The One Ingredient Solution to the Top 10 Swimmer Problems Coconut Oil!
*Features on About.com/Swimming*
Swimming is a sport that demands efficiency – in the water but also on land.
Efficient stroke mechanics, time management, space utilization...you name it.
Forget caring bottles of lotion in your bag, making countless trips to the convenience store, and putting chemicals in your body that you can’t even pronounce. If there is one item that you should remember to pack for your meet (besides your suit, cap and goggles, of course) it’s this – Coconut Oil.
1. Chlorine Hair
While shiny, green, dry hair is an emblem of our countless hours of dedication and hard work in the pool, there comes a time when we may actually need to comb through our hair or at least take it out of our permanent swimmer buns… (http://swimswam.com/missy-franklin-how-to-make-a-swimmer-bun/)…and when you do, you don’t want it looking like this (http://swimswam.com/swimmers-hair-the-facts/)
Adding coconut oil to your hair pre-swim will saturate the hair and keep it from absorbing the chlorinated water while also reducing protein loss (no more dead ends) due to its high affinity for hair proteins, low molecular weight and straight linear fatty chain (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12715094). AKA our first grade science experiment - water and oil don't mix…coconut oil repels the water.
This also works as a natural post-swim deep conditioning moisturizer. The small molecular structure of the oil allows for easy absorption through the hair while the fatty acids delivers a soft smooth texture which relieves that dry post-swim chlorine hair feel. This will also protect your hair from the damaging effects of the copper deposits giving your hair that lovely green hue.
**Rubbing a small amount of oil in your hands and working through the hair before and after you swim will do wonders!
2. Dry Skin
Chlorine, bromine, salt, you name it – exposure to these chemicals can be harsh on your skin, eventually depleting your skin of its natural oils. Water itself even removes oil that allows dryness to set in.
3. Swimmer’s Ear
Every summer…we all know it’s coming. No matter how many Dry-n-Clear bottles and earplug packs we go through there is always the inevitable case of the dreaded swimmer’s ear.
Coconut oil has antifungal properties (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17651080), and I hate to break it to you but the cause of your ear infection is from swimming in bacteria and fungi. The oil is a great remedy by helping to drain the water out of the ears, thus reducing the pain.
**Warm 20ml of coconut oil and fill the ear using a dropper. Tilt your head to side of the filled ear to empty and drain. (Note: if in a cold climate, avoid using this method due to the hardening of the oil at lower temperatures)
Coconut oil has a natural SPF of 3, however chances are with the amount of time spent at the pool this isn’t going to be enough. What you can do is add a dash of zinc oxide, the skin-protecting ingredient in sunscreen (http://tanacceleratorstore.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Zinc-oxide-on-face.jpg), which provides broad-spectrum UV protection (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9922017)
5. Sun Burn
…and if you didn’t follow number 3, coconut oil can still help you!
The skin-nourishing fatty acids double as burn relief to calm that sting. Coconut oil also contains free-radical fighting compounds. These antioxidants have been shown to slow the aging of skin and reduce the harmful effects of sun damage which we put our bodies through each day. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21646825) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20523108, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19115123
6. Chlorine Burn
If you don’t have it from swimming everyday, just wait until your championship meet when the pool chemicals spike. The repeated exposure to the harsh chemicals often triggers rashes. No worries, coconut oil works to combat redness, irritation and mild inflammation (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20645831).
7. Razor Burn
You get to shave once a year, so make the most of it. Using coconut oil can be used in place shaving cream. The oil sets you up for a close shave while also hydrating your skin. Plus, this works wonders for those with sensitive skin (Boys with the painful post-taper meet razor burn, I’m talking to you).
Coconut is extremely high in fat. BUT…this is good fat. YES. Good fat! Fat gets a bad rep but as endurance athletes we need to make sure we are getting these essential fatty acids for proper cellular energy production, immunity and brain function…. and the right kind! (This isn’t an excuse to go out and eat cake, sorry)
MCFA’s (medium-chain fatty acids) are naturally found in coconut oil and these are digested a bit differently than most fats. Instead of chilling in the bloodstream like all the other fats, these triglycerides are absorbed and go straight to the liver. Since this is easily digested, the fat is utilized quickly as energy (like carbs!) and may even boost endurance performance. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19436137)
Thanks to the increased research emerging (http://swimming.about.com/od/swimworkoutsandskills/tp/5-Reasons-you-Should-have-Swim-Meet-Massages.htm https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPRdjWQKZOA) on the benefits of massages for swimmers, we finally have a science-backed excuse! Not only does the coconut oil work as a great lotion for massage techniques, but its aromatherapy benefits will take you to your happy place on the beach in the middle of the high-stress, swim meet environment. If you can’t bring the trainer along for the ride this is easy for self-massage techniques (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zicY_g13jWk&list=PLYbTyTuxq2uhBQ7kqzp8YqYTR2PtlIohH&index=4)
And for the few spare moments when you are out of the water…
You have five minutes to get from the pool to dryland and all you have are tennis shoes and coconut oil…well the good news is that’s all you need! Smooth some under you arms and the lauric acid (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24328700 ) will kill the stinky causing bacteria.
Coconut is the true swimmer triple threat with its antifungal, antiviral, and antioxidant properties – killing pool thriving fungi, curing cracked skin and restoring our hair to normal. Here are a few things to remember: 1. Go for the organic, unrefined, extra-virgin products which are higher quality and less refined (Costco is fabulous) 2. A little goes a long way 3. It’s normal for coconut oil to solidify at cooler temps (melting point is 76 F) 4. And lastly, these are just tips that I’ve found to work and coconut oil may not be for everyone. Like all products, individuals can be irritated by all kinds of things. Make sure you stop use if any irritation occurs!