The quick answer is it takes 2-3 weeks to learn to swim if you’re afraid. But let’s make sure you know what you’re asking.
When you say, “Learn to Swim,” do you mean “learn strokes” or do you mean “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 Miracle Swimming.
Otherwise, you must overcome your fear of deep water to truly learn to swim. Strokes will not resolve fear of deep water.
It takes 2-3 weeks to overcome fear of deep water if you’re in class for 10-15 days of that time. It takes another month or two to be able to learn freestyle once you’ve become confident in deep water.
When students overcome their fear of deep water, they say, “I can swim!” And they’re right. Even if they don’t know strokes yet, they are now safe. Now that they’re safe, they have attention to spare for their arms, legs, and coordination.
It’s a new way of thinking about learning to swim: 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: deep water works the same as the shallow!” the swimmer will never be convinced or their fear healed. So, a reliable approach was required. In 1983, it appeared as Miracle Swimming.
Learning to swim is becoming free to play and rest in deep water. For some people, it takes a week. For most, it takes two. For many it takes three. You are not “less than” if it takes three. No one is afraid in water for a silly reason and each person must go at his/her own pace. It is literally inevitable that you will learn if you follow the 5 Circles system used at Miracle Swimming. It is simple.
Strokes are merely choreography. They enable you to be efficient when you swim. After 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) 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 is 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.
In learning to swim and learning strokes as an adult who’s fearful in deep water, the most time-consuming aspect of the transformation is the change in your self-image. 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 if you’re afraid?” is 1.5 to 2 years. That’s fast. It can be done in less, but for most people less would be a push.
For 39 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 being changed for good.