by Shelby Deal
One definition of a “regular customer” is someone who keeps coming back for more. That’s who Rahul Gupta is: he told me that he tries to visit the HAC for a workout every single day if his schedule allows.
Rahul has been a member since 2008, but he didn’t start working out regularly until 2015. He started with Zumba classes and guided weight training, which has helped his overall health and has kept him from getting sick.
Rahul says that he missed the HAC during quarantine – he was here the very last day before lockdown and the day the club reopened: “At home, working out is nothing compared to what it is here, with the friend circle and the motivation of seeing others.”
But there was one challenge that Rahul had yet to tackle, despite his dedication to regular exercise. The circumstances of his childhood meant that he never had the opportunity to learn to swim when he was young, so Rahul decided that it was finally time.
Rahul grew up in India, which is a vastly impoverished third-world country. Many “rural households have no sanitation facility,” and this lack of amenities extends to fitness facilities. Rahul grew up in the countryside of India while his father was employed at various sector building infrastructures.
One of the things he noticed while living there was that a primary education was considered “good enough” and that school facilities like gyms or swimming pools were nonexistent. He said that until he began studying at a top engineering school in India, he “had no idea that a swimming pool could even be part of a gym!”
Taking the Leap
The decision to learn to swim came in August, which led to Rahul meeting Jack Siebold. Jack teaches the U.S. Masters classes at HAC, but he also works with people just starting their swimming journey, like Rahul.
During their weekly lessons, Jack helped Rahul break his fear of the water and showed him how floating is natural to the body. Rahul now swims for thirty minutes every day, which he has done for the past two months. He says he is “feeling the benefits” as he gets “more comfortable in the water every passing day.”
Rahul started swimming at the pace of ten laps in twenty minutes and has reached twenty-four laps in twenty minutes! His current goal is to swim sixty laps in one hour–and he is well on his way to achieving that aim.
Rahul recommends one-on-one lessons for beginners. Techniques are essential for progression and endurance, which can be learned more effectively through individualized personal sessions. Because water is 800 times denser than air, it is crucial to swim efficiently to burn calories without expending all of one’s energy.
Swimming offers a lot of benefits that other activities do not, or that take longer to appear through on-land exercises. The water also helps with your joints due to buoyancy while offering a great cardio workout. Swimming is a fantastic resistance workout, and it provides cardio with a lower impact than on-land cardio classes. In the water, you have to start slow, which may sound counterintuitive. You have to learn how to make the water work for you instead of fighting against the waves.
Swimming can be calming and fun as well as good exercise. When his swim lessons were on hiatus, Rahul continued to swim to increase his “endurance, lung capacity and lap length.” Now, he hopes to learn new techniques to build upon what he has already learned.
In addition to his love for exercise, Rahul also enjoys spreading the word about healthy dieting. Rahul says that diet and exercise go hand-in-hand, and swimming is no exception: “Everything falls in line; it’s not one or the other.” Because swimming is mainly a cardio activity, it can cause cramping when exercising on a full stomach. Rahul practices intermittent fasting and fasted cardio to prevent this when he exercises.
Rahul has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and has written multiple articles for the HAC Enhance® magazine. One of his nutrition articles examines the health benefits of organic berry smoothies. The article lists many of the qualities of mixed berries, which include anti-aging benefits. Similarly, Rahul says that “In many different ways, swimming is basically anti-aging.”
Swimming can be anti-aging in the same way as other exercises are: through telomeres. Rahul wrote an article about telomeres, which protect chromosomes in the genetic code. The article referenced studies that showed how longer telomeres lower the risk of cancer, among other things. Regular workouts, such as swimming, can benefit you both physically and psychologically through the benefits that exercising bring.
Rahul says that taking preventative measures to maintain a healthy lifestyle is crucial to slowing down and even reducing the effects of aging. One way to do this is to eat a healthy diet and try various workouts. For some, water can be “a different frontier.” Thirty minutes of exercise on land versus thirty minutes in the water can result in two completely different workouts.
The main reason our cardiovascular system can be challenged more in the water versus on land has to do with the natural resistance water provides. Essentially, water provides greater resistance than air. In essence, swimming can be a superior cardiovascular workout when compared to running.
Swimming can help with weight loss and aid in maintaining and strengthening muscles. It’s a full-body workout, targeting every muscle group nearly simultaneously. The added resistance of water can also reduce the time it takes to see results in muscle tone and strength. Various sources even indicate that, from a calorie burning standpoint, 30 minutes of exercise in a pool can equate to 45 minutes of land-based exercise. In theory, the potential for calorie burning and muscle building through swimming can set the stage for a significant weight loss.
Swimming can also prevent heart disease in three significant ways: by lowering blood pressure levels, by helping you maintain cholesterol levels through burning fat, and by boosting metabolism. When combined with a healthy diet, swimming can be vital to staying younger longer.
We should all try to be a little like Rahul. He was brave in learning how to swim, and he has shown his dedication by continuing to improve his skills. Rahul is not afraid to try new workouts, and he takes care of his body through healthy dieting along the way. Rahul wishes that more people would take advantage of the benefits the pool brings. He says that “the more you come, the easier things will be.” So take the leap and try swim lessons at HAC!