<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

Total Immersion - the step-by-step method of learning how to swim

PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 January 2018

Swimming the Total Immersion stroke

Swimming the Total Immersion stroke


Many of us are frustrated by our inability to swim well. Sarah Hill did something about it and now helps others. She spoke to Roger Borrell.

Sarah Hill of Swimmingly Sarah Hill of Swimmingly

THERE’S a simple reason why so many of us swim so badly and Sarah Hill’s experience will strike a chord with anyone who still flounders and flaps whenever they get into the water.

Most have one thing in common – they learned at school and Sarah hits the nail on the head when she says: ‘We weren’t taught to swim – we were taught not to drown.’

Being in water was something to be feared. You had to keep your head above it or you’d die. ‘It put people off for life,’ she says. ‘For years I couldn’t swim for toffee. Over time I got better but it was always a struggle, always frustrating. I used to look at other people and wonder “How do they do that?”’

Sarah went to some lessons as an adult but describes it as a difficult and unpleasant experience. ‘I felt I was being asked to learn too many things all at once – legs, arms and breathing. That made it quite stressful. But swimming is a wonderful thing and I’m on a mission to spread the word.’

Total Immersion Total Immersion

Her salvation came in the form of a teaching method called Total Immersion, a technique that was developed in the United States and it has spread around the world, although hadn’t then reached as far as Lancashire. ‘The nearest coach was in the Loughborough area,’ says Sarah, who lives in Ramsbottom. ‘I spent three full days learning and it changed my life.

‘I learned to swim properly with a system that is all about learning to work with the water rather than fighting against it. Traditionally, we end up fighting the water – thrashing it with our arms and legs to survive.

‘This method was completely different, a step-by-step method of learning. There is also an element of mindfulness – although I don’t want this to sound too hippyish – which involves understanding what different parts of your body are doing, how it feels, the shapes you are making and how the senses are responding. It’s actually a very relaxing way to learn.

‘The other great thing is that you don’t need to be athletic and it doesn’t matter what age you are.’

Practising balance in the pool Practising balance in the pool

Equipped with her new confidence, Sarah started open water swimming. ‘There was a defining moment when I swam the length of Windermere and thought “If I can do that anyone can.”

‘It’s just a question of learning the right way and I felt Total Immersion deserved a wider audience, especially for women like me who had struggled with sport.’

One of the coaches suggested she became a qualified teacher. There were no others in Lancashire so she gave it a try. It soon became clear that hiring time in local pools wasn’t an option so she took the big step of having an indoor pool built in her garden.

Her business, Swimmingly, opened in May and it has gone from strength to strength as swimming has become a more popular way of keeping fit. She is taking on another teacher soon to work with children. On average, pupils require five or six lessons and then they are equipped to go off to their local pools and develop their skills. Sarah also video and a Japanese technique called Kaizen, developed in industry to create a philosophy of continual improvement.

There are three groups she teaches – people who want to learn swimming techniques for triathlons, those who want to be better swimmers for recreation and general fitness and those who are just terrified of the water.

‘I love working with them all but people who are phobic about the water are the most rewarding. To be able to help someone who has not been able to put their face in the water for 40 years is quite something.

‘I had one lady who had been trying to learn to swim for 25 years but she was terrified. Over that time she’d had ten teachers and spent thousands but she still couldn’t get in the water on holiday with her children. She came to me and for the first half hour she stood on the edge crying and shaking. In the next half hour she had her face in the water.’

Sarah gave up her career as a freelance project manager to teach swimming full time. ‘If someone had told me two years ago I would be doing this I’d have thought them mad,’ she laughs. ‘But this has been a positive, life-changing experience for me and, I hope, for the people I teach.’

You can find out more about Sarah’s work at www.swimmingly.co.uk

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 09:41

Rebekka O’Grady and photographer John Cocks meet some of the new independent businesses calling Southport home

Read more
Monday, February 12, 2018

How many of these local landmarks can you recognise?

Read more
Quiz Spring
Friday, February 9, 2018

Plans for around 600 new houses to be built in pretty Wyre village

Read more
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

John Lenehan toasts the re-opening of a Lancashire engineering landmark and notes an invention to revive any walker.

Read more
Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Kirkby Lonsdale sits on the spot where Lancashire, Yorkshire and Westmorland meet, making it a great base to explore the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. All these walks start of within a ten mile radius of Kirkby Lonsdale, making them a perfect day trip for anyone staying close to the historic market town.

Read more
Kirkby Lonsdale
Monday, February 5, 2018

From businesses selling banjoes to bridalwear from a former New York costume designer, Colne is a town for all seasons. Mairead Mahon reports.

Read more
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lake District walks dominate the top ten of Britain’s 100 list.

Read more
Lake District Lake District Walks
Friday, January 26, 2018

Barrow was built on hard graft but there’s plenty of beauty to be found as well, as Mike Glover reports


Read more
Thursday, January 25, 2018

Despite its bad reputation, the cuckoo has been a great and clever survivor in the wild. However, numbers have dipped since the 1970s. The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Alan Wright investigates this iconic spring bird.

Read more
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Many of us are frustrated by our inability to swim well. Sarah Hill did something about it and now helps others. She spoke to Roger Borrell.

Read more
Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Celebrate the historic waterways of Lancashire with one of these canalside walks that allow you to enjoy the countryside and witness echoes the the county’s industrial past.

Read more
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Their football clubs both wear navy blue and white strips, but how well can you identify landmarks in Bolton and Preston?

Read more
Preston Bolton Quiz
Friday, January 12, 2018

Spring is not too far off and that’s the time when the birds start getting noisier in our woodlands. The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Alan Wright investigates a couple of the stars of the Dawn Chorus.

Read more
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

John Lenehan selects a relatively gentle walk to blow away the post-Christmas cobwebs

Read more
Ribble Valley Walks
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Property Search