Last week we had an “ask 2 Fat Nerds” question asking for tips for beginner adult swimmers. So, this is my attempt at answering that!

I learned to swim at a very young age. We have family home videos of a pretty adorable two-year-old me belly flopping into the pool, swimming to the other side, pulling myself out of the water, and belly flopping back in. I have vague memories of swim lessons at UAlbany, where I mostly just remember the Cheerios, and I have years of experience swimming summers on the Cape. Swimming has always come as second nature; I’m a fish.

As an adult, it is hard to learn to swim. It takes a lot of work, but the good news is, it’s like riding a bike. Once you learn, you will always have that skill. I think the hardest part of learning to swim is getting acclimated in the water. We’re used to walking and running around in air, being able to breathe freely, and without the lingering fear of drowning. So, to start out, take it slow. Spend some time just being in the pool. Don’t jump in and start doggy-paddling laps. Try treading water, in the shallow end.

I freestyle swim, also known as the front crawl (in the UK, apparently, although I’ve always called it that) mostly because I don’t know how to do any of the other strokes. I can do the backstroke and the side, but I don’t even understand how the butterfly is supposed to work, so I stick to what I know. I think it’s best to find what works for you, and you can work up to one of these strokes after you get used to the water.

Some tips:

Invest in the proper equipment. As a girl, you need to abandon the idea of a cute bathing suit and struggle your way into an athletic cut one-piece. Speedos, and what-not. I can’t really give advice for men’s swimwear, so I trust you can all find what works for you. Swim caps are a must, not only because they protect your hair from the chlorine damage, but they also keep your hair out of your face, they insulate your head while you’re swimming so you don’t get the pool-chills easily, and they help keep the pool clean. There is nothing grosser than a hair glob coming at you when you’re trying to break a record. I recommend a silicone cap, they are a bit gentler on your hair than their latex counterpart. You can get them for under $15 at any sportswear store.

Make sure your goggles are air-tight and adjusted properly. Water filling your goggles is the worst, so before you start racing Ryan Lochte, size those suckers up. I’ve found that if I am putting wet goggles on a wet face, they stick the best, and although it can be slightly uncomfortable, I make them a bit tighter than I would normally, it seems to keep the water out.

Wear flip flops on the pool deck. Those places are filthy with unseen viruses lurking.

Focus on your breathing. If you are swimming freestyle, find what works for you, but I breathe every three strokes, alternating sides (bilateral breathing). Count and breathe, it’s the best way to get into a rhythm.

Don’t worry about the people around you, stick to your own lane and go at your own pace.

If all else fails, invest in swim lessons. I’m sure wherever you are swimming offers them for all ages!

I know I’ve said it before, but swimming is an awesome workout, and an awesome alternative for cross-training. Swimming is full-body work. It is high-resistance and low-impact so you won’t need to worry about knee-replacements, or taking rest days.