What Every Lifeguard Ought to Know About the Swim Test

by Pool Builders on 03-01-2014 in Articles

As a lifeguard, you will be asked to do a variety of physical tests to verify that you are fit for the job. The tests are designed to assess your swimming strength, endurance, comfort in the water and ability to meet the time requirements. While each lifeguarding course will have a slight variation to the swim test, they all have the same basic concepts. Each course will require the student to complete a distance swim, tread water for a period of time, and complete a timed retrieval. Knowing what to expect in the test and being adequately prepared are extremely important to your success.

The Distance Swim:

The American Red Cross requires that guards can swim continuously for 300 yards using either freestyle or breaststroke. Boy Scouts of America, on the other hand, requires you to swim for 550 yards. In the 550 yards, you must swim at least 100 yards using the front crawl, breaststroke, elementary backstroke, and sidestroke.

This test is designed to test your swimming stamina. It is not a timed test. To prepare you will want to build up your distance to the 300 or 550 yards. Start at shorter distances of either 50 or 100 yards. When you become more comfortable with those distances, add an additional 50 yards to your training session. Also, make sure you are practicing all the strokes required so that you can swim at least 100 yards with each stroke.

On test day, remember that the swim is an untimed swim. Take your time and pace yourself so that you do not burn out too quickly. Remember your training and get into a good rhythm during your swim. Also, the American Red Cross allows you to wear goggles during the timed swim. If you prepared wearing goggles, take advantage of this exception.

Tread Water for Two Minutes:

Both The American Red Cross and the Boy Scouts of America have this test as part of their qualification. The test requires that you tread water, in an upright position, for two minutes using only your legs. You will be asked to place your hands under your armpits and must keep your mouth above the water for the full two minutes.

The purpose of this test is to test your endurance. To be adequately prepared, you should add water treading into your training routine. Since this test requires that you keep your mouth above water level you will want to be sure that you stay at a consistent level. To accomplish this, you will want to use the eggbeater kick. It is also important to have a strong core. Core training will be vital to passing the two-minute timed water tread.

The two-minute timed water tread test will begin immediately following the distance swim. Force yourself to slow down your breathing and clear your mind of any self-doubt. Try to get into a rhythm with the eggbeater kick and pace yourself to keep your mouth just above water level. It is also helpful to have a positive mantra or saying memorized to repeat in your head as you do the test.

Weight Retrieval:

The requirements for this test are the same for The American Red Cross and The Boy Scouts of America. The test is timed and requires you to complete it in 1 minute 40 seconds. To start, you must first swim 20 yards using a front crawl or breaststroke. Then you will surface dive 7 to 10 feet, retrieve a 10-pound object and return to the surface. From there, swim 20 yards back to the starting point with the object, place the object on the pool deck, and exit the pool without the assistance of the ladder or steps.

The challenge is designed to be comprehensive. It tests your swimming strength, endurance, comfort in the water, and ability to meet a time requirement. At this point in your training you should be very comfortable swimming distances with a variety of strokes. You will want to practice swimming the distance with the 10-pound object and lifting it to the pool deck. It is also important that you practice your surface dives. Make sure to dive to the bottom of the pool, retrieve the object with two hands and push off the bottom of the pool with both feet towards the pool deck.

This is your last test. You are 1 minute and 40 seconds away from passing and completing the swim test. Once again, slow down your breathing and go over the entire drill in your head. When you begin the test, have an idea of how far you need to go to reach 20 yards. You will not want to swim past the object and lose valuable time. Resist the urge to dive down only far enough to grab the weight. You will have greater success, if you dive to the bottom of the pool, grab the object with both hands and push off the bottom with both legs.

These tests are designed to eliminate the individuals who are not physically fit enough to be a lifeguard. They are very challenging tests, but with the right preparation they can be completed. The comments above give you just a few tips to help you prepare and be ready for test day. Utilize these tips to be ready when it comes time to complete the swim test.

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