Can you swim front crawl for miles and have done many triathlon events – but how calm and confident are you in the water?  Have you even stopped to think about it? Have you ever had a panic attack?

I’ve met many adult swimmers, often triathletes, who are fit, sporty, strong and confident and they take these attributes in to the water assuming it will always carry them through. Often they can do quite well and can swim front crawl easily until out of the blue they’ll have a panic attack in the water.

Out of the blue panic

Maybe it happened in a race that was a bit busy with a mass start, maybe the water was colder than they expected or there was some other new experience that pushed them out of their comfort zone and into panic.

Things swimmers have told me are they saw a fish, they couldn’t cope with the weed, the waves were bigger than they expected, they didn’t realise they were scared of the sea, or they went out too fast and couldn’t catch their breath. Check out the photos below – how would you feel in either of these situations.

It might be due to some past bad experiences or just because it’s unnatural for human bodies to be in water and you’ve never quite mastered all the skills of swimming.


If you have any tension or anxiety in water then it’s really important that you address it because a panic attack in water can be incredibly dangerous and even life threatening. But it can also end your race and make triathlon racing and training a bit unpleasant.

Wasted Energy

Stress will also waste a lot of energy and affect your swimming. Tense muscles don’t float so well and get in the way of relaxed and efficient swimming. So if you’re constantly out of breath when you swim it might simply be because you need to get more calm and comfortable in the water.

Water confidence check list

If you’re not sure if this is you check with how you feel in different situations in water. Some examples of skills to consider are:

  • Do you have any anxiety with deep water
  • Can you swim on your back
  • Can you tread water
  • Can you swim underwater
  • Are you OK jumping in
  • Are you scared of swimming in the sea
  • Will you freak out if you know there’s a big fish, weed, bird….insert other item
Water confidence skills

To help work on relaxation and confidence I usually encourage swimmers to work on all sorts of different skills. They aren’t necessarily specifically related to front crawl but are designed to broaden their experiences in water, increase their feel for the water and develop their balance skills even further.  Examples are

  • Sink downs and being underwater
  • Treading water
  • Swimming underwater
  • Swimming other strokes in particular swimming on your back
  • Legs on your back (backstroke legs are the same as front crawl legs)
  • Rotating from your back to your front and the other way round
  • Jumping in
  • Diving in (I always take the chance to dive off a block if there is one and if I’m allowed)
  • Making shapes – e.g. star floats, mushroom floats etc and going from one to the other
  • Handstands
  • Somersaults
Water Confidence Experiences

I’m big fan of thinking creatively and laterally. I never expected it to help but training as a beach life guard really changed my confidence in waves. Can you think of other ways to widen your swimming experiences. Examples I can come up with are:

  • Go to a different swimming pool e.g. try a 50m pool, a lido, one without a shallow end
  • Sign up to an open water swimming event
  • Sign up to a swimming holiday
  • Swim in different outdoor venues e.g. lake, quarry, river, sea
  • Do some wild swimming (where there’s no support or facilities)
  • Have a surf lesson and learn how to cope with the waves and surf
  • Go to a pool with water slides and a wave machine!
  • Anything to add? Let me know your ideas!

Anyhow let me know if any of this resonates or if any of these skills helped.  And if you need some help with your front crawl swimming and building confidence in the water then get in touch to find out how I can help. You can  book a 30 minute taster session here or if you have lots of questions then get in touch and book a FREE 15min Lets chat here.

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I am a triathlete and wild swimmer with a passion for outdoor adventures. I’m a Total Immersion Swimming Teacher and I help people feel more comfortable in the water so they can swim further and discover the joy of swimming or finish a triathlon without feeling exhausted.