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Case Studies

A Sea Swimmer in June

A Sea Swimmer in June

June discovers a new approach to front crawl and takes it into open water

I came to stay at Croft Farm 2 years ago wanting to be able to swim freestyle - and to actually enjoy swimming!  

I'm a runner who was going through a period of not being able to run and wanted to use swimming for cross-training purposes.   But I didn't know how to swim front crawl, and breaststroke didn't feel right with my knee injury.  So I came to Ian and Cheryl looking to learn how to swim for fitness… but discovered there is another way!

When I arrived I could already happily put my face in the water etc - but swimming made me breathe hard and I was ‘end-gaining’ - it was all a bit physical!!

The enjoyment benefits were immediate and enduring. 

Now, two years later,  I very much enjoy swimming, so much so that I wanted to be confident enough to swim outdoors...

And that is coming into place this year - I swam in Anglesey on a yoga and wild swimming weekend. And this video was me today in a tidal pool in Cliftonville, near Margate in Kent...

Thank you for helping me to get to this place!

See more Swimmer Experiences


18-Oct-2017 /  written by June
Not So Slow Sophie

Not So Slow Sophie

Cheryl makes friends with a head-up breaststroker on holiday and shares her top tips

On my recent  Strel swimming trip I met Sophie from Germany.

She was in the 'slow' group with me and another lady. Sophie clearly loved being in the sea and was a very competent head up breaststroker. 

For our first proper swim I breaststroked keeping fairly good time with Esther's crawl and resting or looping back to make sure Sophie didn't get too far behind.  She kept going really well for the whole of the 2k plus swim. But it was clear that as Esther and I got into our stride, she wasn't going to be able to keep up.  Despite her lovely stroke and confidence, keeping her head above the water simply made her stroke less efficient than everyone else's. 
Luckily, we were a small enough group that our guides could cope with our now 3 speed groups and Sophie continued to enjoy her swims without going as far as the rest of the group. She very quickly decided to do something about her "so slow" swimming on her return to Germany. 

I had a few minutes with Sophie to give her a few tips. Here they are: 

Drop your forehead to the floor (in this case to the seabed!). 
This opens up your neck, your breathing, your buoyancy, your freedom of movement and generally makes it all wonderful. 

Keep your mouth open 
Sophie was able to breathe out of her nose underwater but tended to close her mouth on crossing the surface. By keeping it open she avoided the stop/start action which interferes with a natural breath. 

Look at the fish
Something I encourage in the pool at Croft Farm! In the Montenegrin bays seeing the fish, and generally just looking around, helped Sophie relax. 

Fall forwards
By letting the weight of her head, arms, chest carry her forwards and leaving her legs to trail loosely behind, Sophie was able to feel a glide. 

Look at your hands
On the way out to breathe, seeing her hands in front of her meant Sophie had the time and support she needed to allow an in-breath. 

That's all we had time for so Viel Gluck "not so slow" Sophie!


17-Aug-2017 /  written by Cheryl Cross
Zen and Now

Zen and Now

Clinical hypnotherapist Lesley from Sussex changes her mind in water.

I thought I knew what to expect when I embarked on my 8 lessons of ‘Swimming Without Stress’. I was wrong. 

It’s almost the exact opposite of the normal experience of learning to swim.  For me, this had entailed a few lessons to stop swimming with my head out of the water and to try to learn front crawl. I had to give up after I injured my shoulder and thus ended my swimming career. I felt disappointed and a bit hopeless. I’d always felt that swimming would be an ideal exercise because of the water supporting your whole body thus giving a sense of ease to the ‘exercise’ experience. 

Fast forward three years and I decided to bite the bullet, smile as I put my hand in my pocket and book a course of 8, one to one lessons with Ian and Cheryl at Croft Farm. 

The whole experience was delightful.

Both Ian and Cheryl are generous, kind and intelligent beings who share their wide knowledge and experience with the student swimmer, and start slowly but surely to build up the confidence and ability needed to swim without stress. 

Cassius Clay may have been able to, ’float like a butterfly’! I, however, can now float like both a jellyfish and a mushroom and I can tell you that the experience is soooo relaxing that I was rendered speechless, which, if you know me, is some feat! 

Starting to take on board the whole sensation of allowing the water ‘to support me’. Letting go of my ideas and concepts and allowing the feelings to be foremost.  After discovering how the water can become ‘home', a place of comfort, and only then, being led by the teacher into using my cognitive ability to think about the position of the head, the neck, the back, the hands, the feet, all in their rightful place. 

Back on dry land, whenever I hear the word, ’HEAD’, I think of Cheryl, who is not a shouty sort of person, as she shouted it at me. (She had to shout as I was both under water at the time and also a bit deaf.)

All in all it is a very Zen like experience, as you find that quiet, calm place, within and beneath the water; you find your natural body alignment, and then the ’mindset’ settles as a wondrous harmony throughout your whole being. 

It’s about being not doing. Mindfulness within the water. Noticing what is Now. That to me is ‘Swimming Without Stress’.

It was truly wonderful. Thank you so much.

See more first hand accounts of swimmer experiences


16-Jun-2017 /  written by Lesley
Dive In! A holiday to turn your child into a water baby

Dive In! A holiday to turn your child into a water baby

By Hattie Garlick, Travel Writer, Daily Telegraph, July 16th, 2016

As a critic, it’s useful to travel with a companion who knows his own mind. This time, however, I had a feeling my son’s attitude could prove an obstacle: “I don’t want to go. I hate swimming. And if you make me, I just won’t get in the pool. At all.”

Based in west Wales, where the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park meets Cardigan Bay, Swimming Without Stress runs residential courses with a twist. The two luxury holiday cottage companies with which the group works both have private, indoor heated pools. Book in for a break at either and Ian Cross or his wife, Cheryl, will visit you daily for one-on-one swimming tuition, using an “intensive, but sensitive” method incorporating the posture-improving Alexander Technique.

Swimming, Ian told me, should be “like yoga in the water, an almost meditative experience, as good for the mind as it is for the body.” As a confident swimmer for whom the pool is a place to unwind, I couldn’t disagree. But I wasn’t so sure that a five-year-old, pool-phobic non-swimmer would see it the same way.

Ian, however, was confident that his approach would help Johnny. And so we headed to Wales, arriving late at night in the pitch dark. Opening the door to the Dairy, one of 10 properties on this rural site outside Cardigan, we found fresh cakes waiting on the table for the children and locally made mead for the adults. The place had all the relevant equipment for children, ample space for muddy boots, and an open-plan living space with a wood-burning stove and deep, comfy chairs.

At 9.30 the next morning, Andy, the owner, was ready to tour the farm with the children, feeding the goats, pigs, sheep, rabbits and guinea pigs. Splashing through the mud, the kids took in the football pitch, the mini adventure playground and the play barn, with air hockey and table tennis for teenagers and, for smaller children, play vehicles, slides and a sand pit.

Another thing revealed in the morning light was the pool complex. A tiny sprint across the gravel drive from our cottage, it was spotlessly clean and warm. There was a sauna, a small gym and a mini soft-play area. At 30ft, the pool is long enough for more accomplished swimmers to work on their strokes, while the shallow end is 3ft deep, ideal for small children.

When Ian suggested that I too might benefit from lessons, I signed up, aware that seeing me practise might help persuade Johnny. Sure enough, after watching my first half-hour session, he forgot his pledge and waded happily into the shallow end.

From the moment we learn to swim, Ian explained, most of us take gasping breaths and kick wildly to stay afloat. In fact, our first step should be to learn to trust the water and let it support us. If we can allow our heads to sink below the surface, blowing bubbles calmly, we are far less likely to panic.

This was one step too far for Johnny, who refused to submerge his head. Five lessons followed, in which Ian gently encouraged him first to submerge his mouth and blow bubbles, then his nose, too. By the end of the first session, Johnny trusted Ian so completely that he was floating on his back, his body completely relaxed, with just Ian’s hands gently supporting his neck.

In between lessons, we explored the countryside. The location is perfect: just 15 minutes from the jaw-dropping Poppit Sands beach; and the same to the awe-inspiring Cilgerran Castle. St Dogmaels and its cosy pub and restaurant, The Ferry Inn, are also worth a visit. The trouble was, the kids didn’t want to leave the pool – and nor did I, having developed an almost evangelical enthusiasm for swimming.

Breaststroke has always been my best stroke. Ian filmed me doing a length and showed me the footage. My technique looked good, but my neck was frozen as I held my head above the water. To correct this, I practised floating, letting go of all tension and allowing the water to support my body. It felt amazing – restorative, even – to let my head sink as I swam, then, as I raised my head to breathe, let my eyes lead the way so that my head was always in gentle motion.

From the start of our week-long break, Ian emphasised the benefits of learning together, as a family. While our lessons were separate, Johnny and I watched each other and my husband and daughter later joined us in the pool, testing what we’d learnt.

My lessons, like Johnny’s, were about getting back to basics: enjoying the support of the water and doing less. Passing on this ease in the water is one of the most valuable lessons we can give our children. Soon, he said, Johnny would be dunking his head under the water and swimming like a fish.

Sure enough, five minutes after we said goodbye to Ian, Johnny took off his armbands and jumped in. He tunnelled down below the water, then bobbed back up again, his head dripping water and with a huge grin on his face. Mission accomplished.

Also see:  Don't Pass It Up, Pass It On / Play Comes First But What Next?  /  Kick Kick Kick  /  360 Front Crawl /  Need for Speed /  Rotation Rotation Rotation  / In At The Deep End, Sink or Swim


18-Jul-2016 /  written by Ian Cross
Two Weeks To Thailand

Two Weeks To Thailand

John Learns To Swim Just In Time

26 year old civil servant John badly wanted to swim before a big holiday to Thailand. Here's his account of the process of learning. 

When I told people I couldn’t swim they’d say they didn’t believe me. Of course I could, I just needed to get in the water and I’d be fine. And if I didn’t know how then I could have someone show me. But swimming’s not like that. It’s not as complex or simple as learning and practicing a set of motions. Before anything else you have to be comfortable in the water; in submerging and enjoying it. For most people, that’s something they’ve either never had a problem with, or conquered at an early age. I hadn’t ever got there.

I called Ian desperate to learn how to swim before a holiday in Thailand. I had two weeks before I flew and wanted to be able to enjoy the water as much as everyone else on the tour I’d signed up to. I wanted him to teach me how to do strokes. Ideally I wanted to look like a passable (if weak) swimmer. Ian set me straight. There was no point learning how to traverse a stretch of water if I was fearful of it. He couldn’t guarantee what progress I’d make just by chatting to me on the phone, but he could guarantee that I would make serious progress. And I did.

We started with some exercises that gently eased me into submerging my mouth, then nose, and eventually my face into the water. Ian must have done this countless times and it showed. I made more progress in this session than I had done throughout the swimming lessons I had as a child. The next challenge was letting myself go in the water, allowing it to support my weight. After a few attempts it felt natural and I started to understand Ian’s point that it can be incredibly enjoyable just to float in the water.

The rest of my week in Wales was about consolidating and building on those foundations. Being comfortable under the water meant we could have me glide through it, introducing basic movements, and swimming on my back. If I could make the transitions between different states: going from underwater, raising my head up, or onto my back for example, I could manage in any depth of water.

When the final lesson came I could submerge and explore the water. I was able to glide and swim for a stretch on my back and transition between the two. When I got to Thailand I had a completely different relationship with the water. Ian had given me a pass to a privileged club. I wasn’t swimming the Pacific like Phelps, but I wasn’t scared of it either, I’d started to enjoy the water and could do so much more than I could just a week of tuition before. I’ve got more progress to make and I’m looking forward to the journey.  

See more first hand accounts of swimmer experiences


15-Sep-2015 /  written by Ian Cross


A Second Course

Here's a short 'before and after' video clip of Ellie, at Croft Farm for a second course in February 2015. 'Before' was largely the result of a lesson with a coach whose emphasis seems to have been speed. Funnily enough, after some more Swimming Without Stress lessons, as well as being more relaxed and better coordinated, she's swimming a bit more quickly!

"Doing a short course with Ian and Cheryl last year really helped me to relax and enjoy being in the water.

I've put a lot of effort into developing my crawl since then, including getting some video analysis from a swimming coach. He pointed out the faults with my technique but it seemed the more I tried to correct them, the worse they got. I was getting very frustrated with my inability to change and my swimming was becoming less enjoyable.

So I decided to go back to Ian and Cheryl and I'm so glad I did! Within two sessions my movement in the water was much smoother and more relaxed. The whole stroke seemed easier, more fluid and much more enjoyable. 

With Ian and Cheryl's expert feedback and guidance I made rapid progress on things I'd been struggling with for months - so I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself and very grateful to them. 

I can't recommend them highly enough!"


09-Feb-2015 /  written by Ellie