A Canadian friend who spent most winters in sub zero temperatures once said to me, “Zimbabwean winters are so quaint, they’re really just a good excuse to wear a jumper ”.
Zimbabwe as usual is currently zooming from winter to summer and yet again I’ll be left wondering whatever happened to spring. The beautiful smell of Jasmine and the subsequent hay fever let me know that it will soon be September and the City of Harare swimming pools will re-open. Mid-month the water will be warm enough for me to do my one and a half kilometres without loosing all sensation in my extremities.
Swimming is a great low impact way to tone the whole body in a short time frame. It doesn’t have the weight bearing benefits of other activities that help to offset osteoporosis but it is a great way to get fit and loose weight without exerting any unnecessary stress on joints.
The amount of calories burnt whilst swimming depends on the intensity and length of the swim. It also depends on weight – a heavier person will use more calories to cover the same distance as a lighter person. So not only is it a complete body work out, low impact, and a highly efficient way of getting fit and loosing weight, it offers greater benefits to the heavier built person. Information varies widely on how many calories are burnt in the pool but a 60kg person exercising for 30 minutes would burn 195Kcal whilst doing a slow crawl, which is the same as doing aerobics. Walking and cycling for the same length of time would burn 99kcal and 180kcal respectively. Golf 129Kcal, Tennis 240kcal and running a 8.5 minute mile would burn a whopping 345kcal.
In Europe you can pretty much jump into any dam or river without worrying about the consequences. Sadly in Africa this is not always the case. Crocodiles and hippos along with Bilharzia put many water ways out of bounds. Safe swimming in Zimbabwe is virtually restricted to private and commercial pools and the cool higher dams and rivers of the Eastern Highlands. City of Harare pools are great value for money. An eight month season pass for all the city pools in 2013/14 cost just one hundred dollars. Single visits were two dollars for adults and a dollar for children.
If you are interested in trying out competitive swimming then the Troutbeck mile or half mile swim is a great place to start. The swim takes place in the safe, cool dam in front of the Troutbeck Hotel on the same day as the All Africa Triathlon. The next mile swim is on the 15th March 2015 which gives you plenty of time to train.
For those that would like to combine swimming with running and cycling then maybe Triathlon is for you. The Zimbabwe Triathlon Association is very active and hosts a variety of great events at Mount Pleasant pool throughout the year. The full or Olympic Triathlon distances include a 1.5km swim 40km bike ride and a 10km run. Most people however are happier doing the half or mini (9 widths, 10km ride and 3km run) triathlons. There are also mini ‘mini’s for children. Events such as the ‘Bring a Buddy Relay Event’ (September 14th, November 23rd and February 8th 2015), ‘Pink Day Breast Cancer Awareness Fund-raiser’ (Oct 12th) and the Orange Day Kidzcan Fundraiser (March 1st) triathlon for cancer’ are proving very popular and allow people to just do one or two of the disciplines. For more information on triathlons and the Mile swim please see the website www.zimtri.org
Other water sports include water polo, which has been in the summer Olympics (for men) since the second games in 1900, but sadly only since 2000 for women and there is a a small social club in Harare. Other water activities include scuba diving, water skiing and for the more adventurous spear fishing.
Swimming is a great way to get away from the stress’ of the world whilst getting fit, strong and healthy. Our climate was recently voted joint first in the world, and I smile with self satisfied smugness every time I think how lucky we are to be able to swim outdoors in naturally heated water.
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