My Swim Works lesson diary: week one

I’ve started new lessons at Swim Works in Leamington Spa so am going to be blogging the journey as the weeks progress.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the family-run Swim Works before, either from parents who have sung their praises or you may have caught my previous blog on the best places in South Warwickshire to take a baby swimming for the first time.

When Jax was just a few months old, I went along to one of Swim Work’s taster sessions – whilst most of their lessons are booked in bulk (a certain number of weeks for a set cost), they do offer regular taster classes as well as good discounts, so keep an eye out for those on their website and social media pages (at the moment there’s a 50% offer running for the Newborn Splashers courses).

My little boys is now eight months old so we’ve enrolled in their Baby Splashers Advanced courses (there’s a full run-down of all the different levels on the Swim Works website so you can decide what is right for your child). Baby Splashers uses “a combination of skin to skin nurturing touch, fluid rhythmic movements, and discovery play to touch deeper into the sensory channels.” We’ve been in the water a lot informally over the last eight months and I was keen to learn what could be next for our swimming journey by joining this particular course.

Because I’d been to Swim Works before, I knew where I was going, but even if you’re a newbie, you’ll still feel well looked after. You’ll receive a detailed induction pack via email with everything you need to know, as well as a tour when you arrive. Their private pool is located just a few streets past Aldi in Leamington Spa – there’s tons of free parking and, not quite two years old yet, their facilities still feel brand spanking new.

It’s quite refreshing to visit somewhere that realises just how scary things like this can be for new parents, especially if this is your first baby. Until you’ve been swimming a few times and gained that confidence, you might have no idea what to do (I know I was nervous the first few times I went on my own), but Swim Works will totally hold your hand through it all and their well-thought-out centre makes things that bit less stressful.

The changing rooms are really spacious with loads of mats for babies, there are bathing seats in the showers so you can lie your baby down whilst you get clean yourself (Jax loved this!), and they even provide baskets to take your towels and belongings pool-side. Highchairs, toys, playmats, potties – you name it, they’ve got it. Everything is specifically-designed for parents swimming with kids, and if you need assistance with anything, there are friendly staff members around to help. The other thing I love about private swim centres vs. public swimming pools is that you can haul in car-seats, prams, etc. and know everything is safe in a closed changing room not used by others.

Our lesson today covered a lot, mainly focusing on hold positions. It’s amazing that even just placing your hands slightly differently on your baby as you support them can make them wiggle in new ways – a slight lift of your fingers in certain places can encourage them to get kicking and “find their swimming legs,” as Swim Works say. By the end of the session we were also trying out the woggles (those thin foam noodles things – the technical term!). I had been dying to have a go with one of these as Jax is quite confident and likes being that little bit more unsupported by me… this first lesson was the perfect next step for us.

It’s important for me to say that, as I looked around, every single parent was using the woggle (and executing their hold positions) in completely unique ways, and the instructor guided us through this. Every single baby is different and Swim Works have this value at the core of their programme – there will always be a whole spectrum in terms of how far you should take each technique in the lesson. Our teacher George talked us through what we could do (if we wanted to), but also what we could do as an alternative (e.g. some babies will want to let the woggle support them and others might prefer to feel mum or dad a bit more). We were encouraged to bring our babies close if they appeared unsettled – I really loved that the entire focus of the learning is on their happiness and comfort. This flexible approach to teaching is so warming and just highlighted to me that Swim Work’s aim is to always let your baby lead the way (this is something I am a fan of myself, anyway).

The teaching methods also encouraged us to look out for our baby’s cues and talk them through what they were doing – I found the session, more than anything, a beautiful and peaceful opportunity to bond with my son (which, as I have just returned to work, is something I am appreciating even more). Quite often, we were encouraged to look at our baby’s eyes, focus on their reactions, hold them close if they needed us to. For me, this allows the lesson to also feel like 30 minutes of uninterrupted time just me and my boy – this is just as important as teaching skills, I think. The Swim Works lessons take on such a chilled pace, in such a relaxing environment, each time I almost forget that the teacher and other parents are there.

As a a bit of a fact freak, I love being talked through why we are doing something and I think this is why I got on with the lesson so well – I learnt a lot about technique and development, as the teachers are very good at explaining what they are doing and why, but at the same time I wasn’t overwhelmed with too much – the perfect amount of information was packed into one lesson.

I’m not sure what it is that makes me feel so at ease in the Swim Works environment but, reflecting back on my day, it is the one thing I loved most about going there this morning – I think the combination of a properly well-heated pool and surrounding areas, a private room, a small lesson size and a slow-paced structure makes for the entire time just being very relaxing (and relaxing is not something I get to do much of these days!). As I write this, Jax is enjoying a deep sleep after his large post-swim lunch… I think he feels just as chilled as me!

Swim Works say that “they believe in progression without being pushy,” and today showed me that this is the stand-out part of what they do, probably what sets them apart from other swim schools. I’ve left my first swim lesson feeling so informed, interested and excited about my child’s progress, but at the same time (and I’ve always been this kind of parent from the start) not at all obsessed with forcing him to learn to quickly, meet milestones or ‘be the best’. There’s enough pressure on kids these days as it is.

My first session today made me realise how dedicated Swim Works are to their core missions. Our short time was jam-packed with information and guidance, but remained child-led, always at the pace of our babies and never with any structured end goals in mind. Achieving a swimming lesson format that continually focuses on learning and development but at the same time doesn’t feel stressy must be a really hard balance to find. Swim Works definitely manage to do it.

I’m looking forward to our next lesson already. Until then…

Swimming lessons courtesy of Swim Works