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A-Z of Swimming
Before the scorching summer heat reaches you, learn everything you ought to know about this stress buster and hit the pool.
The warmth of the sun at the end of winter is a blessing that is much welcomed. But the same warmth becomes insufferable as summer reaches its peak. So, we end up looking for respite: under the umbrella, the cool shades of trees, in mint lemonade with ice, bites of watermelon and pineapple slices, cola soda, brain-numbing khuwakobarfi and what not. The most refreshing respite however comes in the cool splash at a swimming pool. Swimming could be a recommendation for people in stress and adds to a refreshing start. Before you jump into the pool, learn the ABCs of swimming.
Anyone can swim: A few months back the internet was thronging with videos of a three month old swimming in a standard pool. If the little kids who can’t even crawl can do it, you sure can. Well, that is unless you are an aqua phobic.
Buying the right costume: Swim wear should be the first thing on your list, unless you are planning to go skinny dipping which is very unlikely here in Nepal. Wearing your shorts or tank top may not be a good idea as they restrain your moves in water. Swimwears are made of fabrics that have minimal resistance in water, are flexible and last longer despite the chlorinated water. There are a lot of swimwears to choose from: one-piece, two-piece, bikini, speedos, swim trunks and more. Just make sure that you are comfortable wearing the suit. If you are uncomfortable wearing it in a changing room, you are very likely to feel uncomfortable wearing it in the pool.
Couldn’t care less for chlorine: Let’s be honest, you won’t find a chlorine-free swimming pool in Nepal. It is true that chlorine is not good for health. Besides drying your hair and skin, and ensuing red eyes, swimming in chlorinated water can increase the risk of bladder and rectal cancer. But putting an end to swimming is not a solution. What you can do instead is take some prevention. For starters, shower before and after swimming with chemical free soap, drink plenty of water before you swim and consume lots of fruits and vegetables.
Don’t do: If you do not know how to swim, don’t get inside the pool without the company of someone who is a strong swimmer. I am telling from experience, it is not a good idea. While on this point, it is also recommended not to try stunts and tricks in the pool as these usually lead to accidents.
Exercise some stretches: Since swimming involves the movement of almost all of your body muscles, it is highly recommended to do some stretching before you enter the pool. Stretch all the major muscle groups of your body to avoid cramps while swimming. Having said that, don’t overstretch either; your limbs shouldn’t be shaking.
Fun and fitness: Swimming is a fun exercise. You don’t feel yourself sweat but you are constantly working up your muscles and burning fat. The result is a leaner, trimmer and fitter you. It is a great exercise and one that can be continued for a lifetime. It is also a great alternative fitness regime when you are struck with injuries.
Girl’s on period: You don’t have to avoid the pool just because you are menstruating. Use a good tampon and you will be fine.
Hot, healthy and hangout: If you are working days and nights at the gym to get that toned, hot body while maintaining your health, you have to give swimming a go. It works up all you muscles and keeps them toned. Regular swimming keeps your heart rate up and takes away the stress. It builds muscle strength and helps maintain good weight. Swimming pools are becoming popular hangouts to meet friends and acquaintances.
Indoor swimming: It is a fantastic idea to swim indoors if you want to avoid sun burns or if it is pouring. Just get some fresh air once in a while, go outside and breathe; you can start swimming again. Poor ventilation is one of the many problems of indoor swimming facilities.
Joy in a pool: Swimming doesn’t just have to be about making laps and being fit. Swimming is a fun activity, so don’t bore it down. Keep it fun by playing some games. One of the most popular seems to be “finding the coin”. Drop a coin or coins in the pool and explore the floor to find them. The one who finds it first or collects the most coins wins. Tag is another fun game to play in the water. This includes rapid swimming and chasing. You can come up with your own games with some twists too.
K for crazy: It is wise to not try stunts and funny stuffs on the pool. But once you are learned enough to save yourself and are confident enough, don’t shy away from trying some crazy feats. Try strokes that you have never tried before or invent some of your own. Use the internet for some assistance. I found this really cool video about “creating rings” in the water, which I am really pumped up to try the next time I am in water. Keep trying cool stuffs without risking your life. Keep every visit to the pool up beat.
Learn from a professional instructor: Of course you have a cousin who knows how to swim and she can teach you alright. You learn to float and do a few strokes and then a few laps. And then it dawns on you that either of you cannot swim underwater or dive. And you are too afraid to try 9 ft because neither of you can save another if God forbid you drown. Trust me on this, it is no swimming. You want to learn, you learn it from a professional instructor and you learn it right from the beginning.
Here is a small list of clubs that teach swimming:
Swimming Everyday, LalitMandapHardik Club, Pulchowk, 9841486967
Little Dolphins Swim School, Kathmandu, 9841975952
Bull’s Club, Nakhu, 5592599
Nirvana Wellness Centre, Jawalakhel, 5530443
Jasmine Fitness Club and Spa, UWTC, Tripureshwor, 4117115
Much ado about nothing: While some are aquaphobic and can’t help but be afraid of water, there are others who never learn to swim because they are uncomfortable wearing a swimsuit or are not interested or fear that they will drown. Swimming is a preventive method for drowning. If you don’t want to drown, you learn to swim. That is as simple as it is. And it is not a matter of interest it is a matter of being prepared. Lives have been saved because someone decided to learn how to swim. So stop fussing around and get enrolled in a swimming class.
Not ready yet: Stop using excuses. You are as ready as you will ever be.
Outdo disability: Water is a great equalizer meaning it supports your body weight. And thus, it is a perfect sport for people with disabilities. The internet is flooded with record-breaking swimmers, who are physically disabled or handicapped. Try googling Kayla Wheeler or Philippe Croizon. Swimming is an apt physical sport for virtually everyone. It is also a fantastic physical therapy.
Pick the right gear: Selecting the right swimming gear is as important as picking the right swim wear. This includes goggles, bathing caps, ear plugs, floatation devices and sunscreen creams. Goggles protect your eyes from the chlorine and anything else that may be in the water. Invest in a good pair and ones that fit in your eye sockets and stay in place. Bathing caps protect your hair from chlorine and also helps cut down the resistance in water. Caps made of neoprene help keep your head warm too. Sun screen creams with SPF 50 will help control sun burns. Ear plugs aren’t mandatory but if you suffer from ear problems you should use it for the sake of your own health and of others.
Queries for gear stores: Streets in Kathmandu are littered with shops that sell anything to everything. It is not unusual to buy swim gears from unnamed shops in Khichapokhari or Lagankhel, as long as they are comfortable and give bang for your bucks.
Remember to breathe: When I first started swimming (and just until about now), I would hardly breathe out until I had finished the lap. Turns out I am doing it all wrong and so are most of you. Breathing is essential to swimming, so breathe every time your head is out of the water, whether you are swimming freestyle or doing a breaststroke. You always exhale when your face in underwater. Breathe in and exhale; repeat. Keeps you calm.
Stunning strokes: There are different strokes you can try. Two of my favorites are the ubiquitous Front Crawl and Backstroke because I find them to be the easiest and they use up a lot of my energy too. You can also try Breaststroke and Butterfly, and there are many more technical ones. You don’t have to master them all, just perfect one. On a personal note, I find backstroke to be very relaxing. Just lie back on the water after gruesome laps and let the limbs free.
Tricks of the trade: Everything becomes a whole lot easier when you know a few tricks of the trade. For instance putting on a rubbery bathing cap can be very painful. So, how do you avoid the pain? Just place the cap inside out with water and drop it on the head. This might require some help from a friend, but it works when executed right. One trick to ace a lap is to get a strong start. I, for one like to cling on to the walls of the pool and push myself forward with my legs for a head start. Also, when you are swimming or are underwater, studies have shown that you stay more focused and your thinking becomes clearer. So, swimming can also be a great stress-buster.
Unravel 70% of the world: One of the many benefits of learning to swim is that you have the opportunity to explore 70% of the world that a non-swimmer cannot. Water sports and activities such as scuba-diving, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins or sharks for that matter, exploring the underwater caves, surfing, trying water jet packs, paddle boarding, kayaking or even going to the beach cannot be accomplished unless you know how to swim. There is more than half of the world waiting for you; all you have to do is learn to swim in a pool.
Virtues through swimming: Swimming is a wonderful teacher in itself, if you are willing to learn. Since, you have to share swimming pools; at least public pools, it teaches you to be more willing to share or even adjust in a limited space. You learn to respect other people more. And finally, it is a great opportunity to make friends and socialize. Throw in a couple of shy individuals in a pool and they will strike up a conversation.
Where to swim: Swimming pools and clubs with swimming pools in Kathmandu are swamped with people when summer finally arrives. Hence, it is wise to have a list of possible swimming pools in Kathmandu at hand. Some of them are real swanky and others not so much. But here are some of them anyways:
LalitMandapHardik Club, Pulchowk, 5548888
Hotel Goodwill, Lalitpur, 5544520
Imadol Swimming Pool, 5201995
Ishani Club, Rabibhawan, 9808049062
Bull’s Club, Nakhu, 5592599
Hyatt Regency, Boudha, 4491234
Hotel Annapurna, Durbarmarg, 4221711
Hotel Yak & Yet, Durbarmarg, 4240520
Hotel Shambala, Narayan GopalChowk, 4650251
Park Village Hotel and Resort, Budhanilkantha, 4700632
Gokarna Forest Resort, Kathmandu, 4451212
Radisson Hotel, Lazimpat, 4411818
X-pensive not: Many assume swimming to be an expensive sport because it is a luxurious activity. While it is luxurious, it doesn’t necessarily have to be very expensive. Gears are a one-time investment, and if bought right and taken care of they can last for years. As long as the service charge is concerned, swimming pools in Kathmandu range from Rs 100 for half day to Rs 1500/ 3 hrs. And obviously, the experience varies depending on the fee. While we don’t want you to break your bank (if you can, by all means you may), we wouldn’t want you to have a dingy experience either. So opt for a reasonable price and decent experience. Look out for special packages – they are convenient.
Yank out the myths: Like everything, swimming is often smothered in myths. A popular one that we closely follow is the 2-hour rule, which states that it is not good to eat within two hours of swimming. Well, professionals say that it is not true. You can eat energy bars and light sandwiches right up to the time you go in the pool. However, you might want to avoid hot and oily intakes. Another popular myth says that you don’t need to hydrate while swimming. Drink water even when you are not thirsty.
Zealous in small things: The devil is in the detail and so, it is important to pay attention to small things even though it seems unworthy. For instance, don’t just let the wet swim suit dry. It is important to give costumes a proper wash at the end of the day. This is to get rid of the chlorine from the pool water and help the costume last longer. The cap again, shouldn’t be kept out in a really hot place, not even to dry. If you do, be ready to say goodbye to it. A good idea is to towel dry it and evenly spread some talcum powder inside. A shower is a must before and after pool-time. And for heaven’s sake don’t pee in the pool.