Help for a non-swimmer


Verified Military
Oct 6, 2011
Hey all,

The more swimming I do the more I realize that I am just not a great swimmer. I can swim forever but I just can't do it fast, and when I try and do drills like recovering bricks I realize that I am really not very comfortable in the water. I don't think I'd do very well with "sharking" or any of the exercises meant to test your comfort level.

For any of the swimmers here I was hoping you could look at this website that I found and tell me if it is a legitimate use of my money or if there are better programs/options out there.

This is the link:

I could only load the vid of turns and pushing off. All good but I think you'll be better concentrating on what you have to do between ends of the pool. Libraries have books ( remember them?) on triathlons which have advice on stroke and training schedules. But pool swimming is different to open water. Bouancy (erk!) is less in the pool plus in open water there is wind, swell and current creating surface chop and marine stingers just to make things jolly. There's vids of SEAL CSS on the net which is worth a look. Lastly, learn how to breath bilaterally.
Good to go,

Thanks for the reply. I'm reading about bilateral breathing right now.
The best advice I can give is just stay calm when you are getting harassed in the pool, the min you freak out you might as well swim to the edge of the pool. Just remember nothing lasts forever.
I have heard good thing about total immersion. The classes anyway, I heard they do a good job teaching guys how to swim right. It's just a national organization that teaches people how to swim.
Most bases have a variety of swim classes at the base pools that can help you with your technique. All you have to do is sign up for them and their free. As far as comfort level that's really a mental thing. Everybody has something different that makes them uncomfortable. When I first got over to Recon (as a roper) my big thing was being held under water. It wasn't even for 4 seconds but it just freaked me out. I just got over it. A year or so later when I was getting my as thumped and dragged all over the bottom of a 12 ft pool for 20 to 30 seconds with no air at dive school I was fine. I just put myself into complete zen mode. Simply put, no matter what comes your way you have to relax. There is nothing that they will throw at you that will really mess you up it just in your head. That two second sharking when your tired will feel like someone is dragging you to the bottom of the ocean unless you can just relax. That and they always mess with the ones who freak out more.
Now that I'm out of the Marine Corps. I have a true appreciation for the things that were offered to military. I know there was a swim class at the base pool right across the street from me when I was at Lejeune but I never went to it. Coulda, shoulda woulda.
One thing you could try is just going to your local pool and see if a lifeguard is willing to give you private lessons. I used to teach kids over the summer, but on more than one occasion I ended up teaching the parents on my own time. Just make sure the instructor is worth it; many pool lifeguards are not worth your time or money. Might end up being more expensive than a DVD, but it's hard to beat hands on training. Any general swimming questions feel free to PM, just know that I am not military but did swim competitively for a good portion of my life.
OK, first of all there is a HUGE difference between being a good swimmer and being comfortable in the water.
Take this example. Invictus, as stated, swam competitively for a good portion of his life. That makes him a good swimmer. Throw him in the pool with a water polo team (or an xyz branch SOF instructor) and see how comfortable he is in the water when he's getting kicked, pulled under, harassed, etc. Just an example, not a shot at Invictus by any means.
If you're not a good swimmer, the form can come over time. Swimming is the easiest place to make big reductions in time as your form progresses. Work on form, the time will drop as a result. Remember, slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Perfect practice makes perfect.
What stroke are you trying to learn?
Being comfortable 1) in the water 2) while being harassed 3) while being harassed with a certain amount of gear on will only come with experience. This has been brought up in other threads in this section before. Get in the pool, lake, ocean and play around. Always do it under supervision though. Don't ever go without a swim buddy or without a life guard on duty. You're no good to anyone with 2 lungs full of water at the bottom of a lake.
Feel free to shoot me a PM as well if you'd like to discuss anything off the radar.
I hope this helps some.
Lifelong swimmer and daughter of a coach.

Look into the Masters swimming program. You can find coaches there. Total immersion is a good program too, never used it, but I've heard good things about it.

Learning bilateral breathing is just a matter of practice, practice, practice. Same, same with the combat stroke which is different than the traditional side stroke that most people know. Practice, practice, practice.

Getting comfortable is only achieved with familiarity. Spend time in the water. Preferably moving water, it's more unpredictable.

Lifelong swimmer/water polo player (club, some college).

Youve got some good info in the above and I will put an ok mark on total immersion. If you want to be a good swimmer, you need to learn from a competitive swimmer/coach.

If you want "water confidence", thats an entirely different game.
If you want "water confidence", thats an entirely different game.

Perhaps you could expand on "Water Confidence" and building it amlove21, I'd assume confidence and being comfortable in the water go hand in hand once you start playing with the Big Boys in SOF.

Seems to me unless you have the benefit of being able to train with someone who is INCREDIBLY proficient in the water, or has some sort of Maritime background (PJ, Reconnaissance Marine, SF Diver, SEAL etc) then you're limited in your training options. Gaining that level of water confidence would be pretty dangerous to do on your own. (obviously)

However, theres quite the wealth of knowledge on the forum, so hopefully you or someone else could expand on this.

Hope this doesn't come across as being a smartass, Im just truly curious.
I have heard good thing about total immersion. The classes anyway, I heard they do a good job teaching guys how to swim right. It's just a national organization that teaches people how to swim.
That's what I was going to recomend. is a good source for workout/swim data. The site is geared towards the AF, but the workout tips there may help you.
Good luck.
I'm not sure what they put you through in MARSOC A&S, but for NSW; treading water (with various items in your hands, bricks, rifles...) was a big thing, tying knots underwater was a big thing and rescue tows were a big thing. All these evolutions involve being confident in the water.
You can learn to tread water pretty safely at any pool with a deep end as long as there is a life guard on duty or you have a swim buddy who would actually be able to drag your drowning ass out of the pool if need be. There are 2 basic methods when it comes to treading: egg beater and scissor kick. You can google either one and find plenty of tutorials.
1) Learn to tread with both methods
2) Learn to tread with just 1 hand in the water and be able to switch hands
3) Learn to tread with no hands in the water
4) Learn to tread with a 5lb brick
5) Learn to tread with a 5lb brick, switching it back and forth from hand to hand & holding it in both hands out of the water

I'm no fish by any means, but I can tread water for hours if need be.
Again, I'm not sure what kind of water proficiency training you go through for the unit in which you're interested. I would assume treading water would be a fairly universal one, but as far as the knot tying and rescue tows, I don't know. So I won't really expand much on those here.
You can become a good swimmer on your own if you really want to.
As far as the water confidence, that would be done best while in a group of COMPETENT peers and/or supervisors/instructors.
The common theme that ties all these things together is being able to remain calm at all times, while treading, while breath holding, while being harassed, etc. That's what separates the men from the boys in the pool/bay/ocean. It does take time though, you have to crawl before you walk.
Amazing answers everybody I really appreciate everyone's feedback. I didn't think I would get this much advice...this is great!

... "Water Confidence" ...
Hope this doesn't come across as being a smartass, Im just truly curious.

Good question, actually.

Easiest way to get water confidence? Join a water polo team.

Barring that, go to the nearest public pool that has supervised swimming. Inform the lifeguard of the activity you are doing so they will keep an eye out on you. Here's the baby steps. Shallow end. Sprinkle coins on the bottom. 5-10 in a small space say 2 square feet. Sit on your butt on the bottom and pick them up. Next, do it with your eyes closed. Then sit with your back to them. Learn to control your breathing. 'Nother process, tie and untie knots, while sitting on bottom. Eyes open AND closed. Progress to deeper water. Learn to float on the surface of the water. Now learn to float underwater, ie maintain a specific depth with minimal movement, bobbing up for air and returning to previous floating level, no touching the bottom. Disorient yourself, by doing multiple somersaults. Add a half twist. Now add a full twist. Don't forget to do it in the pike position too. Stand on your hands in the shallow end, walk down to the deep end. Now do all the above with a friend who randomly pushes you. From any direction. Next move to open water. If you've got the opportunity to dive in from an edge, toss something small and heavy into the water (like coins) and try to dive in a catch them before they hit bottom.

In other words, spend time in the water, lots of time with your face under water, with your body in other than a vertical heads up position.

Also, everything SL said, that builds confidence and strength too.

I'm a swimming fanatic. I would also suggest finding a good coach to give you work outs and critique your form. For me, confidence in the water came with time. I'm not talking about two weeks or even two months. I'm talking about at least a years worth made me feel like I confident enough to start broadening my work outs. When I first started junior year in high school I loved it so much I started swimming in the mornings with my coach and though I made improvements that season it wasn't until the next year that I really started destroying times. Also another tip. Don't be lazy on your form. Baaaad idea. Breaking habits takes more time than it does to form them. That's all I got.
I have to reiterate the open water versus the pool for confidence. I grew up Sailing LI Sound and the Atlantic - and part of the training was bad weather open water survival - yes, it could be cold. I was also a competitive swimmer and springboard diver, played water polo and rafted rivers... Ther are multiple types, temperatures, and speeds of open water and strong swimming will allow you to build confidence in your ability to overcome the obstacles presented by the multiple challenges.

Think about these 2 real life scenarios...

A. 38 degree thinly ice covered slow river 300m wide, in a temperate zone with air temperaturres at 20 degrees - you have to cross the river - no bridges, trees on both sides so a bridge can be built - no dry suits/fins/etc. You better be damn confident in the water - because you will be dragging your water proofed ruck with you.

B. You have to exit a helo at 5 m and the seas are rolling and breaking at 2m - water temp 50 degrees air temp 70 degrees... storm surge, high winds and medium current 6km/h crossing path of travel and the tide is ebbing with a speed of 6 km/h (due to the vector the combined current tide effect is 9 km/h from your 1:30 to reach your landing point) , rain, fog and blowing spray.... your drop point is 3 km from shore, you need to be at a meet up at a certain time... better be confident, but you do have fins and exposure gear... but your mission essential gear is heavy and has to be dragged.

These are why SOF requires a swim test... and that swim test needs to be tougher.
TI is what I learned with when I was doing triathlons.

One thing you need to remember as far as "confidence" goes... If you are a good swimmer, you are a good swimmer. Everyone is tested at some point in the military. Nothing you are doing in training is going to get you killed, and probably not going to injury you very badly either- aside from some negligence on somebody's part. A big part of a lot of elements of SOF training is realizing that what you are about to be doing is going to suck beyond belief, and that it's also not going to get any easier- so you might as well just do it.

- No one can weight belt swim comfortably.
- No one can do a 12 mile ruck and feel fresh.
But most people can do it.