March 21, 2014

American Red Cross Lifeguard Pretest Experience

So here’s the story: I started swimming when I was five, and took lessons until I was twelve. I took a variety of types of lessons, from regular group ones taught by high schoolers, to a private coach, and finally to a program that trained us to swim like we were on a swim team. So after those seven years of lessons, I was a pretty decent swimmer, and I wanted to be a lifeguard. Unfortunately, the minimum age to be certified as a lifeguard is fifteen.

After waiting a couple years, I looked into a few lifeguarding class options, but I never really had the time for the classes. This past month, after pushing off classes for basically what felt like forever, I finally just decided to go for it even though my schedule is still very hectic.
Before taking the classes though, any aspiring lifeguard must take a pretest to demonstrate strong swimming skills. Here’s how my pretest for the American Red Cross Lifeguarding classes went:


There are 3 parts to the pretest:

Part 1: You must swim 300 meters. According to the ARC website, you must swim 100 m free, 100 m breaststroke, and 100 m of either. At my testing center, we were actually given the choice to choose between either for all 300 meters, which made the task a lot easier because breaststroke is my strongest. 300 meters is equivalent to 12 lengths/6 full laps, and I hadn’t swam in four years. Nevertheless, I’ve remained extremely active and I was able to pull it off. Remember: this part of the test is NOT timed. It’s not a race, and you should TAKE YOUR TIME!!!! Even though everybody was a full lap ahead of me, I just went at my pace (and in my defense, the people testing with me were all ten years older and extremely buff lol ), and I’m glad I did, because several of the guys that swam the laps at the same time were pulled out because they stopped in the middle to catch their breaths which is a no-no. The thing about this part is that you cannot stop at all; if you do, they’ll pull you out and if they’re nice, they’ll let you retry the laps at the end if there’s enough time. But all in all, for someone who hadn’t swam in 4 years, the twelve laps actually weren’t that bad. Just take your time and relax.


Part 2: You must tread for 2 minutes without using your hands. Luckily, the “testers” were super nice and let us all catch our breaths before moving on to this next task. I had never treaded water without the use of my hands before, but this actually wasn’t too bad, just let your mind wander and relax. Trying to tread with a super tense body will only make you sink faster. The more relaxed you are, the easier it is to float!


Part 3: You must swim about 20 meters (about ¾ of one length of a pool), swim to the bottom and pick up a 20 pound brick, and swim back to the start on your back, keeping both hands on the brick at all times. Oh, and you have to do this all in 1 minute 40 seconds WITHOUT GOGGLES. Ugh. That was the worst part, I think. I had no idea that I couldn’t wear goggles, so I brought my prescription goggles with me, so I didn’t wear my contacts (not that the contacts wouldn’t have fallen out, but whatever). That twenty pound brick is much heavier than it sounds, and keeping BOTH hands on that darn thing was kinda tricky. My toughest part was being able to see the actual brick since the floor of the pool has black lane lines and the brick was black so it pretty much blended right in. Plus, I could barely see without contacts or goggles. The whole time thing though did put some pressure on this whole thing, but no worries, this whole task may sound daunting since it’s timed, but I actually made it, and I had to try going down for the brick TWICE. The first time, I tried to go down feet first cause I was super unsure if what I was seeing was really the brick. I ran out of air and so I popped back up, took a deep breath, and went head first to the bottom. THANKFULLY, the thing I saw was in fact the brick. I grabbed it, and tried to propel myself back up by bouncing off the floor of the pool. This took much longer than I expected; 20 pounds seriously weighs you down, and the pool depth was 13.5 feet, so I kinda drank some pool water since it took forever to get back up….I know, yuck. I swam on my back, using an elementary backstroke kick, to get back to the shallow end. The timer stops when you put the brick on the deck and GET OUT OF THE POOL, so make sure you do that so you don’t waste any time ;)

So that’s pretty much the whole test. In the end, I was totally out of breath and my legs burned like crazy, but I had never felt so invigorated and flipping proud of myself. This test was strenuous since it did require a lot of energy, but it is definitely manageable, considering that I hadn’t swam in 4 years. So if you’re considering to be a lifeguard, I hope my sharing of the pretest experience helped you, and GOOD LUCK! J I know you’ll do great ;)


xoxo, Hannah

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