A Richmond leisure centre has teamed up with an Olympic open-water swimmer, urging nervous swimmers to overcome any anxieties.

Beijing Olympic silver medallist, Keri-anne Payne, provided her top tips to adults who are nervous about breathing while they swim, after it was found that one in five adults in the UK cannot swim. She has teamed up with Better Leisure Centres across Richmond and Twickenham, in a bit to get more people swimming

Payne, an ambassador for Better, the UK’s largest leisure charitable social enterprise, says that swimming has had a major impact on her physical and mental health.

She said: “In terms of wellness and mindfulness, there’s something really calming and relaxing about the water which can really help us relieve our stresses or grievances. It’s why we enjoy listening to the sound of water or rain,” she says.

The open-water swimmer focusses on what it takes to gain confidence in the water. She tells Better that, in general, people’s biggest fear of swimming often comes from the fear of not being able to breathe, which affects willingness to even enter the water.

“The trick is to always remind yourself that you can always come up to breathe, and that way you’ll stop taking extra breathes and hyperventilating,” Payne said.

Payne offered five tips for beginners and experts:

1) Focus on body position: It’s easy when swimming fast, to push our legs up through the water, and as a result we end up dragging our bodies. Try to remain streamlined, by concentrating on the position of your legs and feet. This can be achieved by focussing our eyes down to the bottom of the pool, or the ceiling if doing backstroke.

2) Think about breathing methods: Breathing plays a massive part in our confidence in the water, especially for adult beginners. The trick is to remind yourself that you can always come up to breathe, and that way you’ll stop taking extra breathes and hyperventilating. It may seem obvious but breathing in through the mouth, and out through the nose is crucial, people can practice this both in and out of the water.

3) Do your warm ups: Most of the training we do outside of the water is for injury prevention, and not necessarily focused on swimming technique. We do stretches and exercises to warm our bodies up before entering the pool. Also, it’s important to do exercises which strengthen the core, as this is constantly being worked in swimming!

4) Remain positive and persevere: An incident occurred in my race in the 2012 London Olympics where I caught a hit to the face, I was left in 12th position and it was a huge blow. I felt so downbeat but when I looked up [it was in Hyde park with a crowd of 30,000 people], I saw all these people cheering me on, shouting my name and it really encouraged me to persevere through. I managed to come back from 12th to finish 4th!

5) Set yourself goals: To remain motivated to train my advice would be to find an event that you will enjoy, sign up, and then train for it gradually. I think second to that, once you’ve found an event tell people about it, talk about your journey to people, and hopefully persuade them to take it with you. Just by talking about your progress, people will start to engage in it with you and you’ll feel more encouraged to succeed.

Find Keri-anne’s full tips here.


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