The Benefits of Swimming


“Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.” Winston Churchill.

“I feel most at home in the water.  I disappear.  That’s where I belong.” – Michael Phelps, Olympic Gold Medalist.

The silence that comes when your head disappears under the water must be similar to that of someone instantly losing his hearing.  The hullabaloo and commotion from above vanishes and a slow and gentle murmur begins.  The chaos has been replaced.  A slight taste of chlorine comes onto your lips and those goggles, which squeeze your eyes closer together reveal the bottom that stretches boundlessly into the distance, occasionally pickled it is with a dangling pair of legs.

Swimming has been a sport that can be engaged in whether it is winter or summer, so long as you have a body of water.  In the hotter summer months it can strip away those sticky sweaty days and awaken your mind, and in colder times the warm water can help you workout and stay in shape when others are outside running trying to stay warm or having given up entirely with the idea of exercise.  Before entering a person can feel chilled to the bones  and apprehensive about the impending chilly waters, but after thirty lengths and a nice hot shower that same soul can leave with his spirit high, his blood warm and a few calories burned, all in time to see that jogger trot past gasping for breath with chilblains and chafing thighs still some distance from that warm shower you have just embraced.

The benefits to swimming are numerous, but to name a few it is a ‘low’ impact sport, one doesn’t have to fear a twisted ankle or a knackered elbow.  Your joints are not pulled, shattered and broken to pieces like those who play football or rugby.  A certain footballer was known for having such appalling knees that he was unable to train with his teammates during the week, instead he spent several hours working each necessary muscle, with no weights, just the resistance of the water.  Saturday would come, he would play and after ninety minutes his knobbles would have ballooned in size leaving him almost unable to walk.  Another week in the pool and he would get himself ready for the next week’s match.  He was, up until his retirement, still considered the best central defender England has produced for a number of years.  The only way he could maintain his fitness was through swimming.

A study found those who started swimming after eight weeks had increased their muscle density by roughly 24%.  It doesn’t focus on one body part like those cartoonish men in gyms with arms as large as tree trunks and legs as small as twigs.  In the gym tiredness can envelope you as soon as you pick up a weight, but swimming can relieve depression, anger, aid in circulatory problems and increase self-confidence leave you with more vigour.  Pushing yourself for up to an hour can easily work off around four-hundred calories.  Unlike jogging, which in winter can leave you struggling desperately for breath like you’ve been smoking Belgian tobacco, swimming in a pool can help your respiration with inhaling warm moist air, of course making sure the pool is clean is paramount.

Swimming doesn’t require you to buy any outlandish equipment.  You’re not even required to have goggles, you can breaststroke your way from one end to the other.  In Korea you are required to wear an unflattering hat that’s quite a bugger to get off afterwards.  It is also a universal sport, something that can be enjoyed solo are amongst friends, but it is especially great fun with kids who will splash and lunge around in the water for hours, long after their parents have grown tired.

Swimming’s benefits mentally can be just as astounding as its physical.  One or two hours under the water stimulates brain activity more than if you were running for the same amount of time thus helping with the creating of new brain cells.  The release of endorphins, feel good hormones, also becomes abundant the longer you spend in the pool.  It can help you regulate your breathing into a meditative state, which will lower your heart rate and blood pressure and allow your brain to categorize and deal with those negative thoughts that can seem to be forever laying themselves on your doorstep.

There can be no limit to the number of benefits you can achieve with going for a dip.  In Busan there are a number of swimming pools recommended.  Sajik Pool is a publically run place that has a fifty-metre pool for $3.  A little more upmarket is the Grand Hotel in Haeundae, which also boasts of a fifty-metre pool, but is a little more expensive at around $8.  There are dozens of other smaller twenty-five-metre places, some with large saunas and spas attached to the side.

So, no matter what this winter has install for you, why not workout your mind and body.  It might not turn you into a great Olympian swimmer with twenty gold medals, but it’ll do wonders for your health.


Put a Sock In It

Ryan Giggs

Image via Wikipedia

(published in Gwangju News – July)

page 34

British footballer Ryan Giggs, one of the finest footballers the UK has produced recently got harangued recently across the press for trying to cover up an alleged extra martial affair.

A ‘super-injunction’, a legal gagging order that not only prevents the media from reporting a story, but also blocking any attempts to mention that there is even an injunction in place, was brought out across all media.  The Manchester United’s winger reportedly paid vast sums of cash to money hungry lawyers to muzzle all newspapers, television and radio, plus any website in the UK public domain from mentioning anything.

Off the record journalists that had known for some time about famous celebrities who used their bloated bank accounts to fend off newspapers from delving into their lives became powerless to cover it.

You may ask who gives a damn about Z-list celebrities getting caught having sex at two in the morning and whether we, the public have a right to know about it.  You’re probably right, we don’t need to know about it, but that misses the point.  The super-injunction can do real damage for the public at large when stinky rich businesses do activities that unfairly attack or hinder the weak and uninformed then knowing block the free press from reporting anything about it.

Take Trafigura, back in 2009, the multi-national energy supplier brought out a super-injunction against the UK’s Guardian newspaper.  The paper had planned to report that the company was dumping vast quantities of toxic waste off the Ivory Coast.  But before it went to press Trafigura contacted Carter & Ruck, an aggressive, London based law firm and quickly danced off to the High Court to impose a blanket on the piece.  If the newspaper planned on releasing even a whiff of the story they would face drastic repercussions including imprisonment, seizure of assets and be made to watch ‘I’m America’s Next Top Toxic Barren’.

It looked like the British legal system, which has come under scrutiny for several years for being a honey pot for large corporations, with its libel and defamation laws would continue to help out the corporate heavyweights, but thanks to a bit of tradition and a bit of the new, the article did eventually come out.

Parliamentary Privilege, a UK law dating back hundreds of years gives an Member of Parliament (MP) the right to discuss any matter he considers in the public interest in the House of Commons and for that to be freely reported in the press.  MP Paul Farrelly used his privilege and spoke up about the injustice.  This plus as the Internet becomes a borderless horizon such whistle-blowing sites such as Twitter and, which are not governed by any restrictive ‘legal’ guidelines and therefore can write whatever the hell they like.  So with all their billions in the bank and thousands of lawyers on its books, heavy-handed institutions can be made to confess with just a strong minded government minister and one-hundred and forty words message.

(This was published in the July issue of Gwangju News, a magazine run by ex-patroits in Gwangju, South Korea

By David Holt

U dont nd 2 b smrt 2 play fball

Footballers, arguably the most fortunate amongst us seem to struggle during interviews to construct meaningful sentences.  Footballers have never been known for their sharp wit or their ability to recite Hamlet, but why are they so dumb?

They get paid whopping amounts of money to play a game they clearly love for a few hours a week, plus if it happens to be a home fixture they get revered by over fifty-thousand cheering supporters.  They get endorsed by numerous brands which picture them as someone greater and more important than the average Joe Muggins in Primark.  And even a select few, if their whim so takes them, can sometimes shoot a lesser person with an air rifle.  They get all of this without having to worry too much about their education.  By the time they are a newly formed fetus dribbling in the womb they have already been signed by some or other team who will lovingly nurture them until they are ready to play.  It’s like some sort of communist worker camp where as soon as they are signed up they are indoctrinated by the teams ethos and brainwashed like the Manchurian Candidate.

Football is a short-lived profession, most players at the top of their game get ten years good service and then they are sent out to pasture or made into an expensive wallet.  If they are one of the unfortunate ones who don’t become luxury goods they can either get a job on one of the many TV stations that show live football or they are given ‘a column’ in one of the tabloids where they get paid to blabber on about who is the right player to massage Fabio Capello‘s corned feet, or which footballer’s wife John ‘I’ve had the same dreadful haircut since I was pre-pubescent’ Terry will sleep with this month.  Rarely, and I do mean rarely, is a footballer worth listening to.  Such ex-players as Gary Lineker who throughout his entire footballing career seemed to be made for television, or Eric Cantona, who if he had been born about fifty years earlier would rather be sat in a French cafe during the occupation discussing existentialism with John Paul Sartre.  These are the only two footballers who are allowed publicly to speak, the rest must all wait until they have been asked.

Maybe I am being to hard.  If you start to look at the goalkeepers, whenever they are being interviewed they are usually so much more articulate and comfortably understand the questions they are being asked.  Messieurs David James and David Seamen are good examples, clearly they’re not going to set your dinner party alight, but at least they don’t have problems getting their present continuous and present perfect mixed up and end up sounding like an audiobook stuck in a blender and you probably won’t have to cut up their food for them!  Goalkeepers are smarter because for the majority of the game they are not called on, so while the midfield are midfielding it and the strikers striking it further up the pitch, the goalkeeper can afford himself sometime to relax and read the newspaper or listen to his Radio 4 podcast.

Football is a beautiful game played by hooligans, to coin a phrase, but this is not necessarily true.  Football IS a beautiful game, but I’m afraid it is played by rather brainless souls.  Studies have shown that continued impact suffered by players through heading the ball significantly increases the amount of damage done to their noggin.  Over the years various scientific papers written that continued impact on the skull affects memory and planning as well as visual preceptors in the brain, and this is clearly demonstrable when footballers open their mouths to do interviews.  So stop doing interviews, stay out of the papers and just continue to not score for England!

Wayne Rooney is not Camera Shy!

Manchester United’s talented, but tainted Wayne ‘down the drain’ Rooney faces a two-game suspension for swearing into a camera and offending several parents and children who were at home watching West Ham v Man Utd.  In a game of passion he clearly had too much blood crawling through his veins, I mean how dare he say the F-word on TV, I don’t even have a clue what the F-word is!

After scoring from a penalty he gayly jumped up and down with his comrades celebrating a wonderful kick into a big net, all his friends were so happy with his kicking they joyfully rubbed their crotches up and down him.  He seemed to enjoy this, but then the big bad wolf suddenly spotted a camera pointed at him and in a fit of anger which is only associated with 3am on a Saturday night, he yelled ‘F*%k!’

Clearly too much has been made of this incident.  First and foremost ‘Rooooooney!‘ could be considered fairly skillful with a ball, in a kind of simple-minded kitten with a dead mouse situation, i.e. they have their skill, let them do their thing.  He is passionate about football we can all clearly this as he runs aimlessly around a football pitch for 90-minutes, but then again most footballers run aimlessly around the pitch because there is only one rotten ball and twenty-two people trying to dribble on it, I think they get paid to do this, though still unsure.

The real problem with this whole story is that every week we see footballers do far worse things on the pitch.  We see them spit their lungs out onto the turf, bringing up all manner of early life forms, actually that makes me feel nauseous just writing it.  We see them hug and jump and bounce on one another when they score and worse of all we see countless players diving and cheating their way through the game trying to get penalties and getting other player sent off.  This is far worse than any four-letter word.  And talking of four-letter words we can all clearly lip read anyway, we all see the players cursing and swearing when they shoot and miss, like they actually believe punting the ball as hard as they could would do anything but deflate it!  They then deliver a barrage of words that would more suited to a Scorsese movie or from a drunken salacious aunt, but viewers don’t get offended at that, why not?  Is it because you can’t hear it?  Well what about those 45,000 fans who continue to insinuate that the referee likes nothing more than to masturbate?  Surely they should be banned for two games as well, surely, no?  Is it because Wayne Rooney is in the public domain, well what about all the other people who swear on TV, Gordon Ramsey, yes? no? oh he works in a kitchen and chefs are stressed, well it’s stressful being a footballer I guess and especially for someone like Wayne whose limited and quite frankly struggling vocabulary can’t – find – the – right – words – to – say.  See it’s not easy.

I think the real reason why people didn’t like is because they saw someone showing their true emotion, someone whose fire was burning like a Japanese nuclear power station (perhaps too soon), someone whose rage was balancing on a knife-edge, someone who was letting go of that little voice inside and saying: “FUCK THE DAILY MAIL!”

Sir Alex Mourinho

With Inter Milan’s success in the Nou Camp on Wednesday evening, Jose Mario dos Santos Felix Mourinho has the chance to equal the same number of Champions League titles as Sir Alex Ferguson.  Following a direct and solid defensive performance against the reigning champions; Barcelona, nobody would bet against ‘The Special One’ turning up the heat in Madrid on May 22nd and jumping one final hurdle to claim his second trophy in the competition.

Having lead his Inter Milan team quite comfortably through the season, which they will almost certainly win, Mourniho has set his sights on joining that selective group of double winners.  But what is more important is if he wins he will almost certainly be guaranteed the heir apparent role at Old Trafford.

With Sir Alex set to retire at the end of next season, at least according to several leading newspaper, the void to be left is not just a big one, but could quite possibly be the biggest loss since the Persian army marched against King Leonidas and his three-hundred Spartians.  In the eyes of many Manchester United faithful, the only possible replacement could be Mourinho, flanked by Roy Keane, Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel, though you will perhaps struggle to get the latter trio in a room together, but Mourinho could certainly be tempted.  Often asked about a possible managerial role at the most expensive club in the world, he replied,” Who can say no?” And according to BBC’s Sports Writer – Phil McNulty, who is even more confident, “He will be United’s next manager once Sir Alex decides to abdicate.”

Ferguson was recently asked about whether he saw Everton’s David Moyes or Aston Villa‘s Martin O’Neil as possible replacements, but Sir Alex refused to comment, but of Mourinho he has spoken very softly towards and famously they have even shared a few bottles of Claret together. “I think it was a great loss to the game when he went,” speaking after Jose’s departure from Chelsea in 2007.