FOCUS – Adult Aquaphobia Classes

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8978625612758049371 What: Safely conquer your water fears with Paul Lennon
Where: Glendale
When: Call or e-mail for information. Here’s Paul’s site: BeAFish.com

A million years ago I was a waitress and Paul Lennon was one of my regular customers. Every Sunday, he and a large group of equally friendly people would grab a table in my section. I slowly got to know them over iced tea refills, discovering that Paul was a swim instructor and they were all his students. They seemed strangely close for a swim class, and I soon found out why. Paul Lennon specializes in helping adults who are terrified of the water (adult aquaphobia), and watching his students interact with him I realized he was clearly very good at his job. These people had been set free from something, and when they talked about their classes, they were beaming.

“Aquaphobia can usually be traced to a single incident in a person’s life in which he or she panicked in the water. Tales of personal horror range from being tossed into the deep end of a pool as a child to surviving the sinking of a seagoing vessel as an adult. Moreover, adults who can’t swim typically have at least one parent with aquaphobia, and they may have even taken traditional swimming lessons as a child but for whatever reason were never comfortable in water. Now, many of them are embarrassed.

“People have difficulties adjusting physiologically or psychologically to the weightless environment of water, but they hide it and make excuses to stay out of the water,” says Paul Lennon, founder and owner of the Adult Aquaphobia Swim Center in Glendale, Calif. Founded in 1979 as the Aquatic Development Clinic, the center was considered the first school of its kind in the United States. “Like the fear of heights, the fear of depths is a defense mechanism,” Lennon continues. “These fears are absolutely intuitive. However, our recreational culture makes us believe that swimming and water sports are a normal part of life. The most common thing I hear from my students is that being a non-swimmer is a social handicap.”

…Lennon argues that traditional swimming lessons, which place a strong emphasis on stroke development, don’t really teach people how to swim. “Stroking is not swimming,” he says. “You need to have complete control over your body in the weightless environment of the pool.” In the beginning, it’s natural for students to feel a loss of control in the water. Lennon likens the feeling to what someone sitting in a chair would experience if gravity were suddenly switched off. “If you floated out of your chair, your heart rate would go up dramatically, because you’d be taken by surprise,” he says.

His objective is to bring that heart rate back down and make his students “at peace with the water.” He does so by holding long classes (up to six hours a day) at a 92-degree, 20-by-60-foot indoor Jewish Community Center pool with no observers. Soft jazz or classical music plays as Lennon keeps his students in constant motion — floating, gliding, rolling and eventually performing what he calls “aqua-gymnastics.” “If they’re not busy, they’re self-absorbed and thinking about the strangeness of being in a weightless environment,” he says. “You’ve got to keep them busy doing soft, gentle, extremely easy things, and they adjust quite quickly.”

After students leave Lennon’s classes, they then must struggle to adjust to cooler water in a new, noisier environment populated by swimmers of all skill levels. He stresses it could take eight or more trips to a local facility until a new adult swimmer finally adapts and feels comfortable.

Lennon estimates that he has helped “thousands and thousands” of adults. Yet he still regrets that he has so little competition in this market. “Teaching adults to swim,” he says, “is a low priority within our society’s value system.” (SOURCE)

aquaOn a personal note, about six months after meeting Paul, I realized that one of my oldest friends had been going to pool parties for years and just sitting on the side, always trying to pretend he was busy. After grilling him about it a little, he confessed that he never learned to swim and was humiliated. Eventually, thanks to the insights I gained from Paul, I was able to help my friend conquer his fears. Now he brings his swimsuit to pool parties more often (and with more confidence!) than I do. Makes me happy just thinking about it. Thanks, Paul. :)

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7 Responses to “FOCUS – Adult Aquaphobia Classes”

  1. Aaron says:

    Are his classes still held? I have been waiting over a year for a reply on class dates and registration.

  2. Jana says:

    Would love to know what’s going on with this school – I also have been waiting for a reply regarding class dates!

  3. lynnster says:

    Okay, so I did a bit of detective work. Because so few people teach the classes he does, he’s been overloaded with requests. I also noticed that there were a few other articles that came out about him at the same time as HiddenLA’s… so right now there’s a lot of interest.

    I didn’t speak to Paul, but I did get a little bit of info out of someone at the Glendale YMCA where he’s been known to hold classes in the past. As of last week, Paul was looking for a new pool to get classes started in… so just be patient. Unfortunately, as he says in most of his interviews, there aren’t enough people out there who teach fearful adults how to swim… and a lot more people needing the help than you’d expect.

    Seems during this troubled economy, he’s one of the few people who has more potential clients than he can handle right now. Just keep trying and don’t give up. :)

  4. anothergirl says:

    I’m glad I checked here. I’ve also been waiting for a response, but have yet to receive one. I thought maybe the article was out of date.

    If anyone does hear of an equivalent class, or a good experience in adult swim. Please share here!

    • lynnster says:

      Thanks for your comment, another girl… because I almost forgot to post a follow up! I heard from Paul a few days ago, and here is his response:

      Thanks for thinking of my program… what a surprise!

      Most of my business comes from the Internet with people flying in from all over including from outside the country. I took some time off and am just now starting my program up again. During my time off I have accumulated 3500 plus e-mail inquiries into my program and can only handle 12 students per workshop! So, I will certainly be busy in the coming months.

      In other words, he’s starting back up soon but is a bit inundated right now. Just keep trying. If I hear of any other schools, I’ll post them in the comments here. :)

  5. anothergirl says:

    thanks so much for the update lynnster! I really appreciate it. I was getting so impatient that I was considering going down to the YMCA in person since it’s not too far. I wonder if he found a new venue yet.

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