Thursday, March 29, 2018

Stress-Free Swim Lessons Pt. 1

Bringing your little one to swim lessons for the first time can be just as stressful for you as it can be for your child.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to explore how to minimize those first-time stresses so swim lessons are a joy!

You may worry about everything from whether they’ll take to the water, to their safety in and around the pool, to whether they’ll keep up with the class. This can affect your children without you even realizing it.

We all want our children to succeed in whatever they do. But despite our best efforts, it can be challenging and even the most well-meaning parents can unintentionally jeopardize the progress of their child in swim class.

Here’s what you can do on your end to set your child up for a successful class!

1. Communication Is Key: 

 The first thing that you need to do is have open, honest and clear communication with your child’s instructor.

Here’s what we need to know from you to help your child shine:

-What is your child good at and what do they enjoy? Telling us this helps us assess your child’s ability and what their limits are.

-What does your child struggle with? Be upfront with the instructor about what your child finds challenging. Do they have a fear of putting their face underwater? Do they have any health issues or learning challenges that we should know about or that might impede their ability to swim effectively? Knowing this in advance will help us better teach your child.

-What are your expectations for your child? Why have you signed them up for swim class? Is it for safety or just for fun? Telling us what your goal is for your child, combined with the above information, will help us move forward so that everyone is on the same page with respect to your child’s progress.

[bctt tweet="Give encouragement often and, as the lessons progress and you see the instructor work with your child, keep giving that feedback! This is a total team effort between your child’s instructor and you." username="@AquaLifeSA"]

2. Effective Encouragement:

Children love to be praised. It boosts their confidence and inspires them to go further. Cheering them on from the sidelines, telling them how well they did a particular skill, and asking them what they loved most about the class boosts positivity and reassures them they’re doing well so they want to continue with their lessons.

However, encouragement can take many forms and how one child responds to vocally cheering from the sidelines may not work for another. Is your child on the more sensitive side or do they embarrass easily? If so, a smile or wink when they catch your eye can be just the subtle validation they will love.

Sometimes it takes our little ones longer than others to pick up a skill. It's so important as a parent to be VERY patient and to try not compare your child's progress to another's. Just as we have to be mindful about how we give them positive encouragement, we have to be just as mindful with the way we talk about the skills they aren’t so good at yet.  
Of course, it is never our intention to discourage our child, but children are so sensitive and are always looking for validation, especially from their parents, that they can misconstrue what was said to believe that they’re not good swimmers.

So give encouragement often and, as the lessons progress and you see the instructor work with your child, keep giving that feedback! This is a total team effort between your child’s instructor and you.

How do you encourage your child during their lessons? Let me know in the comments below.

The following blog post Stress-Free Swim Lessons Pt. 1 was originally published on: http://www,

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Make Your 1st Swim Class Great!

Are you concerned that your child will resist swimming? You know, freak out like they’re being attacked by Jaws?

Don't worry! Follow these tips to help get your child and yourself ready to actually enjoy that very first swimming lesson (and the many more that will follow)!

Frame Swimming in a Positive Light

Our children’s perspective is influenced by the signals they receive from us. In the weeks leading up to their first lesson, be positive and supportive of the experience. Try to make any connection they have with water a positive one.

For little ones, make bath time fun and a no-fear zone by introducing bath-time-only toys, like a watering can, goggles or floating animals. It’s a great way to get kids used to water on their head and face!

The First Day of Class

There’s a lot to do before class and time goes by really fast. To make the most of lesson time, here are some ways to minimize distractions and maximize the fun and learning!

  • Avoid having your child swim on an empty stomach or one that’s too full. Either could interfere with their comfort level during the lesson which potentially means less time in the water for them. Providing them with a light snack beforehand will keep up their energy level and help their focus during the lesson. Pack a snack for after the lesson, too.
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early. The time it takes to find parking, get through the building and change your child into their swimsuit can add up!
  • Adjust goggles. The best time to adjust your child’s goggles is definitely before their lesson. All models of goggles are different. It might take a few minutes to figure them out and get them fitting just right for your child’s face.

[bctt tweet="With a little pre-planning and by following these tips, you can easily increase the odds that your child will love their lessons from the start. " username="@AquaLifeSA"]

  • Go pee. Enough said!
  • If your child has long hair, tie it up. This is one of the primary reasons that many girls find it difficult to focus on learning skills such as bobs, side breathing, breaststroke arm pull, etc.
  • Consider having your child wear their swimsuit under their clothing and bring a change of clothes (and don’t forget underwear!) for after their swim. This makes for a quick change before the lesson.
  • Team up with your instructor - communication is key! Speak to the instructor at the start of the first lesson. Establish open, positive communication with them. Let them know what your child is comfortable doing in the water, what they find challenging and what your expectations are for their progress.

While almost all kids love swim lessons eventually, it does take some children a couple of classes to warm up to it. But, with a little pre-planning and by following these tips, you can easily increase the odds that they’ll love it the moment they jump in the pool!

Happy swimming!



The following post Make Your 1st Swim Class Great! was first published on: The Aqua Life

Thursday, March 15, 2018

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Swim Lessons

Learning to swim is one of the most important gifts you can give your child. Not only will it help keep them safe in and around the water, it’s great for their confidence and their belief that they can take on new challenges. How else would they go on to compete in swimming, play water polo or scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef?!

Lessons are a significant investment and we want to make sure that you and your child get the most out of your lessons.

There’s a lot that you can do before your child even dips their toes in the water to ensure that happens. Check out the suggestions below for a lead-up to a successful first lesson!

In the Weeks Leading Up To Class

Start with a dry run.

Take a drive out to the pool you will be frequenting for lessons with your child. Even if the access door is locked, if possible have a peek through the window at the pool. Point out to your child the deck and let them know that it gets slippery when wet and that's why you’re both going to walk on the deck and not run! Show them the shower, the hot tub (which of course they can’t use - but sometimes it’s good to let them know that up-front!) and the change room. A familiarity tour is great for figuring out directions to the pool, scoping out the best place to park, figuring out exactly how long it takes to drive to the pool, and where the pool is located in the building.

Plan a family swim day.

Like the dry run, a family swim day at your closest public pool can help prepare you for weekly lessons in many ways. First, it can give you a practice run for packing your swim bag; timing out how long it takes to get ready for lessons; help you identify what you need and what equipment you’re missing (maybe goggles, hair elastics, snacks). Take note of what you're missing and place those items on your to-pick-up list.

For your family swim day, make it the main focus of the day and leave yourself lots of time to get ready, arrive at and change for the pool. Don’t rush, take your time and keep the tone of the day playful. It's important that your child comes to understand that swimming is joyful while you practice getting ready for swim lessons.

"Sure, you can help out."

Why not let your child get involved in preparing for lessons? Maybe let them help you pack their swim bag, or pick out the colour of their goggles, swimsuit or favourite towel. Having them participate in the preparation can help kids “buy” into going to lessons and can give them something to focus on rather than their nerves or anxiety.

[bctt tweet="Lessons are a significant investment and we want to make sure that you and your child get the most out of your lessons. There’s a lot that you can do before your child even dips their toes in the water to ensure that happens. " username="@AquaLifeSA"]

Consider a “shorty”.

Is your child mostly skin ’n bones? Maybe they don’t have much body fat or get cold easily. I have a son like this. We found that investing in a shorty wetsuite was a good way to keep him warmer in the pool and stretched out the amount of time he spent in the pool before his lips turned blue. They're not cheap, but we’ve found it to be well worth the investment. I’d estimate it let him swim anywhere from three to five times longer In the summer you can find them at Costco. Off season, you can purchase them at MEC or online.

A Few Days Before Class

Everybody has a very busy schedule and emergencies can pop up when you least expect it. Taking the time to pack your child’s swim bag in the days leading up to the first class will be one less thing to think about. All you’ll have to do on the day of class is grab it and go!

But do you have everything you’ll need? Check out our checklist below for all the essentials:

  • swimsuit/swim shorts (that tie up)
  • beach towel
  • goggles (consider getting a spare pair)
  • Power Swimmer (for Parents & Tots and Swim 101, swimmers age 2-5 yrs)
  • flip-flops
  • swim cap OR hair elastics and 2 barrettes
  • an additional pair of underwear if they wear their swimsuit to the lesson
  • plastic bag for wet items
  • shampoo & conditioner
  • soap
  • comb/brush
  • water & healthy snack
  • swim diaper for tots who are not potty trained
  • swimsuit and towel for Mom or Dad in the Parents & Tots class

Following these tips in the weeks and days leading up to your child's first swim lesson will help them have the best experience possible and make swim lessons a positive experience, not a scary one.

What preparations did you make before your first or your child's first swim lesson? Let me know in the comments of this blog.

Be on the lookout for part two of this blog where we go over how to get the most out of that first swim lesson.

The following article How To Get The Most Out Of Your Swim Lessons was originally seen on:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Swimming The Rottnest Channel

When I cut out a picture of the turquoise ocean coast of Western Australia and stapled it to my vision board, I was living on a country road across from a cornfield in Hawkesbury. I was taking care of my two-year-old twins, Tate and Clara, while my nine- and ten-year-old kids were at school. That was ten years ago!

How is it that so much can happen in ten years?

At that time, I had no thoughts of running my own swim school or living in Ottawa, nor did I have any idea how or when we would make it to Australia to visit my sister, Erica, who had just moved there.

What a joy it is to now have finally made it to Australia and to have swam the Rottnest Channel with Erica and our team.

The Rottnest Channel Swim - truly the adventure of a lifetime!

Before the sun rose on the morning of Saturday, February 24th, Erica and I woke, ate our oatmeal and dressed like one would for a Canadian winter in sweatpants, a t-shirt, polar fleece, wind-proof jacket and toque (or, as the Aussie’s call it, a ‘beanie’). Kaere then joined us and we got ready and headed for Hillary’s boat harbour.

The boat pulled up alongside the early morning fishers and we introduced ourselves to Ryan’s crew, Rat and Simmo (Aussie sea-mate names, of course!). As the sun rose, we sped off towards Cottesloe Beach to wait for the start of the race. Just south of the start beach we stopped and the crew hoisted up our Canadian flag!

At 7:05am, Em, our first team swimmer in her florescent orange ‘bathers’ (Aussie for swimsuit) ran into the water with a hundred or so other people in the start wave and quickly pulled ahead of the pack. Kim, our amazing kayaker, spotted Em right away and pulled up to paddle beside her. Em is not only an incredible and experienced open water swimmer, she works all summer as a Surf Lifesaver patrolling one of the busiest beaches in Perth. And every second weekend she patrols the metro beaches from the Surf Lifesaving helicopter. The woman is fit!

Meanwhile Back on the Boat…

At 7:25am our skipper, Ryan, spotted, what he thought were, Kim and Em. He brought the boat carefully up alongside and sure enough, it was them!

Next to swim a fifteen-minute leg was Kaere. She jumped in, tagged Em above the water (as per the regulations) and was off.

Something you should know about Kaere is that this was her first Rotto swim ever, even though she has a strong competitive swim background. She has been Erica’s roommate for 4 years and has even crewed for Erica’s previous Rotto swim, but she had never done one herself. I’m so grateful that she stepped in to swim her first with Erica and me.

Thirty minutes into the swim it was my sister’s, Erica, turn to swim. Erica is eight years younger than me and four months pregnant with her first child! So, technically we were a four-and-a-half person team. That morning Erica had a terrible sore throat and the chills from a Canadian cold Clara and I had brought her. Yikes! But she swam her best anyways.

Holy Mac… It’s my Turn!

I’m getting a little teary just thinking back on that moment. Just before I jumped in for my leg, I can remember talking to the camera doing a Facebook live video, dedicating the swim to my fantastic swim quad, then jumping off the side of the boat into the surprisingly warm water

I can recall the salt on my lips, then looking underwater at my sister’s form swimming towards me in a confusion of boats, water, bubbles, and waves. Then I was raising my hand out of the water and Erica was giving me a high five tap off. I think she cheered, or maybe it was someone on the boat, and I swam off.

There are moments in life when things seem to slow down, and your heart feels like it is so full it might burst. That moment of jumping in and tagging off with my sister was one of those moments for me. To share such a great moment with her in the middle of the Indian Ocean, doing something we both love, well, what a JOY! What a thrill.

I am so grateful to her, our team, my Aqua Life team back home, and my family for helping make that happen.

In my training for Rotto I did some ocean swimming in Florida, but this was quite different!

First, kayak paddler Kim, who was fantastic, was following the swimmers! It felt like I kept being swept left into the kayak. Maybe it was the current or the waves; I’m really not certain. It took a bit to adjust my stroke, but eventually I did.

Second, there was the swell. What a feeling it is to be picked up by the water from behind, lifted up, rushed forward, and then plunged head-first down the trough of the wave, only to be pulled backward by the next wave and then picked up all over again! It took a few minutes each time to get into the rhythm and figure out how to ride the wave. And there were plenty of salty mouthfuls of water while you tried to figure out when to breath during all of this.


I was in the water when the rest of the team and crew heard on the radio that a large creature had been reported at the 12km mark - 50m or so from where I was swimming!

We were told to standby for confirmation and further instructions. This was the first time a shark had been spotted during a Rotto swim.

A few minutes later, Em jumped in to swim her leg and I was brought up to speed. Em had finished her ten-minute leg and Kaere was getting ready to jump in, but we still hadn’t heard anything. Let’s just say a nervous Kaere made us promise to pull her out ASAP if we spotted anything.

Finally, when we hit the 13.4km mark, the voice of the race director came over the radio and confirmed that a 4m shark had been spotted at the 12km mark and that anyone currently in the 11-13km mark was to immediately pull their swimmers out of the water. We were 400m outside the zone! And so, lucky for us, we got to continue the race.

[bctt tweet="There are moments in life when things seem to slow down, and your heart feels like it is so full it might burst. That moment of jumping in and tagging off with my sister was one of those moments for me. " username="@AquaLifeSA"]

What’s Everyone Pointing at? 

During my next leg in the water, I noticed that everyone in our boat and the neighboring competitors’ boats were leaning over the side and pointing to something ahead. Try as I might to see up and over the waves when I turned to breathe, I could not see anything. Since no one motioned or hollered for me to get out, I kept on swimming.

When Em jumped in to tap me out, they showed me incredible pictures of a support boat that sank not 25m in front of where I was swimming. Afterward, we learned that it went down so fast that the skipper didn’t even have time to find his house and car keys before it sank.

For the last 800m of the race, Erica, Em and I jumped in with Kaere to swim to shore. Our boat veered off as per the rules and Kim stayed with us up until the 400m mark and then he, too, had to paddle outside the finish buoys. The water around Rottnest Island was an incredible turquoise in the sandy spots and you could see right to the bottom. It was a great swim in and we ran up the beach, hand in hand, and crossed the finish line in five hours, nineteen minutes and twenty-six seconds, stopping at the beach for a group photo of course!

And The Winners Are...

It was a fast year for the Rottnest Channel Swim. The record for the fastest male solo swim was not only broken, it was the first time ever a solo swimmer swam the channel in under four hours! The soloist was Solomon Wright with a time of 3:59.28.

The results of the team category kept changing as we followed online. When the dust settled, and all the teams that had pulled out reported to the results station, our team, the Three Beavers and a Kiwi, had won first in the Woman’s Team Overall!

It was the icing on the cake of a great adventure. What a day and what a time we’ve had in Australia. What a joy swimming has brought me. I am so grateful for this experience.

Now it’s time to sit down (once I get back to Canada, that is) with a pair of scissors and some magazines and dream of what adventure to staple to my vision board next.

What is your next swim adventure? Where will swimming bring you? Let me know in the comments below.





The following article Swimming The Rottnest Channel is courtesy of: The Aqua Life

Sunday, February 18, 2018

How to get comfortable swimming in a new body of water | The Aqua Life

Six open water swim tips + the Rottnest is here!

I’m beyond excited because I’m days away from crossing off a bucket list item that I’ve wanted to do for a long time - but it’ll take a flight to Australia, three beavers and kiwi to pull it off!\

“What the heck are you talking about, Stephanie?!”

I’m glad you asked!

On February 24th I will be taking part in the Rottnest Channel Swim. You may have heard me talking about this over the past month. Check out our last blog to learn more about what the Rottnest swim is all about.

Our team - Three Beavers and a Kiwi - consists of me, two friends and my younger sister, Erica, who is an old pro at this. She has done this swim a total of 6 times!

Swimming is an incredible sport and I’ve been doing it from an early age. It all started when I received an invitation to a bring-your-friend-to-swim day. I loved it! It took me from being a sad, lonely girl in elementary school and opened my eyes to a whole new world.

As kids, Erica wanted to tag along with me at the pool. It didn’t take long for her to get bitten by the swimming bug, too.

Both Erica and I became part of the Hawkesbury Orca Swim Team.

I then began swimming competitively which I did all through high school and university and from there played water polo.

I’ve had so many great experiences in life because of that one invitation I accepted from a friend way back in elementary school.

And now it’s bring me one more - swimming the Rottnest Channel!

When I’m asked what it is I’m most excited about when it comes to this swim, it’s hard to pinpoint one thing. I think it’s every aspect of the overall experience - being out in a boat, swimming in the huge ocean with all the other participants and, of course, to be able to say, “I did it!”

I get a lot of different reactions when I tell people about Rottnest especially when I mention the distance I’ll be swimming  - but there are ways to make any swim more comfortable.

The idea of an open water swim, especially a long distance, might sound overwhelming at first but there are ways to ease into it.

Here are 6 of my top tips for a smoother journey into open water swimming:

1. Get comfortable swimming double the distance you aim to swim in your open water swim by practicing in the pool first.

2. Learn to sight with ease in the pool before heading to open water.

3. Paddle your swim first to get a good feel for water temperature, water colour, idea of the depth at different spots, currents and best places to start and land.

4. Force yourself to start out slow (you will be swimming faster than you think because of adrenaline) and concentrate on the sky, not the depth of the water.

5. Have a paddler follow you & wear a MyFloat.

6. Make a planned stop at the mid-point of your swim, turn on your back and enjoy the view of the sky while you take a little breather. Start again when you feel refreshed!

(Check out the video below for some tips I recorded over the summer in Nove Scotia!)

Want to follow our adventures?

Check out the Aqua Life Swim Academy’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, and keep your eyes peeled for our #YOWSwimsRotto and #YOWinOz posts. Starting February 24, we’ll be running a 10 day giveaway of some unique Australian prizes we’ve picked up during our trip!

Pssst…. the grand prize for this contest is a year of FREE swim lessons. Don’t miss your chance to enter.

Happy swimming!

The following blog post Six open water swim tips + the Rottnest is here! is available on: http://www,

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The 2018 Rottnest Channel Swim is almost here!

I’m so excited to announce that my family and I are now just ONE MONTH away from leaving for Australia. On February 23rd, I’ll be swimming in my first ever Rottnest Channel Swim along with my sister Erica and two of our friends.

So, what the heck is that?!

The Rottnest Channel Swim is the world’s largest open water swim, with 2,500 participants expected this year. The 19.7 km swim takes place just off the west coast of Australia, between the Cottesloe Beach to Rottnest Island. We’ll be participating as a four person team, called “Three Beavers and a Kiwi!”

Check out this video to meet my little sister, Erica. We go through how we both got into swimming and what we’re expecting heading into the swim on February 23!

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to explore Australia and to participate in such a cool event and bring my two youngest kids, Tate and Clara, along for the adventure. (And my amazing husband, Pat!)

Want to follow along with the Raineys as we head to Oz?

Keep an eye on the Aqua Life Swim Academy’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for our #YowSwimsRotto and the #YowInOz posts in the weeks leading up to and during our trip!

We will also be hosting a 10 day All-Things-Oz Facebook giveaway with a slew of neat Australian-exclusive prizes and one BIG grand prize of A YEAR OF FREE SWIM LESSONS. Click here to like us and follow us on  Facebook and Instagram!

Yeah, you read that right.

Want to find out more about the swim? Check out this great video from last year’s event:

The following post The 2018 Rottnest Channel Swim is almost here! was first published to: