Fitness: perfect your swimming technique

Swimming is all about the technique, which can be difficult to master without a qualified trainer.

H2O Swim club coach Roger de Manresa at the American Community School in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National
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Why is it that some people find swimming so difficult?

Even seasoned athletes who can run 20km without hardly breaking a sweat or can cycle 50km before breakfast, often struggle so miserably with exercise in the water.

Even if they spend hours in the pool, they never advance beyond haplessly flailing around and their lap times never seem to get faster. Conversely, spending ample time on the track or in the saddle both lead to steady improvements in performance.

The reason for this is that because humans are not water-based creatures, swimming is not a natural movement for us. Hence, if you're a poor swimmer, you lack control over your strokes, no matter how much effort you put into them.

So, one has to perfect the body movements to become totally efficient in the water. The solution to this is to seek professional help with a qualified instructor.

In Abu Dhabi, there are a number of swimming schools that cater to those who can't swim at all, as well as to swimmers who just want to become better.

One of these is Hamilton Acquatics, which teaches classes at the Raha International School and Gems Academy in Khalifa City A.

Coach Mike Squire says lessons have a high take-up in the UAE.

"There is a beach culture over here, and many people have pools in their buildings or compounds," says the British national, who's been teaching swimming for more than 25 years.

"Speaking about the UK where I'm from, and I'm sure it's true in other countries, people are not always pushed into learning to swim at school anymore. So, not being able to swim with all these facilities means they're really disadvantaged over here."

Likewise, he said the popularity of the institute's swimming courses was boosted by the country's thriving triathlon scene.

"Triathlons have become the new marathons for amateur athletes, especially with people over 40. It's the biggest take-up sport there is at the moment," he contends.

"But it's a different form of fitness from running or cycling. Having a good technique is by far the most important part of swimming."

He adds: "This is not something that you can just pick up by reading a manual or watching a clip on YouTube. You need to attend a session with a qualified instructor who can look into the issues in your strokes that need addressing."

Squire's sentiments are echoed by Roger de Manresa, a Spanish coach who teaches at the H2O Swim Club, which runs lessons at Brighton College and the American Community School in Abu Dhabi.

"Swimming is similar to golf. It's a very technical sport if you want to do it properly," de Manresa maintains.

"Physical conditions are only part of it; mostly it's very much about technique. It's mainly about how you apply your strength in the water. So it's a very difficult sport to learn properly."

The H20 Swim Club opened in the capital in November 2012. Since then, it too has attracted a large number of people wanting to improve their swimming.

De Manresa, who competed for his home country, Spain, at a junior level, believes that this surge in interest is mostly because swimming is one of the few sports that people can participate in all year round in the UAE.

"Here in the Middle East, what is there to do in the summer? It's either indoor activities or nothing," he states.

"But swimming is a sport that you can do no matter what the temperature is outside. You can go to the beach or the hotel. It really suits the place."

As well as its scope to be undertaken all year long, de Manresa also believes swimming has other benefits in the UAE.

"A lot of people get out of shape over here and get too heavy," he says.

"No matter what your physical condition is, you can swim. For people who are a bit heavy, it's hard for them to run or cycle. So swimming is a good way for them to restart getting back into shape.

"And, if you're swimming, you're pretty much giving every muscle in your body a good workout."

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