Our summer vacation plans may be different this year, but at least we still have access to a seasonal staple: swimming pools! Kerrville’s Olympic Pool is open and the Hill Country is blessed to have an abundance of swimming holes in addition to three indoor year-round pools. The water not only cools us, but it allows us to have fun, get a great workout and stay safe as we all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Pools and other bodies of water, though, must be used responsibly. The Red Cross has put together some lessons we should all learn before we dip our toes in the water.

Why is water safety so important?

It only takes a moment. A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text, check a fishing line or apply sunscreen.

What does it mean to be water competent?

Water competency is a way of improving water safety for yourself and those around you through avoiding common dangers, developing fundamental water safety skills to make you safer in and around the water, and knowing how to prevent and respond to drowning emergencies. Water competency has three main components: water smarts, swimming skills and helping others.

Water Smarts

Take these sensible precautions when you’re around water (even if you’re not planning to swim):

  • Know your limitations, including physical fitness, medical conditions.
  • Never swim alone; swim with lifeguards and/or water watchers present.
  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket appropriate for your weight and size and the water activity. Always wear a life jacket while boating, regardless of swimming skill.
  • Swim sober.
  • Understand the dangers of hyperventilation and hypoxic blackout.
  • Know how to call for help.
  • Understand and adjust for the unique risks of the water environment you are in, such as river currents, ocean rip currents, water temperature, shallow or unclear water, and underwater hazards, such as vegetation and animals.

Swimming Skills

Learn how to perform these five skills in every type of water environment that you may encounter (pools, oceans, lakes, rivers and streams):

  • Enter water that’s over your head, then return to the surface.
  • Float or tread water for at least 1 minute.
  • Turn over and turn around in the water.
  • Swim at least 25 yards.
  • Exit the water.

Helping Others

These actions will help your family avoid emergencies – and help you respond if an emergency occurs:

  • Paying close attention to children or weak swimmers you are supervising in or near water.
  • Knowing the signs that someone is drowning.
  • Knowing ways to safely assist a drowning person, such as “reach or throw, don’t go.”
  • Knowing CPR and first aid.

Am I safe from COVID-19 while I'm in the water?

According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through recreational water. However, it is important to limit close contact with people outside of your home when visiting public pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds, as well as natural bodies of water — like beaches and lakes — to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Can I get a good workout in the water?

Yes! Exercising in water makes you feel about 90% lighter, reports the American Council on Exercise. When you jump or run in the water, your body does not experience the same impact that these moves cause on land.

This makes water aerobics an ideal activity for those with arthritis, back problems, foot or leg injuries, knee conditions, as well as pregnant women and those who are obese. When exercising in water, you work against 12 times the resistance of air. Simply kicking and cupping the water helps contribute to muscle development, which translates into a higher metabolism and healthier body.

Why are swim lessons important?

According to the YMCA, fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years old. And, the problem is particularly acute among minority communities. Swim lessons not only teach a child the traditional swim strokes, but how to respect the water, be safe in the pool, and what to do if they if they get scared or need to call for help.

Kathy Sears Hall is a Kerrville native and graduate of Tivy High School. She is a Cooper Institute Personal Trainer and is licensed to teach Pilates and Zumba. She holds an accounting degree from the University of Texas and spent 27 years in the energy industry. She now enjoys being back home and working with her father, husband and staff at The Center for Fitness, a business her mother started over 40 years ago.

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