From beginner swimmer to triathlete finisher – Lisa’s journey

Improving your swimming can be one of the biggest challenges that beginner triathletes face. In this blog, Nelson-based team leader, Lisa Stanley, shares her experience of getting adult swimming lessons and gives advice to others wanting to take the plunge.

Lisa Stanley never imagined she would compete in a Half Ironman. In fact, running was the only part of the race the 52-year-old felt confident about when she signed up for the event in 2018. Lisa had no road biking experience and some of her swimming skills were average at best. “To me, swimming was the hardest part,” she says. So when a friend asked her if she wanted to take part in the event, she knew she needed to get lessons.

Growing up in The UK, Lisa had always enjoyed swimming at school and with friends. Later as mum of four, she had confidently spent hours in the water with her children and as a swimming instructor. Learning to swim as an adult, however, was a whole new experience.

She signed up for lessons with an adult instructor at SwimMagic and at first, felt self-conscious about other people seeing her. “I would practice in the learn to swim pool and I was always worried about what people would think. I didn’t want people to watch me because I didn’t think that I was any good.” While Lisa initially thought she would just brush up on some of her skills for the Half Ironman, she quickly realised there was a lot of work to do.

The first thing she worked on was getting the right breathing technique - something a lot of adult swimmers struggle with. This involved learning to roll and breathe and how to maximise her breath so she wasn’t left gasping for air at the end of the pool. “The learn to swim pool is 20m so even getting to the end of one length I was completely out of breath.” Once she had mastered breathing, they moved onto stroke technique, body position and kicking to ensure she had all of the basics correct.

Lisa gave herself a year and a half to train for the Half Ironman, to make sure she was fully prepared. She joined a local sea swim club to get used to swimming in open water, with other people around her and continued to work on her swimming technique, along with her biking and running. On December 7, 2019 she was elated to complete the half Ironman 70.3 in Taupo with a time of 7 hours, four minutes. “I was really happy with how it went.”

Overcome the embarrassment of taking adult swimming lessons

Learning to swim is fun and a valuable life skill that makes families safer when they’re enjoying New Zealand’s many waterways. Some people may feel uncomfortable about learning to swim later in life, but there’s no need to be nervous, says Lisa. “I encourage them because I know where they’re coming from. I always say, ‘give it a go — you’re never too old and it’s really enjoyable’.” Private lessons can be a great place to start to see where you’re at and to progress quickly.

All of the staff and instructors at SwimMagic are here to support and help adults who want to learn to swim. “We all need to be safe in, around and on the water.”

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