‘Swimming gives me a sense of self-fulfilment’

The freedom and solitude to be found in swimming are as precious as its more tangible health benefits, such as weight loss and increased energy levels.

Asmaa Al Hameli hopes to swim her way to good long-term health. Delores Johnson / The National
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What is the best gift you have given yourself? For my 25th birthday this year, I gave myself the gift of wellness.

I signed up for the gym, for a healthier, happier and more productive life. I am one of those people who doesn’t exercise to lose weight, but rather to get my sleep pattern back in sync and to boost my energy levels.

I must admit, though, that I thought of quitting the gym after the first few sessions because I found it boring and, contrary to conventional belief, exercising increased my stress levels and gave me migraines. Then I discovered swimming, which turned out to be the only exercise that gives me self-fulfilment.

Hitting the pool early in the morning has become the highlight of my day. Usually I am the only one swimming in the morning, which I enjoy immensely. The moment I set my foot in the water, I get a sense of freedom. Thirty minutes of “me” time gives me the chance to listen to my inner voice and sharpen my to-do list for the day. It also allows me to sing to myself and dance in the water the way I want. Flapping my arms and legs in the water has given me the freedom to be myself and drives away negative thoughts.

Sometimes you have to tune out the world and your surroundings to listen to your own worries and voice – that’s exactly what I achieved through swimming.

Due to the frequent workouts, my social life is improving and I am more productive at work, too. Even after a hectic day, I still have the energy to do more.

And just three months after joining the gym, I have set myself a higher goal. An overwhelming number of people rely on their children in their old age, a statistic I hope to avoid. My family has a history of diabetes and high blood pressure. My father, for example, weighs 96 kilograms and he can barely do anything without a helping hand. But he is surrounded by his children, who take good care of him. None of us has ever thought of taking our father to a care centre; we fulfil his emotional and well-being needs. There is no guarantee my children will be by my side if I live up to 60 or 70 years. A healthy lifestyle wasn’t part of my life previously, but that’s changed now.

I admire the Japanese and Korean cultures when it comes to health and fitness. Regardless of the countries’ fast-paced development in economy and infrastructure, the citizens – particularly the elders – are self-dependent. I was especially impressed by the healthy lifestyle of senior citizens in South Korea, which I witnessed first-hand last year.

Family structures are changing in the UAE and I fear a day will come when most elders are thought of as a burden on their children – I hope I am not one of them in a few decades.

I will train myself from now to be my own best companion for the coming years. Health is the greatest gift in life and I am sure, one day, my body will thank me for taking care of it.