‘We want everybody to enjoy the water, we want everybody to also be safe around the water’ | Local instructors encouraging adults to take swim lessons


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — As summer gets underway, local swim instructors are encouraging adults who may need swim lessons to seek them out.

“We want everybody to enjoy the water, we want everybody to also be safe around the water,” said Madison Gump, Operations Supervisor of Programming Kingsport Aquatics Center. “So being able to come out to the pool or whether you’re going to a lake or the ocean and that’s a vacation for you, we want you to enjoy that.”

“I personally have taught adults 80 and older to swim. Swimming is an activity that you can do for a lifetime. In East Tennessee, we are surrounded by lakes and rivers and pools, so the number one reason for adults to learn to swim would be safety,” said Heidi Perry, a swim and aerobics instructor.

Instructors approach swim lessons for adults differently than for kids. Some fears have been built over a lifetime and often adults face more mobility issues than kids.

“You can never have a set way of doing something for a student. Cause they may come in with no fear or severe fear. So there’s a wide range; you have to teach each child, each adult individually, not having a set way of doing it,” said Perry.

“One of the biggest things is making sure they understand and they’re comfortable with it, and we will adjust anything that we need. We’re able to adapt to them and modify anything that they need,” said Gump.

“Often people come to me who have had life trauma, whether they have fallen off a sea wall or had a near drowning or just a fear in general of swimming. So you never know where their fear is coming from. Sometimes they’ll share it with you and sometimes you don’t know why they’re acting like they are,” said Perry.

Lessons also open the door to using swimming as exercise.

“Swimming provides an increase in your metabolism, in your strength and in your endurance, and it also increases your lung capacity,” Perry said.

It’s a sentiment shared by Gump. “Swimming is a great exercise and a way to take some of the weight off on land to be able to still live that healthy lifestyle, exercise a little bit, but doing it to where it’s not hurting your joints, hurting your other limbs, to be able to just stay healthy.”

Both pointed to the benefits for those with joint issues or who are in rehab for injury or surgery. Getting in the water takes a lot of the weight and pressure off of your joints, making it easier to move in some cases.

Classes are offered in a range from beginner to intermediate and private to group classes. You may even catch some triathletes grabbing lessons.

“We have a lot of triathletes come in wanting to just learn how to do the proper strokes, how to increase their stroke technique even more for their triathlon or whatever they’re training for,” said Gump.

Both the Kingsport Aquatic Center and Perry also offer adaptive lessons for those with neurological, developmental and cognitive challenges.

The benefits go beyond safety. Lessons open up the door for other activities beyond simply swimming.

“It can do kayaking, surfing, scuba diving, even mermaiding. There’s lots of activities that can lead you into other things from learning to swim,” said Perry. “I’ve also had where it’s a senior citizen whose husband retired and now is wanting to be out on the boat, and he wants his wife to be with him, but she doesn’t swim. So there is a wide range of ways people are coming to me or other swim lesson instructors.”

You can also just take swim lessons for fun or as a chance to bond.

“We also see a really big increase of just partners, so couples coming in and wanting those semi-private lessons and doing it together just to have a little bit of fun with it and be able to do something where they can enjoy it together on a night out or something like that,” said Gump.

Perry pointed out swimming can be a fairly low-cost activity, because all you need is a bathing suit and goggles. She also said summer isn’t the only time you can take swim lessons. There are plenty of opportunities throughout the year, especially when the kids go back to school.

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