessons and with your own expectations. Swimming is a great activity for everyone, and you should be able to enjoy it too. Take your first steps towards swimming and look at some swim lessons.