Chapter Five (previous)
The Home Pool


The Birdy Hop, Individual

The purpose of the Birdy Hop is to help you learn how to recover from a Free Float (floating without holding onto anything.) Some adults find it difficult getting back onto their feet after performing a Free Float. The Birdy Hop will take you through all the recovery movements without having to do a Free Float. After mastering the Birdy Hop, regaining from a Free Float will be less stressful. These progressions begin with a review of the Stationary Float.

1--After entering the pool, pour water over shoulders with cupped hands and pat face with water.

2--Bend knees, letting water rise up to chin, then stand. Repeat 5 X.

3--While facing and holding onto side, bend knees until water covers head. Stand. Continuously repeat 5 X.

4--Take a deep breath. Hold onto side and perform the Stationary Float Position--chest atop water; neck muscles relaxed with head dangling down into water; arms shoulder width apart; elbows STRAIGHT; feet moved back until standing on tip toes. Keep knees STRAIGHT--NO BENDS. Hold this position at least 3 separate X for about 10 seconds each, standing after each time.

5--Take deep breath. Perform Stationary Float Position but this time let legs rise to a float. Hold float perfectly to count of 15 and stand. Perform 5 X or until mastered.

End of Review

If you are unable to hold or maintain a Stationary Float refer to Chapter Four: Frequent Problems With the Stationary Float. (Scroll down to end of page in Chapter Four.)

Progressions for The Birdy Hop

If you've read "The Birdy Hop" under Instructor, you are familiar with it. Although the Individual progressions are more detailed, the moves are the same.

1--Face WIDTH of pool at side of shallow end. Standing with back to side, extend arms chest high straight out in front of body.

2--With hands turned down (palms atop water) pull both arms at once in a downward motion, moving arms all the way through the water, past hips toward back of body. Hands are behind back with palms facing upward and arms atop water. (see illustration at end of progressions.)

3--Repeat # 2 at least five times. It's EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that both arms pull equally and at the same speed to maintain balance. Practice until able to perform without leaning to one side.

4--Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Repeat # 3 but this time BEND FORWARD slightly and pull back hard enough to lift up both feet. Feet must lift up and land together!(or at same time.) Practice until you are able to keep from leaning to one side.

5--Perform # 4 but pull back harder and take longer hops. Do continuous Birdy Hops across width of pool. The backward arm pull must be STRONG enough to lift up both feet together and LAND TOGETHER. Think of a hopping bird. Both wings must flap simultaneously with claws lifting off the ground and landing together. We've seen birds buffeted by wind causing one wing or foot to be higher than the other and they lose their balance.

The biggest mistake people make in performing the Birdy Hop is to merely move arms through the motions rather than PULLING them through the water. The backward movement must be definite and HARD. Water-Shy people tend to hold back, fearful that a strong stroke will make them move too fast and cause them to lose control. The irony of this, at least in swimming is that slow and indefinite strokes nearly always result in LOSS of control.

The Birdy Hop With Stationary Float

1--At pool side, perform a good stationary float. Maintain to count of 15, stand.

2--Perform good stationary float, maintain at least 3 seconds then pull both hands down together past hips and lift head. This brings you to a standing position. DO NOT LIFT HEAD BEFORE downward move with hands or you will defeat the purpose. Hands pull downward slightly before head lifts. Repeat 4 X.

3--Perform stationary float and maintain, but when pulling hands downward and lifting head, follow through with arms moving past sides of body, going all the way back as in the Birdy Hop. Feet MUST land together to obtain a firm stand--no stumbling or putting more weight on one side. These are the same moves for the Birdy Hop but without a hop. Perform at least 5 X or until mastered.

Free Float at Side With Birdy Hop Recovery


1--Take deep breath and perform a good stationary float. Hold as long as possible, recover as before using the Birdy Hop pull but without the hop.

2--Do another stationary float. While maintaining float, slowly slide one hand off side and back again. Do Birdy Hop recovery. Perform task at least 5 X or until at ease.

3--Repeat # 2 with opposite hand sliding off side and back again, then the Birdy Hop recovery without the hop. 5 X.

Before performing the tasks listed below it's best that you have someone stand beside you. Tell helper to guide you to side of pool if you happen to float more than six inches away from it. You should be pushed gently at elbow until your fingers have firmly grasped side and then perform the Birdy Hop recovery as above.

4--Perform stationary float and while floating, lift both hands at once off pool side, quickly, then grab hold of side again. Do Birdy Hop recovery as before. Repeat until at ease.

5--Perform stationary float and this time VERY GENTLY push with fingertips against side of pool while maintaining float. Your body will move a few inches from side. IMMEDIATELY do the Birdy Hop recovery by pulling in a hard downward motion, following through to back with both hands at same time. Don't forget to lift head, bend knees and bring legs forward and together as practiced. Stand.

IMPORTANT: The first time you recover from a free float you may come down on only one foot. Remember that lifting up your head will cause legs to go down, and though off balance your recovery will be completed.

STUMBLING If you don't pull down hard enough and follow through with arms, especially if you are large around the mid-section, you may stumble. This is frightening to those with aqua phobia and that's why I recommend that you have someone stand next to you while you practice the Free Float.
If a friend is learning to swim with you, it's a good idea to take turns watching each other. Your partner can critique as well as aid in case of a problem. If your partner is unable to recover without stumbling, simply grasp her / his arm just above the elbow and lift upward. This brings the head up and feet down and a return to balance.

Practice the Free Float with Birdy Hop recovery at side of pool until you're able to perform the tasks perfectly and without fear. You may need to do these tasks many times over but if you don't give up you will eventually perform the Free Float perfectly and with ease. Even my little 80 pound pupil with soft muscles was finally able to do it, as well as another lady who was quite large around her mid-section and also had short arms and legs. It just takes practice.




Frequent Problems With the Free Float and Recovery

FEET DON'T LIFT UP: Often, this is a fear reaction. To do a good hop you must pull down hard with both arms together and follow through to back. Fear causes weak and hesitant movements. Practice jumping forward several times across width WITHOUT the arm pull. Simple forward jumps are not threatening and also give you a feel for balance. You will start using your arms without thinking about it after a while. Remember, the harder the pull the higher the feet will lift.

UNABLE TO GO FORWARD: You may be forgetting to lean forward as you pull arms through, or you may be pressing downward with hands instead of pulling backward (or a combination of both.) Practice only the arm pull and see where it ends up. Are arms behind you with palms up and elbows straight or are hands next to hips after pull is completed? Do you hop upward or forward? Be sure you lean forward so feet land at least a foot farther beyond where you started.

LANDING ON ONE FOOT OR STUMBLING: Notice your head. If your head is turned to one side you are likely to land on one foot. An important fact to know in most sports is that the body goes where the head goes. If you are not keeping your face straight ahead and stumble; one or more of the following body parts will also turn before or during mid-hop: hand; shoulder; waist; hips; or foot. Also, one leg may be ahead of the other causing it to land first. The best remedy for these problems is to think about them individually as you practice. Occasionally, when pupils repeat wrong moves, I tell them to purposely make themselves perform the task in the wrong way a few times. They soon realize what was causing their problem, and then become more aware of the error and watch for it. When they perform the task correctly the difference is even more noticeable. Being aware of the DIFFERENCE between correct and incorrect moves is just as important as performing them correctly in the first place, for if you learn how to tell the difference you are unlikely to get into a habit of doing them wrongly.

You may need several weeks (depending upon how often you frequent the pool) to accomplish these tasks perfectly and without anxiety, but if you don't give up, you will be successful. In the next Individual chapter you will learn how to float to the wall or to a stationary object. Again, it's recommended that you practice with a helper. Not that it's difficult (most find it fun), but if you have deep trauma it may take longer to learn the tasks unless you have the security of someone with you. The Free Float is the second major hurdle to cross in learning to swim. The first, as previously noted, is complete body and head immersion in the pool.

Chapter Five-B Free Float-Instructor
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