We take a dip to discover we are not such good swimmers after all
Swimming. It’s easy, isn’t it? My first reaction when invited for a professional lesson is that I already know how to swim. I’ve always considered myself a strong swimmer with a reasonable technique, so what can I learn from a pro instructor?
Despite spending hours every month in the pool (actually, that should read ‘beside the pool’), I admit I can’t remember the last time I completed more than a couple of lengths before going back to the poolside to soak up the sun. So off I head to STA Al Wasl Swimming Academy to find out if I’m more Michael Phelps or Michael Moore.
After being greeted by instructor Aubrey Munez, I’m soon in the water. ‘Let me see you swim half a length,’ says Aubrey. ‘I’ll do a full length,’ I reply, like a child desperate to impress, before splashing across the pool, creating a wave that would have sunk the Titanic. ‘Okay,’ says Aubrey, patiently. ‘Let’s start from the beginning.’ Was I that bad?
She then hands me a brightly coloured flotation device that I would not, under normal circumstances, even consider touching because of male pride. ‘I want you to push off from the wall and kick,’ she explains. Simple, I think. ‘No, kick from your hips and keep your shoulders still,’ she shouts. Not as simple as I thought. ‘And remember to breathe.’ Yes, that’s important, isn’t it? Multi-tasking has never been my strong point. When arms are added to the mix, I know I’m in trouble – they refuse to work in harmony with my legs, rather taking it in turns to propel me short distances, and poking my head out of the water forwards to breathe means I’m taking in huge gulps of water.
According to Aubrey, the key is to kick from the hips, keep your head under the water, take long strokes with the arms and breathe at your shoulder at one side with your head facing backwards. It’s starting to come together just as it’s time to leave the pool. ‘You’re a good student,’ says Aubrey (sweet little lies).
I promise to keep up the practice and, as we chat afterwards in the office, Aubrey tells me that it’s not just non-swimmers that benefit from Al Wasl’s lessons. Technique is the most important thing, she explains – much like in golf, where distance is gained from hitting the ball correctly, rather than hitting it hard. ‘We have students that say they know how to swim, but their technique needs improving. You’re using more effort if your technique is not right,” she reveals.
‘To swim, you need to do a lot of things together. You have to kick, breathe and exercise your arms. Swimming uses muscles that aren’t used in everyday life. It also teaches good breathing because the lungs are also exercised, which helps if you have asthma or if you’re a smoker.’
So what kind of people does Aubrey teach? ‘Most of our students are ladies who sit in an office all day. Swimming is very beneficial for people like that because it helps you use stored fats and lose weight. All of the muscles are used, depending on the stroke.’
The safety benefits of being a stronger swimmer are clear, especially in the current-rich waters off Dubai’s beaches. ‘It’s easier to swim in the sea, but there are currents that can catch you, which can be dangerous,’ warns Aubrey. ‘If you want to swim in the sea, you should have some training. We advise that swimming in a pool is safer and better.’ Lessons cost Dhs500 for 12 sessions and take place daily 8am-10pm. STA Al Wasl Swimming Academy. Al Wasl Sports Club, Oud Metha, www.vipeduc.com/alwasl (04 446 7400).