The quick answer is it takes 2-3 weeks to learn to swim if you’re afraid. But let’s make sure of what you mean by learning to swim.
When you say, “Learn to Swim,” do you mean “learn strokes” or “become comfortable and safe in deep water”? If you wish to only propel yourself in shallow water, you can learn that in 5 days, at least at Miracle Swimming.
To be safe in deep water, which is a more classic definition of learning to swim, you must overcome your fear of deep water first. Strokes don’t cure a fear of deep water.
It takes 12-19 days to overcome fear of deep water for most people who visit us at Miracle Swimming. In this time, adult students (all our students) learn to be at ease doing all kinds of things in shallow water, become curious about whether these things work in deep water too, experiment while feeling safe in deep water, and conclude that deep water works the same as shallow water.
It takes another month or so to learn freestyle once they’re confident in deep water.
When students overcome their fear of deep water, they say, “I can swim!” They’re right. Even if they don’t know strokes yet, they are now safe. Now, they have attention to spare for their arms, legs, and coordination.
First, learn to swim (be comfortable in deep water). Then learn to swim efficiently with strokes.
No matter how many times an instructor says, “If you can do the stroke in shallow water, you can do it in the deep: they’re the same!” a swimmer will not be convinced or their fear healed.
A reliable system was required. In 1983, it appeared. It has not required a change since 1983.
No one is afraid in water for a silly reason. Each person must learn at his/her own pace. It is literally inevitable that you will learn if you follow the 5 Circles system. It is simple. It is laid out in its entirety here.
Strokes are merely choreography. They enable you to be efficient when you swim. Once fear is gone, it takes a week (daily classes for 7 days) to learn a stroke like freestyle. Breaststroke and backstroke or breaststroke and butterfly can both be learned as a pair in a 7-day week.
However, there is such deep transformation that takes place while you overcome your fear of water, that virtually all students need to rest: to absorb what they’ve just done (changed their minds, changed their lives, and opened up new possibilities) after they become comfortable in deep water and before they learn a stroke. This takes a few weeks. Four? Eight? If you try to learn a stroke before this absorption takes place, the new information will not seat.
What do we mean by “a week to learn to swim (overcome fear)?”
A week means a week dedicated to learning to swim, away from the distractions of home and work. It’s a 5 day/24 hour swim week. If instead, you fit the lessons in between your job and home responsibilities and you take a good lesson once a week, it can take 14-21 weeks to learn to swim. Add another 10 weeks to learn freestyle. This assumes that each class meeting is 3 hours long. Three hours allows for necessary conversation, video playback and feedback, review in the pool, learning time and practice time.
Learning to swim if you’re afraid in water is not about arms and legs. It’s about deep beliefs, learning what’s true about the water, understanding how you can be yourself in the water, and learning to trust yourself. The internal process is individual, and no steps can be skipped. Give yourself the time you need.
Some of your deepest beliefs about yourself will change. This takes time. So a fair answer to the question, “How long does it take to learn to swim including strokes if you’re afraid?” is 6 months. That’s fast. It can be done in less, but for most people less would be a push. If you don’t have a day job, you can learn faster.
For 40 years, Melon Dash has taught afraid adults to swim, exclusively. The body of knowledge accrued in that time is significant; the new information is groundbreaking. Aquatics is changing for the good.