Lifeguard Training: Getting in the Mix
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
When was the last time you trained with your staff — not led in-service training, but got in the water to perform rescues or take part in a multi-rescuer response team providing CPR?
I think it is imperative that leaders participate with staff when it comes to training. Whether it is swim conditioning, water rescues, or land-based activities, you should be in the mix just as much as any lifeguard.
I've found this to be a sticking point with the seasonal and entry-level workforce. They want to see their bosses in the water with them. So I find a lot of value in doing this. I'm not just talking the talk, I'm walking the walk. Participation is good for morale. It demonstrates leadership, preparedness and capability. When I do this, I am met with more enthusiasm and buy-in, and less resistance.
I don’t have to be as good or fast as them, but they have to see me in the water, willing to do what they’re doing.
But what if you haven’t been in the water in weeks, months or even years? It’s never too late to start. I’m going to touch on two areas where, with a little conditioning and commitment, you can reduce your chance of injury, and increase your ability to keep up with your staff.
We all must get in and swim.
If this is Day One, then 20 to 30 minutes is good. Try to cover at least 500 to 1,000 yards, freestyle preferably. If you must incorporate breaststroke and backstroke to stretch out the muscles, that’s okay. Just focus on getting the yardage.
Also add about 200 yards of towing a victim utilizing a scissor, eggbeater or flutter kick. This strengthens the core and leg muscles, and provides an advantage when it comes to bringing a victim to the side of the pool quickly.
After the swim and towing, move to the side of the pool and do some pool-edge push-ups. These strengthen the arms and develop proficiency getting out of the water. See how many you can do to establish a baseline, then increase the number as you train.
Here are variations to add as you progress:
• Increase your swim yardage, and/or reduce your time on the wall recovering.
• Practice towing using all three kicks instead of just one.
• When towing a victim, sprint for 5 to 10 yards, rest, and repeat.
• For pool-edge push-ups: If doing a set of five, use the last to transition to completely climbing out of the pool. Once that becomes easy, work on climbing out as quickly and safely as possible.
Start by getting in the water at least once a week for 20 to 30 minutes. If you want to be ambitious, 45 minutes is fine, too. But after you've been doing it once a week, focus on increasing the number of sessions per week to two or three. Wait to increase workout time per session until you have the proficiency and stamina.
Here, speed and technique are critical.
For active victim surface rescues, most lifeguards hesitate to pour on the speed in getting to the victim. The initial delay comes from an entry that is too slow, short or close to the side of the pool, or poor recovery after the entry. Entry can be done safely and quickly. Contact with the victim should happen within 3 to 10 seconds, and it should stop the drowning process immediately.
Passive victim surface rescues are the same, as far as getting to the victim quickly. Additional steps are getting the victim face-up and supported on the rescue tube to stop the drowning process, then towing the victim to the side of the pool as fast as possible.
Initial rescue training should be built off your towing workout. Start in shallow water, with a victim face-up supported on a rescue tube. Get to the victim quickly and bring them to side of the pool. This should take about 10 to 16 seconds. Once you’re proficient, focus on getting the victim from face-down to face-up and supported with the rescue tube. After you've mastered that, add your entry, contact the victim, face-up with support, and bring them to the side of the pool.
Here are some variations:
• Move training from shallow to mid-depth water (4 to 6 feet).
• Move from mid-depth to deep water (6-plus feet).
• Do it as a multi-rescuer response rescue
For submerged rescues, most lifeguards hesitate to get to the bottom quickly, and once they contact the submerged victim, they hesitate getting the victim quickly to the surface and the side of the pool.
Three challenges that impede a lifeguard in getting to a submerged victim quickly are the transition from entry to surface dive, what to do with the rescue tube when doing the surface dive, and not pushing off the bottom of the pool to resurface faster. Make the decision to enter the water with the rescue tube in hand or practice entering and throwing the tube to the side so it trails behind and you get to the victim submerge point. Either entry should prioritize safety and speed. Practice feet-first and head-first surface with the rescue tube in hand and practice your surface dives without the rescue tube. Figure out which works better for you and proceed. Lastly, practice pushing off the bottom and shooting to the surface. Be cognizant of the possible needing to equalize pressure in your ears when submerging and ascending.
Here are some variations:
• Instead of surface dives, practice pencil dives to bottom.
• When pushing off the bottom, ascend at an angle (preferably toward the side of the pool).
• Do the rescue as a multi-rescuer response
All of us need to remember we’re role models to our employees. They look to us on how to perform, behave and interact. Remember we are preparing them to take charge in an emergency and embrace the role of public service. Their first step is based off our willingness to train, interact, and participate with them.
Good luck and keep training.