There are many misconceptions polluting various aspects of swimming that have somehow been spread and taken to be truth. Some may call this folklore, but we call this mayhem! One of the biggest swimming misconceptions is the notion that there is one way and only one way to float on the back. This belief is leading many adults and older children to believe that they have no buoyancy and cannot float on their back! We’re here to tell you that you can float! Everyone can back float! Even if your body is composed of 100% muscle, we are here to guarantee that you can float on your back.
The belief that someone cannot float on their back is so common among many adults. The thing we hear most often from adults is, “I get into my back, and my legs immediately fall. While I can keep a float on my stomach, my back float cannot be maintained as my legs just fall to the ground.” Many adults feel this way because they did not get the opportunity to be introduced to floating at a young age. When we are younger, our bodies are smaller, we weigh less, and we don’t have very much muscle mass. It’s great to learn swimming as your body is still growing so that you can feel how to do certain things like floating before you begin to develop more muscle or begin to distribute your weight in different sections of your body.
Many adults didn’t get the opportunity to learn how to swim when they were younger, but that doesn’t mean you can’t float! The feeling that your legs are too heavy can be easily corrected: kick a little! Sounds a little crazy, right? Kicking on a back float? A small, tiny flutter kick can help pick your legs up from sinking and can be very relaxing. Once you flutter kick a little bit, you will re-establish the back-float equilibrium, and you can stop kicking. Remember that this position is supposed to be a relaxing position, or even a life-saving position, so we aren’t trying to exhaust all of our energy in the kicking. For this reason, make sure that you are conscious of your kicks and be sure to maintain very slow, small kicks. To give you a rough idea of how hard to kick: your feet shouldn’t break the surface of the water and there shouldn’t be a lot of splash. Once your toes get to the top of the water, and your body is re-established in a horizontal equilibrium position, go ahead and stop kicking. When you feel your legs begin to fall again, just pick back up those small kicks!
Somewhere in the swimming community, someone said you aren’t allowed to kick in a back float, and everyone took it to be true. As an adult, a back float can be very relaxing, and a small flutter kick will not disturb your peace. If the kicks are exhausting, chances are that the kicks are too vigorous, and you may be kicking way more than what you need to. The human body wants to float; it is comprised of roughly 80% water after all! Using small kicks helps establish equilibrium on the back and help maintain and re-gain horizontal position and is a small price to pay for relaxing and being able to float without using a floatation device such as a tube or lounger.
Keep in mind that kicking isn’t the only thing that can help you float. Don’t forget to roll your pelvis forward and keep your head back so that your eyes can look straight up! Your arms can be spread out to distribute more mass, if you feel you have heavier arms, or you can keep your arms by your side, which is what we teach children! This will help the water keep you afloat and keep your body relaxed and horizontal.
If you find that you feel as though these tips still don’t allow you to float to your maximum potential or make floating not enjoyable to you, try floating in the ocean! The salt in the water allows for the body to float easier- but the explanation is a lot of physics! In saltwater, you shouldn’t have to kick at all because the water has so much salt that it will keep you buoyant and afloat!
This summer, have fun with your kids, but don’t forget to take some time in the pool for yourself! We hope these tips and tricks will help adults ease into back floating and clear up any misconceptions on what you can and can’t do when you are back floating.