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James Poole: Learning to Swim as an Adult

Triathlete, Captain of Adidas Runners LDN and five-time Ironman James Poole, has a surprising secret.  Despite being a successful athlete James didn’t learn to swim until he was 34. 

Swimming Nature spoke to James about his experience learning to swim as an adult, overcoming fears in the water and why swimming is the best cross-training activity for runners.

As a child, James could never swim more than a couple of lengths of breaststroke. It wasn’t until he signed up for an Ironman in 2007 that he realised he needed to get some lessons. Some people feel embarrassed about learning to swim later in life, but James didn’t have that problem. In fact, he thought it would be much easier than it actually was. “I thought it just pop on a swimming cap and goggles and I’d be off, but what I found was that there was actually a lot of work to be done. One of the most difficult things was getting the hang of the breathing technique. I would swim as fast as I could, breathing once or twice a length. Within two lengths I was hypoxic and gasping for breath.”

James says that seeing people who have been swimming since they were young has made him realise what he missed not being able to swim as a child. He explains that they usually lack the hesitation that can hold people back when they learn to swim later in life. He confirms what we already know, that it’s still possible to become a great swimmer as an adult, but for most people it takes much more work.

James now coaches triathletes himself, and we touch upon his first competitive swim, the Northampton Tri, which he describes as ‘horribly slow’. “I ended up being passed by most of the swimmers who had started 10 minutes after me. Despite the slow swim, I was pretty proud to have got around.”

Since James’ first experience of the sport, the profile of the triathlon has seen huge growth. He puts this down to fantastic ambassadors like Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, their success at London in 2012 and the broadcast of ITU triathlons on mainstream channels. Despite the surge in popularity, James confirms what we suspected; the swim is the element that people tend to enjoy the least.  “Life-long swimmers love it, but they are probably in the minority. I put it down to the fact that triathletes don’t spend enough time in the pool doing drills and logging metres. Swimming is a very technical sport and it’s hard to be good at it without plenty of practice.”

Even strong pool swimmers can struggle to adapt to open water swimming. We ask James why this is. “Lack of visibility in the water, which can make your first few open water swims slightly unnerving.” James confirms that swimmers of all abilities would benefit from an hour or two of coaching, particularly if they are new to the sport, as the difference between good and bad technique is often very subtle. “I’d definitely recommend that triathletes find a good swim coach for 1:1 or small group tuition. A good swim coach can give a few pointers and drills that will make a huge difference to a swimmer’s technique.”

As an all-rounder, James can vouch for swimming as a great cross training tool for runners. He believes that most runners should include a swim or two in their training to manage overall training stress and to give their body a break. “Running is a high impact sport and pounding the pavement week in week is tough on the body, while swimming has no impact.”

Amateur Swimming Association says fifth of Adults in England can’t swim

9 million adults in England can’t swim but 2.13 million are keen to learn! Are you one of them?

Recently reported across the media and on Metro, the Amateur Swimming Association has published a new report that found 20% of men and 22% of women over the age of 14 in England can’t swim.

The article goes on to mention 2.6 million adults are doing 30 minutes in the pool at least once a week and that 2.13 million adults are keen to learn.

And if you’re reading this article on our Swimming Nature blog you are probably one them – perhaps you’re seeking the right instructor or location right now.

If you’re keen to learn, improve or perfect your swimming this Spring, here’s what makes Swimming Nature a great choice for your swimming development.

Our instructors train you in the water

They’re right there beside you, demonstrating the correct mechanics of the strokes, enabling you to truly grasp the right technique. You’ll learn how, why and what you should be doing which helps develop confidence and precisely improves your technique.

Rapid progress, bespoke lesson plans

Your bespoke lesson plan is tailored just to you. It’s modular, allowing you to see great results, fast. As an adult, we know you’ll like to progress quickly so we’ll work over short distances to maximise your sense of achievement. We’ll also show you how you can continue your training independently for best results.

Multiple class options

Swimming Nature offers a range of class options so you can choose what suits you best:

We offer one-to-one tuition – we’re like personal trainers for the pool!

We also offer coaching for novice triathletes through to elite PB-hungry performers.

And our Mark Foster Programme is perfect for advance swimmers looking to move to the next level. Yes, that’s right. We’re…

Endorsed by Mark Foster

Six-times Olympic World Champion Mark Foster has put his name to the Swimming Nature style of swimming and is our very own Ambassador. He’s put his stamp of approval on our teaching technique and adult swimming programme exclusive to Swimming Nature, so you can draw on the trade secrets of a world-class athlete.

Locations across London and beyond

Our exclusive partnership with Fitness First is taking us beyond London as we expand into Dorset and the Home Counties. To find a Swimming Nature location near you, type your postcode into our venue finder.

Are you one of the 2.13 million Brits determined to learn or improve their swimming this year? Contact Swimming Nature today and book your first lesson!


The statistics are in on how consistency with lesson attendance boosts progression

As the weather starts to take a dive and the busy festive period approaches, we all feel the struggle to keep on top of all of the different commitments in our social calendars. Activities such as the life skill of swimming may sometimes take a backseat, though inevitably taking time out will make an impact on how fast students can learn skills.

In fact, when looking at all of our students in the past two years who have learnt to kick on their back for 10 meters unaided, we have seen a direct correlation between progression rates and attendance. For students who missed no lessons, they in fact learn twice as fast than students who missed one or more lessons. Additionally, students who missed less than 3 lessons progressed on average 40% fast than those that didn’t.

Of course there will be times when attending swimming lessons is impossible through reasons outside of your control, though as we can see, staying on track with your lesson attendance is hugely important.

The more you attend, the faster you’ll see the results!

Swimming Nature makes waves to set new standards for swimming tuition across the UK

Swimming Nature, the largest independent provider of swimming tuition in the UK, has developed a unique program of tuition for pool operators and private tutors to help deliver excellence in tuition and improve the level of swimming ability across the country.

The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA), says that over 45% of children aged seven to eleven cannot swim the length of a standard swimming pool (25 metres) unaided. This means that 1 in 5 children enter adult life unable to swim, which contributes to approximately 400 UK deaths from drowning each year in the UK[1]. As a result of these figures, parents have become increasingly concerned about the standards of swimming teaching in schools, and are now looking outside of the school system to find lessons that can help support and enhance their children’s personal development.

newsletter-markNow, with the support of multiple World champion swimmer Mark Foster, Swimming Nature, who first pioneered the ‘in-water’ method of teaching in 1993, and have taught thousands of children and adults how to perfect their swimming technique, are looking to tackle this issue, by working with pool operators, local authorities, schools and private tutors across the UK to deliver an approved program of swimming tuition, to help meet demand and improve tuition standards throughout the country.

“Swimming is an essential life skill as well as being a fun activity for all the family. Swimming allows people to stay fit as well as being a vital skill required for safety, yet the provision for teaching children in the UK is inadequate” said Founder and Managing Director, Eduardo Ferré.  


The 2013 National School Swimming census found that 51% of children aged 7 to 11 could not swim 25 metres unaided. The method used also tends to be the “multi-stroke” method.


“This is a fast and effective way of teaching beginners to swim in a group” Eduardo explains, “but it also has disadvantages that can affect your confidence, skill and ability, which can result in a lifetime of trying to reverse bad habits, and is also the reason many adults in the UK cannot swim and may never learn.”


Eduardo continues: “Because of this and the sheer scale of the problem, Swimming Nature strongly believes that only in partnership with pool operators, start-up businesses, and independent swimming instructors across the UK, can we really tackle the problem”.

Swimming Nature are now looking to expand their business and offer our proven programs and processes to more sites and more private tutors across the country. Their aim is to help increase the number of classes available across the UK, as well as set better standards for swimming tuition in the UK.

The Swimming Nature program offers pool operators, entrepreneurs looking to start their own swim schools, and individual swimming instructors, training and coaching on their unique methodology, believed to be the most advanced swimming tuition method in the world.  The modular training programme builds on teacher’s skills, covering all four of the main types of swimmers: babies, children, adults and advanced ‘triathlon’ swimmers, and provides a range of personalised teaching programs and lesson plans, based on pioneering scientific research, observation, and an understanding of cognitive development.

For pool operators, and entrepreneurs looking build or grow their swim schools, Swimming Nature also provides access to a suite of software and business management tools that cover every element of running a successful tuition programme. From setting up as a company to day-to-day scheduling, budget controls, and bookings, to communicating with staff, customers, clients and colleagues, each program provides detailed business and monitoring systems to easily control and manage the teaching operations across individual or multiple sites, as well as marketing and PR support, helping businesses maximise revenue opportunities, and the greatest possible ROI.

Unlike any other system available in the market, Swimming Nature’s central management system offers ongoing support to all of its partners and regular assessment and monitoring, ensuring the highest possible standards of teaching are employed across all sites.

“Swimming Nature is dedicated to excellence in business. Our technology significantly improves efficiency, making the pool operators’ and instructors’ lives as easy as possible, whilst providing them with maximum control of the tuition activities, and setting better standards for swimming tuition across the UK” says Eduardo.

World champion swimmer and GB Olympian Mark Foster comments: “Swimming has a unique role in society today, providing a great deal of enjoyment for all the family making people safer near water, In addition to helping to deliver the Government’s health agenda”.

“But as evidence shows, because of the lack of teaching, more and more children in the UK unable to meet the national standards in swimming before they leave school, the consequences of which are worrying” he adds. “It is encouraging that Swimming Nature are leading the way in developing a network of well-run swimming schools and excellent tutors who will teach our children how to swim properly, and I am thrilled to be a part of their program.”

Swimming Nature is appealing to entrepreneurs and instructors across the UK to get involved and help deliver excellence in swimming tuition for our children and adults by adopting their unique programs.

Swimming Nature’s Programme Delivery Technology set to raise standards of swimming tuition

Swimming Nature are set to launch their new digital programme technology, using comprehensive data to automatically formulate tailored lesson plans aimed at optimising progression.

Coupling Swimming Nature’s children’s learn to swim program with detailed progress tracking, it ensures both the most beneficial tuition is efficiently delivered, and the highest standards are maintained by instructors. These bespoke automated lesson plans use previous progression data to compose relevant training practices which reflect the key stages each student is next to progress towards.

Information on distances, challenges and awards will be recorded by the instructor and used for reporting on the effectiveness of programme delivery. Additionally swimmers will receive automated emails on achievements such as distance swum or key skills being achieved. Instructor-editable lesson plans encourage a social community where new teaching methods can be approved and introduced by instructors and used throughout the company.

Using the latest mobile responsive design, instructors simply ‘swipe-to-confirm’ lesson activities using any device at any time, even in-water, reducing instructor admin time.  This provides very simple, convenient & flexible anytime-anywhere data entry, and enables consistent accurate data logging.

Swimming Nature plans to use this new technology to provide in-depth reporting to clients on their progress, as well as highlighting any students who may require further attention in specific areas. Not only will this provide more motivation to students, it will also ensure that students who require further attention will receive this to keep them swimming longer and progress further.

Article taken from the UK Active Journal Autumn 2014 issue

Swimming Nature. (2014). Swimming Nature’s Programme Delivery Technology set to raise standards of swimming tuition. Together: ukactive journal. 6, 12.

Swim with confidence at Swimming Nature!

Swimming Nature were delighted to be featured in the Angels and Urchins Summer 2014 Issue. Please see below our published article:

Speedy Swimming      

Jimmy aged 9, was not a strong swimmer. He missed the swimming classes his siblings attended, didn’t pick up much  from sporadic school lessons and would go to great lengths to avoid getting in a pool. It is not cool not to be able to swim, like not being able to ride a bike. And the embarrassment factor meant he refused to join a group lesson. Enter Swimming Nature’s FAST TRACK course. Four half hour lessons on consecutive mornings over the Easter holidays in the warm calm waters of the Kensington Close Hotel. His teacher Josh was engaging and fun and by the end of the first lesson Jimmy was already heaps more confident and had started to get the hang of the breathing. At the end of the week, not only was he happily swimming a length of front crawl but he has voluntarily signed up to a term of classes so he can get ‘really good’! A total triumph.

Swimming Nature have over twenty venues across London. Fast track courses from £135 for 5 days 1:1. Tel: 0844 504 0506. Website:


Article taken from Angels and Urchins Summer 2014 Issue

Turner, E (2014) Angels and Urchins Summer 2014 Issue, London4 504 05

Top Tips: Learn how to tumble like a pro!

During a recent conversation with a friend who was doing a pool swim for charity, it came up that he could not do tumble turns. The challenge involved 4 length sprints and he was a little dismayed about the time he was losing by having to stop after every length to touch the wall, turn around and push off. So I thought it would be a great advantage for him to learn to tumble turn as not only will this give him a great advantage speed wise but will also help improve his feel for the water.

Here are 5 step by step practices that I put together for him to master his tumble turns in time for his next swim:

1. It’s all about the nose! Blowing out through the nose is the only way to prevent water getting up it without wearing a nose clip. Practice steady, rhythmical breathing, bobbing up to take a breath and then submerging to blow out through your nose.

Tip: If you struggle with blowing out through your nose practice your loudest humming underwater until it becomes second nature.

2. Get used to going upside down. Tumble turns can be a bit disorientating if you are not used to them so have some fun and practice handstands, tucking your chin in and bowing out through your nose. Once you’re confident enough let your legs flip over until you are floating on your back or standing.

Tip: Take a deep breath and remember to keep blowing out through your nose until you finish the movement.

3. Get some speed. Practice pushing off the wall into a handstand and flip over or if you’re feeling confident, a summersault.

Tip: Turn your palms to face forwards and use them to accelerate your upper body round, keep your chin tucked in and let your legs flip over your body.

4. The turning point. Determine the best distance from the wall for your turn. Try swimming up to the wall, rolling over and standing up; see how close to the wall you can actually get. Aim to finish horizontal after the roll over with your feet planted on the wall.

Tip: Experiment to find a comfortable distance.

5. The final push. Practice spending as little time as you can with your feet in contact with the wall. Once they are planted drive with your thighs as though you were jumping. Don’t waste time turning onto your front before pushing off, push off on you back if necessary in a streamlined shape and gradually roll over.

With practice you’ll soon be knocking seconds off your times and leading the field and once you are why not try a challenge or charity swim of your own?