The Benefits of Swimming

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“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.

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