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Top Beginner Swim Tips For Kids and Adults

A child swimming underwater in a pool wears blue goggles and smiles at the camera. Bubbles and water reflections surround the child, giving the scene a playful and refreshing ambiance.

Are you new to swimming? It can be overwhelming when you're just getting started in the water. In this post, we're going to share some really helpful beginner swim tips to get you on the right path. Whether you’re overcoming a fear of water or simply aiming to swim more confidently, this article is your starting point. Here, we’ve distilled practical advice into easy-to-follow steps designed specifically for beginners. You’ll find essential techniques, safety guidelines, and encouragement to propel you from a hesitant beginner to becoming a confident swimmer without overwhelming you with details. Get ready to make a splash and enjoy the fun and transformative experience of learning to swim. 

Key Takeaways 

  • It’s important to find professional guidance and support (like at Gold Medal Swim School) when starting your swimming journey. This provides technical assistance, streamlined progress, and a supportive community. 
  • Equipping yourself with the right gear. This includes things like a well-fitted swimsuit, goggles, and swim cap, along with essential swimming tools like kickboards and fins. All of these can enhance your swimming experience and technique. 
  • Consistency in practice, along with setting SMART goals and tracking progress, is key to improving swimming skills, technique, and overall proficiency in the water. 

Let's Dive In... 

Embarking on the journey to become a proficient swimmer can be as thrilling as it is daunting. The path to swimming proficiency is paved with challenges, but with the right guidance and a sprinkle of determination, the rewards are well worth it. 

The experts at Gold Medal Swim School, founded by Olympian Mike Troy and led by Olympic Coach Mike Walker, have been igniting the passion for swimming in both young and adult swimmers. Their expertise has been very helpful to beginners, helping to make swimming fun and rewarding. With their insights, you’ll feel secure as you step into the pool, ready to transform trepidation into triumph. Be sure to also check out our helpful guide on how to learn to swim

Seek Great Guidance and Coaching and Support 

Diving into the world of swimming without proper guidance is like setting sail without a compass. You might feel insecure about your strokes or even how to begin. It's important to find expert swim instructors who really get what you're aiming for and understand if you're a bit unsure at first. 

At Gold Medal Swim School, every coach is well-versed in the language of the pool, offering you not just lessons, but a supportive environment that nurtures your aquatic ambitions. The camaraderie of a swim community, such as the one at Gold Medal Swim School, is very helpful in reaching your swim goals. 

Engaging with qualified coaches and resources can provide: 

  • Technical guidance 
  • Personalized workouts 
  • Streamlined progress 
  • Enhanced stroke efficiency 
  • Enjoyable journey 

Taking classes from a qualified swim school is a must. In addition, apps like MySwimPro can further support your progress. This offers a digital coach that accompanies you, ensuring each ripple you make is a step towards your goal. 

Equip Yourself with Essential Gear 

The right swimwear isn’t just about looking good; it’s about comfort and effectiveness. Essential swimming equipment acts as a second skin, creating a symbiotic relationship with the water. A well-fitted swimsuit, swimming goggles that guard against the glare, and a swim cap to tame your long hair are the basic swim gear that lays the foundation for a distraction-free workout. Beyond the basics, accessories like kickboards and fins are not mere gimmicks but tools that refine your technique. The kickboard, for example, allows you to focus on the flutter kick and lower body, isolating the movement to perfect the propulsion. 

Some essential swimming tools include: 

  • Pull buoys and swim paddles, which fine-tune your upper body’s strength and stroke technique 
  • A mesh bag to carry these essentials 
  • A snorkel to aid your breathing practice 

Having these tools on hand ensures that you’re always prepared to dive into your next swimming lesson. 

Discover Why You Want to Learn How to Swim

Standing by the pool deck and watching swimmers glide through the water, might make you want to learn to swim. If you know your reason for wanting to learn to swim, it can help motivate you. Maybe you're looking to get into shape and have better health. Maybe, it’s the conquest of a fear that once held them back. Understanding your motivation is the first step to helping you get started. 

Your swimming journey could be transformative. Imagine the doors that open when you can: 

  • join family and friends in aquatic adventures 
  • face underwater with confidence instead of trepidation 
  • experience the tranquility of swimming 
  • feel the adrenaline of open water swimming 

Your motive will fuel your progress and inspire a leap of faith into new sports and life experiences. 

Develop Efficient Swimming Strokes 

Swimming is supposed to be fun and is also great exercise. There are a lot of different strokes you'll learn over time. 

The different strokes in swimming are: 

  • Freestyle 
  • Breaststroke 
  • Backstroke 
  • Butterfly 

Each stroke has its unique rhythm and flow. As you practice using these strokes, remember that the goal is not to become a perfect swimmer overnight but to swim faster and with more ease over time. 

Freestyle Technique 

Freestyle, often the first stroke learned, is the basic of swimming techniques – versatile and dynamic. It’s about coordinating the propulsion from your legs with the pulling power of your arms. As your body cuts through the water, remember to rotate your shoulders and hips as one, breathing in a way that keeps one eye in and one eye out of the water. 

Whether you choose to breathe every few strokes or practice the bilateral technique, the key to swimming freestyle efficiently is to keep your kicking strong and steady. 

Breaststroke Basics 

Breaststroke is often regarded as one of the most technically refined strokes, requiring synchronized movements of the arms and legs along with precise breathing techniques. At Gold Medal Swim School, our instructors break down the breaststroke into manageable parts, focusing initially on the "kick and glide" motion that is central to mastering this style. We teach the importance of keeping your movements smooth and coordinated, promoting efficiency, and reducing resistance in the water. Our lessons consist of structured exercises that gradually build up the stamina and technique necessary for executing the breaststroke effectively, making it an enjoyable and rewarding experience for swimmers at any level. 

Mastering breaststroke is about learning to harness the power of this kicking movement to swim faster and more efficiently. 

Backstroke Fundamentals 

The backstroke, with its unique aspect of swimming on the back, offers an alternative swimming technique that emphasizes coordination, timing, and relaxation. Gold Medal Swim School introduces learners to the backstroke through a step-by-step approach, beginning with the basic principle of floating and maintaining balance on the back. We emphasize the significance of a steady, supple kick, and the necessity of a continuous arm motion, resembling a windmill, that propels the swimmer forward efficiently. Proper head position, with the eyes looking straight up, and the application of a rhythmic breathing pattern are crucial elements that our instructors reinforce. By focusing on these fundamentals, our students develop a solid foundation in the backstroke, characterized by smooth, effortless movements that maximize propulsion and minimize drag. 

The backstroke’s secret lies in the finishing pull – a moment of inward palm rotation that seals the deal on propulsion. 

Proper Breathing Techniques 

Proper breathing is a fundamental aspect of all swimming strokes, and at Gold Medal Swim School, our swimming lessons pay close attention to teaching the correct breathing techniques that enhance performance and ensure safety in the water. Starting with drills that focus on breathing to the side in freestyle or timing the breath in breaststroke, our instructors guide students through exercises designed to improve lung capacity and control. Key to mastering breathing is learning how to exhale underwater, which prevents water inhalation and helps maintain a relaxed and rhythmic breathing pattern. Our lessons include practicing blowing bubbles under the water, turning the head smoothly to the side for a breath in freestyle, and coordinating the breath with the stroke in breaststroke and butterfly. By emphasizing the importance of proper breathing, we help swimmers of all levels increase their comfort in the water, leading to more efficient and enjoyable swimming experiences. 

Remember, before you even attempt floating, your first dip into the pool should be to practice dipping your face in and taking deep, controlled breaths. Check out this article to learn more about improve your swim technique

Learning to Float Correctly 

Learning to stay afloat is the first step to becoming one with the water. Floating is the cornerstone of swimming – it’s what allows you to rest in the water and find your balance. Whether on your back or face underwater, the aim is to keep your body parallel to the surface, allowing the water to support you. 

As you learn this art of buoyancy, you might find tools like snorkels helpful in maintaining alignment and improving your comfort level, especially if sinking hips are your nemesis. 

Set Achievable Goals and Track Progress 

Setting goals in your swimming journey serves as your guiding beacon through the fog towards your end goal. These goals should be SMART: 

  • Specific enough to provide direction 
  • Measurable to track your progress 
  • Achievable to keep you motivated 
  • Relevant to your swimming aspirations 
  • Time-bound to create a sense of urgency 

Whether your aim is to reduce your lap time or simply swim with more confidence, setting clear targets helps. Using a device, like a smartwatch, to monitor your progress can help make your goals more achievable. 

But it’s not just about the destination; the journey matters too. Recognizing small achievements and establishing process goals can foster a sense of accomplishment. Here are some examples: 

  • Swimming a certain number of times each week 
  • Increasing your distance gradually 
  • Improving your technique 
  • Setting personal best times 

It’s these milestones, no matter how small, that pave the path to your larger aspirations. Keeping a record of your workouts, distances, and times can serve as a motivator, a testament to the strides you’ve made in your fitness level and swimming progress. 

Consistency is Key 

Consistency is the golden rule in swimming, as with any skill. It’s not about the occasional plunge but the steady laps that build the path to improvement. Each stroke you practice embeds itself in your muscle memory, making the complex movements second nature. 

Committing to swim several times per week has several benefits: 

  • Fortifies your technique 
  • Strengthens muscle groups that are less utilized on land 
  • Transforms you into a more efficient and confident swimmer 

Master the Basics: Breathing and Floating 

Revisiting the basics is a foundational step forward. Proper breathing and floating are the ABCs of swimming; without them, you’re swimming against the current. 

In the shallow end, practice dipping your face in and turning your head to breathe with one goggle out of the water. This practice lays the groundwork for smooth transitions and ensures that you remain calm and composed as you learn to navigate the deeper waters. 

Safety First: Tips for New Swimmers 

While the pool offers fun, safety should always underpin your swimming sessions. As a beginner, it’s important to swim in areas where lifeguards watch over the waters and to have a companion or a friend to keep an eye on you. This supervision and companionship is important, ensuring that help is at hand should you find yourself in deep water. 

New swimmers should avoid distractions and focus on the task at hand – whether it’s perfecting their stroke or simply staying afloat. The pool deck is not the place for multi-tasking with cell phones; it’s a space for undivided attention, where every splash and every breath are a step towards becoming a better swimmer. Incorporating safety tips, such as these, can help ensure a positive swimming experience. 

Overcoming Challenges and Common Mistakes 

The journey towards swimming success is full of challenges and common mistakes. Starting with the correct techniques is crucial because it’s the repeated motions that etch into your muscle memory, and unlearning incorrect form later can be like swimming upstream. To prevent the fear of drowning, becoming comfortable with floating and staying relaxed in the water is essential. 

As a beginner, your focus should be on honing your stroke, breathing, and kicking techniques, rather than pushing yourself to cover distances or speed. By avoiding pitfalls such as incorrect breathing habits and overreliance on upper body strength, you’ll conserve energy and keep your swimming journey buoyant and enjoyable. Incorporating swimming workouts into your routine can help you achieve this balance. 

Common Mistakes Beginners Make When Learning to Swim 

As you embark on your swimming journey, being aware of the common pitfalls can keep your head above water. Skipping the basics, like not taking the time to feel comfortable in the water, can lead to a rocky start. Breathing is your lifeline in the pool; neglecting to focus on the basics can leave you gasping for air instead of gliding with ease. 

Addressing these common errors will help you avoid them and stay on track in your swimming journey. 

1. Holding Breath Underwater

Holding your breath underwater may seem like a natural response, but it’s a common misstep that can lead to panic and exhaustion. Understanding how to exhale underwater is fundamental and can be a liberating experience. Embrace the rhythm of breathing in as your face breaks the surface and exhaling deeply when it’s submerged. 

This practice not only enhances your swimming performance but also keeps you calm and centered, even in deep water. 

2. Rigid Body Movement

Water is fluid, and so should be your movement within it. A rigid body acts as an anchor, dragging down the potential for effortless swimming. To glide through the water with ease, your entire body must be relaxed and flexible, allowing the water to guide you as much as you navigate through it. 

This flexibility in movement is what separates the struggling beginner from the swimmer who seems to become part of the water itself. 

3. Overreliance on Swimming Aids

Although swimming aids are valuable learning tools, they can become a hindrance if relied upon too much. The journey to becoming an independent swimmer requires that you sometimes swim without equipment, like kickboards. By gradually reducing your reliance on these aids, you encourage your body to adapt and develop the strength and skills needed to swim unassisted. 

This independence in the water is a crucial step towards true swimming proficiency and an essential part of the swimming journey. 

4. Unrealistic Expectations

It’s easy to dive in with high expectations, but swimming, like any new skill, requires patience and time. Starting with unrealistic expectations can result in disappointment and feelings of defeat. Understand that progress in the pool is measured in strokes, not leaps, and that each session brings you closer to your goals. 

Celebrate every breath you master and every lap you finish – these are the true markers of your swimming journey. 

5. Not Seeking Professional Instruction

While self-teaching may seem like a viable route, navigating the waters without professional help can lead to a floundering of technique. Qualified instructors act as guardians of your swimming technique, making sure you develop proper habits from the beginning. They provide the guidance needed to develop a stroke that is both effective and safe, helping you to avoid the common pitfalls that many self-taught swimmers face. 

6. Ignoring Personal Limitations

The water does not discriminate, and neither should you when it comes to acknowledging your personal limitations. Overexerting yourself or neglecting your body’s signals can result in injuries or burnout. It’s crucial to listen to your body and respect your current fitness level, gradually increasing the intensity of your swims. 

This awareness and self-respect can mean the difference between a sustainable swimming practice and one that is short-lived. 

7. Failing to Practice Regularly

The road to swimming success is paved with regular practice. Skipping sessions or having an inconsistent schedule can greatly hinder your progress. Consistent practice helps reinforce the skills you’ve learned and build the muscle memory necessary for smooth, efficient swimming. 

Whether it’s a few laps a day or a dedicated session a few times a week, regularity in the pool is what sharpens the swimmer’s edge. 

8. Avoiding Feedback

Feedback serves as your guiding compass towards improved swimming. Shying away from constructive criticism or choosing to ignore the advice of instructors and peers can stunt your growth as a swimmer. Be open to the observations of those more experienced and use their insights to refine your strokes and techniques. 

It’s through embracing feedback that you can evolve and fine-tune your swimming to new levels of proficiency. 

9. Comparison with Others

Comparison, whether in the pool or in life, can be a dangerous path to tread. Measuring your progress against others can deflate your enthusiasm and obscure the view of your own achievements. Remember, every swimmer’s journey is unique, and personal improvement should be your goal. 

Swim in your own lane, at your own pace, and let the victories of others inspire rather than intimidate you. Your swim story is yours alone, and it’s the personal milestones that make it worth telling. 


As we surface from these great swimming tips and techniques, let’s take a moment to bask in the knowledge we’ve gathered. Be sure to also check out our article about great swim hacks for beginners. From seeking the guidance of seasoned coaches to equipping ourselves with the right gear, from finding our swimming inspiration to setting realistic goals, each piece of advice is a steppingstone towards becoming more confident and skilled in the water. The strokes we’ve explored, the breathing techniques we’ve practiced, and the common mistakes we’ve learned to avoid all work together to help you succeed. 

I hope this article will be your starting point into the world of swimming. Step into the pool with a heart full of determination and a willingness to learn. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How often should I practice swimming as a beginner? 

As a beginner, aim to practice swimming several times per week to build muscle memory and improve technique. Start with a manageable frequency and gradually increase it as you become more comfortable. 

Can I learn to swim without professional instruction? 

It is highly recommended to seek professional instruction when learning to swim, as qualified instructors can provide correct techniques and help avoid developing bad habits. 

What swimming aids should I use as a beginner? 

As a beginner, you should consider kickboards and fins to support your learning but avoid becoming reliant on them to develop independent swimming skills effectively. 

What should I focus on first when learning to swim? 

When learning to swim, it's important to focus on getting comfortable in the water and mastering the basics, such as breathing techniques and floating, to build confidence and progress to advanced swimming techniques. 

How do I know if I'm making progress in my swimming? 

You can track your progress by setting measurable goals, using devices or apps to monitor your workouts, and celebrating small achievements to stay motivated. This will help you know if you're making progress in your swimming.