Should I continue with my swimming lessons?
November 1, 2012 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Should I continue my swimming lessons? I'm an exchange student, and I'm thinking of spending part of my grant on finally getting a good grasp of swimming, but not sure if it's worth it. Moar details to follow.

So, I guess it won't hurt to give specifics, but I'm spending a year abroad in Berlin as part of an exchange scheme. Part of the scheme is a very generous grant, which with my student loans, gives me a weekly budget far above what I could have at my home university. I still need to be a little careful with how I spend it, but by and large it's pretty comfortable.

I say this because I feel like I owe it to myself to use this money to generally make this year as rich as possible with having great food and going to nice bars with great company, day trips to nearby lovely places etc etc. So, my friends who are here with me poke fun at me a little for choosing to spend it on swimming lessons instead.

Where I grew up, swimming lessons weren't a thing. The only reason I have experience of swimming when I was young is because my best friend's family had a membership to the local Hilton, and I would sneak in under pretence of being his brother. He taught me how to manage a very sloppy front crawl that gets me from point A to point B, but that's it. There's a lot of wasted energy and thrashing about involved.

So, I decided to get a grip on swimming and had my first lesson tonight. My instructor was great, and she had a great feel for when we could laugh at my getting tired easily or prodigious gift at avoiding synchronicity at all costs. The lessons are 30 euros an hour, and I get the feeling this is quite standard, and she seems to know her stuff.

Basically, are swimming lessons worth it? Or can I, with enough repeated visits to a swimming pool, considering I'm not a total beginner and not scared of the water or anything, kind of eventually get better? Because I won't be able to afford more than 10 lessons, in the space for my budget, I don't think.

Just to give you an idea of what my ability today was like, I found it really difficult to focus as suggested on my kicking. My instructor tells me my arm movements are not ideal, but they get the job done, whereas it's my general core and legs that let me down. I also just find focusing on my arms, fluid leg movements AND breathing from side to side impossibly hard.

Anyway, AskMeFi seem to have a good couple of recent questions about swimming, so I'll look into those, but from what I've said, would you suggest I keep at the lessons? If I keep it at every two weeks, it wouldn't cut away at my weekly budget too bad, and I'd still go swimming 3 times a week otherwise anyway. Also, I'm pretty terribly unfit and this is a good way to keep fit in the cold weather.

I guess the answer's pretty obvious, I thought I'd hold out just in case people have experienced it fairly easy to build up a good technique without extensive teaching and DVDs etc instead.

On a side note, if I were to do them, would it be better to do the 10 lessons in a short 10 week stretch, or stretch them out between weeks? Maybe it doesn't make a considerable difference either way but I thought I'd ask.
posted by lethologues to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's your money...would you be joining a swim team or doing this by yourself? I played almost every sport when I was younger. Swimming was one of them and no one starts out perfect. You get better and better the more you swim.
posted by Autumn89 at 3:31 PM on November 1, 2012

Knowing how to swim is absolutely a useful life skill and it is totally worth it to learn to swim. And knowing how to swim well is a really nice feeling and a great workout. I personally, would take swimming lessons for really cheap at the local YMCA, and not in Berlin as an exchange student, but it's your money and you get to pick what to do with it!

(Swimming is one of those things that is really quite difficult to learn via DVDs or online video, mainly because you really can't do both at the same time.)
posted by sawdustbear at 3:35 PM on November 1, 2012

I think learning to swim is worth it, but if you're not a "special case" (i.e. you haven't had a lot of trouble learning--and it doesn't sound like you have, these things just take time--,aren't terrified of the water, etc), you could easily take a group class somewhere at home for less money at a time when you don't have all of these other unique experiences at your fingertips.

I took swimming classes at a local community college very inexpensively (like $30--the class was a semester long but only 1 credit and the place charged per credit.) You could also try the YMCA.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:38 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Basically, are swimming lessons worth it?

Yes. I've never been a member of a swim team, but swimming lessons were worth it to me, even the ones I took as a teenager after I had already known the "basics" of swimming.
posted by deanc at 3:47 PM on November 1, 2012

Absolutely. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise, and improving your technique will vastly improve the benefits you receive from a regular swim.

Additionally, the stronger you are in the water, the safer. While it is not a 100% guarantee against drowning, the better a swimmer you are, the less chance you will have of getting into a bad situation in the water (and the more chance that should you get into a bad situation, you will be able to get out of it again). It might even be of benefit to take some basic lifesaving.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:53 PM on November 1, 2012

I think you should take swimming lessons but I'm not sure if you need 10 of them to learn to swim a forward crawl competently. Once you have the basic mechanics, it's mostly a matter of doing it over and over. Can you spend some of the money on a membership to the pool complex and just go every day? Maybe a few more lessons if you really feel like it or want to learn other strokes (or to get really really good).
posted by marylynn at 4:33 PM on November 1, 2012

Why not take another lesson or two and then spend some time just practicing by yourself? Then you'll be in a better position to assess whether there's something in particular you need/want help with, and you get your exercise. From personal experience with casual swimming and other activities, I'm not convinced that lessons necessarily scale well over a short time-frame. (However, I am biased -- when I was living near Berlin I was poor and constantly busy, so discretionary money for daytrips sounds way too appealing to pass up for lessons you might not find useful.)

It's a bit hard to tell, but I don't think the OP is going home to somewhere with easy/cheap access to swimming lessons.
posted by teremala at 4:36 PM on November 1, 2012

Thanks a lot for your answers guys!

marylynn - this is kind of what I was thinking. It's also that I'm not sure how much of this is down to just me not being that physically fit, so the more I go, the better an idea I'll have of how necessary they are I guess.

I should clarify that I'm from the UK, and there are equivalent lessons I can take in my local council sports place kinda thing, but it's complicated because of me studying in a different city when it's term time etc etc. There are group lessons in my university city, but I'm not confident enough for that right now.

And memberships are hard to come by in Berlin - the done thing is to buy a 25-er Karte that lets you go 25 times, and they're about 50 and a bit for students. So, 3 times a week, that should last me for about two months, which isn't too bad I guess?

Teremala - thanks, I think that's what I'll try to do now. I get the feeling I'll decide not to carry on after a few weeks - as long as I reach a stage of basic competency/fitness/efficiency and feeling comfortable doing a good few laps, I figure I can refine things more when I'm back at university in group lessons.
posted by lethologues at 4:44 PM on November 1, 2012

With swimming lessons, you seem to have hit on the perfect cure for being maybe a bit uncoordinated (trouble turning head for breath) and maybe a bit out of shape (getting tired)
posted by Cranberry at 4:59 PM on November 1, 2012

I would recommend enough one-on-one lessons so you get the basic techniques for breaststroke, free-style, side swimming and backstroke. Getting your technique good-enough is really worth taking lessons for.
posted by the fish at 5:04 PM on November 1, 2012

Do it! Swimming is fun, and drowning isn't. YOLO
posted by oceanjesse at 7:21 PM on November 1, 2012

If it were me, I'd ditch the swimming lessons and follow Total Immersion. I'm a beginner swimmer and came across the book recommendation here on AskMe a few months ago and it's completely changed my stroke. I attend a weekly triathlon swim group and the coach on deck last week asked what I was doing because my stroke was completely different and in every way better. I found I progressed more not by listening so much to others telling me what to do but by learning the drills and feeling what to do.

The book goes beyond just talking about form and tells you why the form matters. It also gives you step by step drills that allow you to get really comfortable in the water. I actually bought the original book but he's since come out with a revised edition that has completely different drills. If I were you, I'd buy both books since I think there's value in both sets of drills, and buy the companion DVD, "Freestyle: Made Easy". I haven't seen it yet but I'm under the impression it has shots of some of the drills. I just ordered it used for $20 USD from Amazon. You could probably buy all of that used online for the cost of a single lesson.

Swimming's awesome. Have fun!
posted by funkiwan at 9:45 PM on November 1, 2012

I taught myself to swim freestyle pretty well recently using the technical advice from this australian website.
So I'd practice on my own and take a few 'master classes' with a teacher to rectify things you aren't aware of.
posted by joost de vries at 11:42 PM on November 1, 2012

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