Swimming is a great low-impact exercise for all ages and abilities. Australian marathon swimmer, Tammy Van Wisse shows ex-AFL (Australian Football League) player and coach, Tony Shaw some swimming basics to gain confidence in the water.
Tony: Water, I don’t mind the stuff. I don’t mind showering in it; I don’t mind jet skiing on it and I don’t mind going on boats. But when I have to put my head under the water, that really freaks me out. So, today I’m going to meet Australia’s greatest long distance swimmer Tammy Van Wisse and she’s going to take me under her water wings.

This endurance marvel has swum over 60,000km – that’s one and half times around the world. Four world records have been broken by swimming’s woman of steel and she still has a smile on her face.

Tammy: At first I was proving something to myself more than anything else because I grew up as an overweight child and got teased at school.

Tony: Now, the only thing that Tammy gets teased about is being crazy enough to take on those brutal ocean swims.

Tammy: Oh, thank Christ it’s warmed up a bit.

Speaker 1: Has it?

Tony: I’ve seen you after some of your races or your swims and your head, you look like your face has blown up like you’ve gone 10 rounds with Joe Frazer.

Tammy: And that’s putting it mildly. Yeah, I didn’t go into marathon swimming for the glamour aspect of it, put it that way. So yeah, it’s not exactly very nice. I look pretty ugly that’s for sure.

Tony: Today, Tammy’s got another huge challenge – me.

Tammy: What are you doing?

Tony: Thanks for that Tam.

Tammy: There’s rings and floaties and things.

Tony: Well…

Tammy: What are you doing? Come on.

Tony: Well mate look, I have not been taught how to swim. I got the basics, but you know what? I get anxiety levels when I’ve got my head under water too long.

Tammy: Tony, that’s fine. I know you have your anxiety attacks, but lots of people are afraid of the water. And I think we need to take you right back to the basics. You know with a bit of water familiarisation.

Tony: How far?

Tammy: Well, just like our little children over here are doing. I think we need to take it that far back.

Tony: Are you going to do it by yourself? I’m jumping into the deep end with a very confident bunch of four and five-year-olds and none of them are wearing floaties. Dean Gooch is in charge of these show off water babies.

Dean: Is that right?

Tammy: Chin up, good boy.

Tony: Gee, I feel good. This isn’t that hard really.

Child 1: I’m five.

Child 2: I’m five.

Tony: I don’t think I jumped in the water until I was 41. What do you reckon, kids? Am I a good swimmer?

Children: No!

Tony: Oh yeah. Chin up, hands in, legs out – is that better?

Children: Yeah!

Tony: Thanks a lot. Okay, enough kidding about. This is embarrassing. I’ve got to get my head under.

Tammy: Okay, well let’s have a practise. Are you ready?

Tony: The first thing Tam gets me to do is breathe through my nose under water, making me keep my mouth shut. Not easy when you have a trap my size.

Tammy: How was that?

Tony: Oh yeah, real good. Real good.

Children: Well done, Tony.

Tony: Thanks kids. Now, there are many reasons why we should all learn to swim, apart from that important one of not drowning.

Tammy: Well, it’s great for the cardiovascular system, good for all round muscle tone. It’s a fairly low-impact sport, so if someone like yourself…

Tony: At my age.

Tammy: … who’s getting on a little bit in years. It’s a great sport because it doesn’t put any weight bearing on any of the joints and muscles.

Tony: Tammy has decided it’s time to remove my security blankets. It’s off with the ring and the floatie. I’m ready. Is this the derobing? How do you get out of these bloody… I only got it on to stop anyone seeing my stomach, that’s the main reason. Stripped of all my safety devices, I’m now left with just this tiny little kickboard.

Tammy: Go kick your legs, blow bubbles, off you go.

Tony: It was alright. This is a bit deep at this end.

Tammy: Now Tony, I was just so impressed with your kicking that I’m going to let you cheat a little bit now…

Tony: Yeah.

Tammy: … and wear some flippers.

Tony: I love cheating.

Tammy: A couple of very, very simple things to think about when you’re doing your arms. The first thing is as your hand enters, it should be very, very relaxed. You don’t need to have your fingers nice and tight.

Tony: Alright.

Tammy: Very relaxed, a bit of a gap in between them, that’s fine. So, hand enters the water and it’s like you’re trying to reach over the top of a beer barrel.

Tony: Oh, I can do that. I’ve done that plenty of times [0:04:07]

Tammy: I thought that might be a good analogy.

Tony: Yeah, okay.

Tammy: Reach over the top of the beer barrel. Keep the elbow up nice and high…

Tony: Yeah.

Tammy: Push right back. Go!

Tony: How about those flippers? What a result.

Tammy: Well, he made it.

Tony: You beauty! Tammy, you are a genius.

Tammy: That’s a good thing.

Tony: So, be smarter than me and learn to swim early like my cheeky mates. Even bubs as young as six months can join in with mum or dad.

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Last updated: October 2015

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