Swimming & Swimming Lessons in South Africa – What to Know

Swimming & Swimming Lessons in South Africa – What to Know
BY Virgin Active South Africa
Posted On 15 March, 2024

With swimming being one of South Africa’s most famous sports, known for producing world class swimmers such as Tatjana Schoenmaker and Chad le Clos, we decided to explore the subject and the beauty of swimming in South Africa to help others understand the importance of this sport and help create some positive waves.

Join us as we discover the benefits of swimming and how it can be a sport, hobby, and life skill. We sat down with Virgin Active swim expert Robin Raven, National Swim Manager, and with Catherine Coupar, Head of Family Experiences, to answer some popular questions about swimming, to learn more.

How can swimming help your body?

Swimming is a great full-body workout, and it has been proven to increase your aerobic capacity. Swimming is also a low-impact sport, so it suits people of all ages. As we all know, South Africa has large bodies of water, such as oceans, rivers and even our pools in the backyard! This emphasises how important it is for children, and even adults, to learn this skill, as it will help ease parents’ minds and allow children to splash to their heart’s content.

What are some interesting facts about swimming in South Africa?

South Africa is seeing a surge in interest for swimming in extreme temperatures. This trend attracts both casual swimmers seeking health advantages and swimmers who want to push themselves to the next level with challenges like the Robben Island swim. Another focus for many South Africans is longer distance swimming and competing in events such as the Midmar Mile, the largest open-water event in the world.

And, for those interested in multi-sports events participation, a key part of their training is swimming training, alongside cycling and running. Swimming training in particular is critical, as being swim fit and having confidence when entering the water, is a key part of being able to successfully complete the event.

Is swimming for 30 minutes a day good enough?

Yes. Swimming for only 30 minutes daily can improve your heart health and blood pressure and promote weight loss. Aside from the health benefits of swimming, it is also said to be therapeutic for some people and can even positively impact your mental health.

How has swimming helped children and adults?

Swimming unites people. Some people choose swimming to better their physical fitness and health, whereas others do it to learn how to swim. People in the same training groups or lessons, often relate to each other and build relationships within the swimming community. Adults often come to Virgin Active to learn how to swim, which creates a great example for their children, who also might be learning. Parents and children even come together to learn, strengthening the bond between the child and the parent.

How do you get into shape when swimming?

Swimming builds strength in your arms and legs because that is the part of our bodies we use the most to move in the water. However, many don’t know that swimming builds more core strength than any other sport. Simple things like floating, rotating and stabilising yourself in the water will build your core strength. Swimming is also said to be one of the best workouts because it works every part of your body.

Tell us more about Virgin Active’s swimming facilities and pools

Virgin Active has a total of over 110 swimming pools across South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

Our swimming facilities consist of two types of pools:

  1. We have leisure pools. These smaller, shallower swimming pools are great for those starting their learn-to-swim journey. These are found in selected clubs.
  2. Then, we have lap swimming pools. Our lap pools are usually 20 to 25 meters long and 1.2 to 2 meters deep, which is great for our higher levels of learning to swim, fitness training, and more technical training, such as training for competitions.

What swimming lessons and coaching does Virgin Active offer?

At Virgin Active, we offer a wide variety of swimming lessons and coaching, utilising the globally recognised STA (Swimming Teachers’ Association) curriculum, which consists of three stages of Parent and Baby swimming lessons and seven stages of learning how to swim.

Stages one through three start with the basics, like teaching the swimmers about water safety as well as how to be comfortable and confident in the water.

Levels four through seven teach swimmers skills such as improving stroke technique and correction whilst increasing swim distance in all swim strokes, from freestyle to backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and the individual medley, and working on turns and the more advanced techniques.

Virgin Active also offers lessons to people who want to pursue swimming to keep fit, for activities such as water polo.

In addition, we provide swim holiday crash courses that introduce children to the basic principles of swimming, such as getting in and out of the swimming pool and other important skills.

How many swimming lessons does it take to learn how to swim?

This varies from person to person. Determined individuals can progress quickly, potentially grasping everything from basic water skills to all four strokes within a year. This is also dependent on age, which is why there are ability-based lessons and training. Younger children can take up to six months to advance to the different training levels. This is why choosing a facility with the right coaching and resources is crucial to achieving your swimming goals.

How should I choose the best place for swimming lessons?

A vital point here would be to choose a place with proper facilities and well-trained staff. Take note: many places cannot operate during winter because of how cold it is. We offer heated pools for people and families to enjoy, allowing them to keep training during the wintertime.

Virgin Actives provides a safe environment where children can swim and train, allowing parents to have some downtime without worrying. Our coaches are experienced in analysing peoples’ abilities and assisting beginners on how to start their swimming journey.


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What is the easiest swimming technique for beginners?

The most straightforward starting technique for any beginner would be backstroke. This is because swimming on your back means swimming face-up, giving you access to a constant supply of oxygen. This technique is recommended for beginners because it is an excellent way to ease people into learning, making it less intimidating. The thought of not breathing for periods can be scary, but at Virgin Active, we teach you everything you need to know, from kicking your legs to controlling your breathing underwater.

How do you breathe while swimming?

The main trick here is to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose. This is because breathing through your nose allows water to go up your nose, and we all know that feeling; it’s uncomfortable. So, when you turn or lift your head for air, taking quick breaths through the mouth is key. It is also important to note that because there is such a short period for you to come up for air, you will never be able to inhale a full breath.

Is it hard to learn how to swim?

Starting something new can be intimidating sometimes, but with the right coaching and guidance, anyone can master the sport of swimming. We offer a 15-minute free trial for anyone interested in swimming. This way, you can feel it out and decide whether to pursue it. Through this free trial, the coaches will assess your abilities and place you in a class based on your level of capability, and as you progress, you move to a higher level/class. Being in a class with people on the same level as you makes learning that much easier; you learn together and grow together!

Thank you, Robin and Catherine

Swimming allows us to build relationships, boost our confidence, improve our health and well-being and create a balanced lifestyle. Among all these things, we experience the beauty of swimming in South Africa, whether in our community pools or our beautiful coastal waters. Whether racing or floating, let us create a ripple effect in our unity.

Join a Virgin Active gym to begin your journey towards creating a happier, healthier you. Dive into the world of swimming with Virgin Active, where we strengthen our community, one stroke at a time, with our professional coaches and swimming lessons!