Lifeguards need to be trained to recognize and deal with a multitude of dangers, whether it be supervising at a local swimming pool or surveying a busy stretch of beach. There are a range of skills you will have to acquire before you can successfully complete a lifeguard training test.
You need to be 18 years old to gain certification as a lifeguard, although some pools will accept 16- or 17-year-olds with decent credentials. You will also need to be fully trained in CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). Exact requirements vary depending on where you want to practice as a lifeguard (e.g. beach, pool or holiday park), but most institutions will demand you take a physical and/or written test. You should take a training class such as the American Red Cross course, which will improve your rescue and first aid skills. You could also get in touch with your local swimming pool to see if they use nationally recognised certification run by NASCO (National Aquatic Safety Company), the Starfish Aquatics Institute or Ellis & Associates.
General Training Tips
Practice rhythmic breathing during swim sessions by taking breaths in and out in time with your kicking pattern. A stable, propelling kick action saves energy and more efficiently propels you through the water. This will help you preserve energy for your training session and could give you a significant advantage in your assessment session. Give particular attention to the life-saving backstroke (breaststroke while on your back) as this will be crucial for your assessment.
You should also consider using tight-fitting swimwear tailored to move through water efficiently and tie your hair back during swim practice. Paying attention to such minor details could well knock a second or two off your swim times when assessment time arrives, according to the North Sea Volunteer lifeguards website.
Typical minimum requirements at training institutions include completing 50 meters breaststroke in less than 80 seconds and covering 25 meters while swimming on your back, according to the DeAnza college website. Try executing a push-up regime on the pool deck as this will help build up the strength needed to quickly pull yourself out of the pool during rescue training.
Try to warm up before any swimming regime with a 3- to 5-minute swim at a leisurely stroke. This will ensure your muscles are warmed up and will help them bulk up with repeated practice.
Cool down your muscles by using a stroke that tests a different muscle group, i.e. with a few minutes of backstroke after timed sets on breaststroke. You should aim to build up your best swimming times over weeks and make sure your rest periods take account of your general fitness levels. If you are finding it too hard, then decrease the severity of your regime, and if it's too easy, increase the number of sets performed until you feel moderate stress is being placed on your fitness levels.
- Photo Credit lifeguard image by xymm from Fotolia.com Blank award certificate form image by Stasys Eidiejus from Fotolia.com swimmer image by Ahmed Zahir from Fotolia.com swimmer image by Orlando Florin Rosu from Fotolia.com
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