Treading water – a life-saving art

Why would someone jump in to a pool just to learn how to stay afloat in an upright position? An innocent question, right? That’s exactly the question my little sister asked me when I tried to teach her water treading prior to her swim lessons. I don’t remember if I had asked the same question to my dad when he took me for the first time to the pool.

I have had fear of water since I was a child. I was even fearful of stepping into the swimming pool. In the early stages, I would be gripped by the fear of sliding down under the water with no one to rescue me.

If my memory serves me right, it took me a long time to overcome fear of water and build confidence. My dad would make me stand on the shallow end of the pool and have me wade the water horizontally with the palm pushing the water away. Little did I know he was teaching me what I now know as sculling. As I progressed with sculling, I was encouraged to start kicking the water by gently moving my legs like a pair of scissors (what I now know as fluttering). It was not easy to let go of the floor, but it was a good exercise to overcome my fear. I would kick randomly in all possible ways, including bike paddling and throwing the legs like a frog. After lot of guidance, I got used to a kicking style-known as eggbeater style.

I vividly remember the day I was able to keep my body upright, head above the water, and move my hands and legs in perfect sync, and stay afloat without trying to grab anything. I was beginning to master the art of water treading. Actual swimming was yet to come.

Looking back, I am glad that I was afforded the opportunity to learn the techniques in a proper sequence. Confidence on my ability to tread water also tremendously helped to manage my fear of water. With added extra confidence, I was able to quickly progress through my swim lessons.


Ability to tread water will help keep your head above water – essentially a life-saving skill.


My advice to those who are fearful of water is to start with a simple step – learn to tread water. Start at the shallow end, have someone to supervise (and teach) and keep close to the wall. If need be, use a floatation board or a noodle. Build the confidence to take the plunge, and learn a life-saving skill.  And of course, treading water is a great exercise to burn calories without hurting your joints.

– Meghna Sil

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