Treading water is an essential skill to possess in a water survival situation. There are different ways to tread water, the most common using a froglike or eggbeater kick, combined with a figure eight motion with the arms and hands. Treading water is intended to conserve energy, utilising the least movement possible to keep a person's head above the water. Relaxed water treading is ideal in situations where drowning is a possibility. The skill is taught early in swimming instruction and revisited throughout to increase endurance.
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The legs are most often the first skill taught for treading water. A person tends to naturally kick like a frog when he or she is trying to keep afloat. Before being suspended in open water, a person can hold onto a wall and practice frog kicking until he or she feels comfortable with the manoeuvre. For children, it can be helpful to discuss what frogs look like when swimming to help them get a mental picture before they try the technique.
After a person becomes comfortable with the frog kick, it can be helpful to learn the eggbeater kick. The kick can be described as moving the legs as an old-fashioned eggbeater. The technique can be taught with the student sitting in a chair outside of the pool. The student moves his or her legs alternately in a large circle, focusing on the motion at the knee joint. The eggbeater kick can then be practised on the pool wall until comfortable. Learning different treading water leg positions will help to give certain muscle groups a rest if fatigue sets in.
Figure Eight Arms and Cupped Hands
This skill can be taught outside of the pool, as well. A student should practice making a figure eight motion with his or her hands. The movement should be slow and deliberate, incorporating both the shoulder and elbow joint. The hands should be squeezed together into a cup, which will increase water resistance and power.
Playing games can be an efficient way to teach a group how to tread water. One common game played is "Last Man Treading." The students all start to tread water at the same time and then swim to the wall as their energy runs out. The last person treading water wins the game. Another game used to teach treading water is a form of freeze tag. Students swim and "tag" one another. Once tagged, the student must tread water until he or she is "untagged" by a teammate.
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