SARASOTA, Fla., Jan. 17, 2022 /PRNewswire/
“If you’re afraid in water, you just need to learn to tread water.” So says an untold number of swimming instructors regularly. The public believes it. In actuality, it’s virtually impossible for adult non-swimmers to tread water.
Treading water is more than moving one’s arms and legs “like this.” It requires a feel for the water that non-swimmers have not yet developed. “As they try to learn the motions of treading, adult non-swimmers are afraid of sinking and drifting away from safety. Therefore, they have no attention to spare for feeling their buoyancy, let alone the angle and pressure of their hands and feet on the water,” says Miracle Swimming School for Adults founder, Melon Dash, author of Conquer Your Fear of Water. Their movements are understandably desperate, exhausting, and unsustainable. “If it’s not sustainable, it’s not treading, even if the motion keeps them up for a few seconds,” adds Dash.
If adult non-swimmers can’t learn to tread, what can they do to remain safe? “Once they know the water a little bit, they can float on their backs in deep water long before treading is available to them,” says Sharon Kovar, licensed Miracle Swimming Instructor in Crystal Lake, Illinois. “It may come as a surprise but learning to swim is really learning to remain calm and in control in any depth of water. Strokes aren’t necessary—for safety. Stillness and presence of mind allow people to stay safe. And coordinated movement comes after they feel safe,” Kovar explained.
Adults who have failed to learn to tread would be well-served to let themselves off the hook if they’re fearful in deep water. Just as a baby crawls before walking and running, non-swimmers must experience developmental steps of understanding the water to reach the maturity of being ready to tread.
Adults inevitably learn to tread once they learn how the water works: that it holds them up, that they can stay in control, and they can go wherever they want in water at will. This level of confidence predictably follows from weeks of playing in water, having fun, and/or good swimming lessons to overcome fear of water. When that time comes—when they’ve learned to swim—treading appears out of the blue without effort.