Paolo Mangilinan
Dubai based Filipino expat Paolo Mangilinan aiming to swim 10km daily for 30 days as part of Dubai Fitness Challenge. Image Credit:

Dubai: The 30x30 Dubai Fitness Challenge has not only inspired residents to pursue a healthy and active lifestyle, but has also encouraged some expatriates to push their physical limits.

Gulf News recently featured a man from Togo who wakes up at 2am every day since October 30 to complete a 45km run, farther than the standard 42.2km marathon, before coming to work. Now, there is a Filipino expat who has been swimming 10km daily in open sea and his goal is to reach 300km to complete this year’s 30X30 Dubai Fitness Challenge.

A champion swimmer and endurance swimming coach, Paolo Mangilinan, 34, told Gulf News: “I am always passionate about swimming — I started swimming when I was six years. I’ve joined various competitions, including Ironman 70.3 World Championship and I was a champion swimmer back in high school. I have also been coaching triathletes for the last ten years, but now my biggest challenge is to swim 10km every day for one month.”

To put that into perspective, the 10km distance is called ‘marathon’ swim as it is the equivalent of 42.2km of running marathon. That means, Paolo is aiming to complete 30 swimming ‘marathons’ until November 28.

The total distance he will be covering is 300km in open sea — it’s cross-country swimming covering the entire length from port of Fujairah to port Sultan Qaboos in Muscat, Oman.

NAT Paolo Mangilinan 02-1605676284650
A champion swimmer and endurance swimming coach, Paolo Mangilinan, says he wanted to challenge himself by swimming 10-km daily for 30 days.

Pushing to the limit

As punishing as it sounds, Paolo, who participated in 30X30Dubai for the first time, gave a curt reply when asked why he was doing it: “I just want to challenge myself and see what my body is capable of. I want to push myself to the limit.” Paolo said initially he was considering swimming “only” 5km every day, but decided to double the distance and make it a marathon swim. “I wanted to do more for this year’s fitness challenge,” explained the Filipino expatriate who is a registered nurse and is originally from Manila.

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Strict routine

Paolo follows a regimented daily routine. He wakes up before sunrise to be at the beach by 6.30am. After warm-up, he starts swimming from Kite Beach towards Dubai Sailing Club, before proceeding to Burj Al Arab — that’s the first leg, which is equivalent to 5km. Then he swims back from Burj Al Arab to Dubai Sailing Club and finishes his 10km swim at his point of origin. According to Paolo, he covers the entire distance of freestyle swimming between two hours and 30 minutes to two hours and 45 minutes, with an average speed of 100 metres per 90 seconds.

A kayaker accompanies Paolo on his daily swim to give him food, water and help him navigate the sea. On some days, one or two of his students at Swim Smooth Club, an endurance swimming programme for adults in Dubai, goes to swim with him. Paolo takes two-three two-minute breaks in between flapping and fluttering his arms and legs, with his guide handing him water, fruit or nutrition gel so he does not have to get off the water.

Sea challenges

Swimming in open water has several challenges, according to Paolo. Aside from the current, there are also sea creatures like jellyfish that he has to avoid. And because the water is salty, he has been experiencing what endurance swimmers call ‘salt mouth’— the effect of seawater build-up in the mouth and throat. He is also having inner thigh chafing and some rashes in the armpits, but all of these did not diminish Paolo’s perseverance and vigour.

Daily recovery

Paolo finishes his daily swim at 9.30am. Then he does some stretching on the beach to loosen his sore muscles, especially on his shoulders. The daily 10km effort is equivalent to 11,000 strokes of the arms, according to Paolo. He then gets a quick massage, eats, takes a nap for a couple of hours before heading to work. His daily recovery also means that he has to get at least nine hours of sleep and he eats a variety of nutritious foods, with lots of carbohydrates, protein and vegetables to complete his intake of 6,000-7,000 calories a day. He also has to ensure that he keeps himself sufficiently hydrated.

Tribute to wife

Paolo reiterated his reasons for doing the grinding challenge: To know his limit and move beyond it; and to inspire his students (he is coaching around 130 endurance swimmers of various nationalities and abilities). After achieving his goal, however, Paolo said he would take it easy and spend more time with his family. He added: “My success is dependent on the sacrifices of my wife (Emilia). She gave birth to our first child (Maia Isabel) three months ago, but she is not only taking care of our baby, but she has also been very supportive of me from day One,” added Paolo as he paid tribute to his wife, who swam with him for three kilometres on Tuesday.