Whether you love or loathe working out in water, there are endless benefits to putting your body through its paces in an underwater environment.
Growing up, swimming played a pivotal role in my life. I trained before and after school, and spent evenings and weekends at swim meets, which meant lots of time to get aqua friendly and comfortable with water filled ears and wet hair. Fast forward a few years (a bit more than a few maybe), and I certainly was not spending enough time doing the old school style training of laps up and down the swimming pool.
I stepped up my pool time when fell pregnant and found the added support of the water comforting and supportive with the extra weight, while still providing the pressure needed to challenge my muscles.
Swimming is one of the few workouts that has most, if not all, of your body working at the same time – core, arms, legs, glutes and back are all engaged and doing their bit to keep you going through the water. It also has a positive impact on your flexibility and strength, while constantly working your core and lungs. The other significant factor about working your way up and down the swim lanes is the low impact it has on your joints – making it perfect for injury rehab, pregnancy (especially toward the end when you feel quite elephant-like), and on areas that may be weak or prone to concern.
Getting back into the pool after many years of not training or knowing how to swim can be challenging, but, with a little bit of the right support whether it is stroke correction or basic swimming lessons, it’s a sport that requires very little equipment and can be very relaxing too – it’s just you and the water. You don’t need to be perfect at every stroke, a good freestyle and nothing else is all you need to get that full body workout to start or end your day.
I use swimming not only to burn calories from top to toe, but also to firm and tone my tummy – the one area it seems to be hanging on post baby.
Water creates good resistance so on days when you don’t want to get your hair wet (we all have them), you can get in and keep your head out of the water but still get training in. Walk or run through the water keeping your back straight, shoulders relaxed and head facing forward. You can add a belt to this to maintain your posture, while still getting a running motion on as you would on dry ground.
Waterpolo taught me to tread water and I always feel like it looks far easier than it is. You’ll need deeper water for this, and you want to aim to bring your knees as high as possible with your core always engaged. The key to really burning those calories while treading water is trying to maintain a minute, then extending that time.
The edge of the pool can be useful too. Pull yourself up on the side of your elbows, with legs straight or bent and repeat it as many times as you can. Focus on engaging the core, keeping your back from arching over, and taking your time to feel your tummy working. Doing a few rounds properly is far better than doing loads of exercise without working anything effectively. Take breaks between rounds of 8, 12 or 15 then repeat the set to suit your strength level.
You can tailor your workout to the time and energy level you want for every workout. If you prefer having and ‘arms’ or ‘legs’ days grab a bouy (eight shaped foam block) or kicker board (Fin shaped foam board) and do a few exclusive laps that use your selected limb to do most of the work. Then you can add distance (more laps) or strength (how fast or slow you go) to increase or decrease the impact of your workout.
Using a kicker board while lying on your back is a great tummy toner too. Your core works hard to keep your body balanced, with your head above the water. Use landmarks alongside the pool to know when you reach the wall.
When getting back in the pool you’ll be surprised at how sore your body is the next day. I always feel muscles activated that I’d forgotten were even there – a reminder of how well the holistic nature of the workout is.
Things to remember:
• Most recreational pools won’t have boards so you could easily get one at a regular sports store. They’re light enough to pop in your pool bag and take with you.
• Always wear a cap. Long hair can really get in the way when doing laps in a pool, particularly on turns. Remember to dry out your cap after use and once dry drop in a little bit of baby/talc powder in to prevent it from sticking together and tearing on your next use.
• If you have sensitive eyes, grab a pair of goggles but make sure you get a comfortable fit to prevent them from giving you headaches, or sore nose bridges.
Here are some of the best pool locations for swimming laps in Dubai:
1. Fit Republik, Sports City
2. Fitness First, Mirdif City Centre
3. Fidelity Fit JLT
4. The Westin Mina Seyahi
5. Talise Fitness, Madinat Jumeirah
6. Hamdan Sports Complex
7. Movenpick, Ibn Battuta Gate
8. The Address, Dubai Marina
9. Fitness First, Mudon & Arabian Ranches 2 Communities
If you’d like to use the summer to start your swimming off or improve your stroke there are a few great schools like the Speedo Swim Squads that run both programs.
For general inquiries regarding our swim programmes please contact the main Speedo Swim Squads Office on a Sunday – Thursday between 9:00 and 17:00 on: +97143549525
Swimming is a life skill and while it can be easy to push it aside, it is something everyone should invest in even if just at a very simple level of being able to stay buoyant in water. For the little ones there are great swim schools at gyms, or health centers that get them comfortable in water from as early as 4 months old. My little guy loves the water and with the wonderful weather in our region, swimming is something you almost maintain all year round.
Friend and olympic gold medalist, Ryk Neethling, shared with me what he sees as the benefits of swimming:
‘Swimming is the perfect balance of working out while escaping the world. It’s what I love most, and what we need in our busy lives.
As a workout, get in the pool just a few times a week and you’ll notice a refreshing state of mind and body.’
Photos: Waleed Shah
Shot on location at Five Palm Jumeirah