I inherited my love of the water from my mother. Although my Mom does not swim laps, she does spend hours – and I mean hours – in the pool, doing what she calls her “tricks”. Treading water, doing arm and leg exercises, quasi-breast stroking, etc. Every summer, she keeps track of how many times she flashes her senior pass at our local pool – I think the count is over 50 so far, and the summer isn’t over! Some days she’ll go multiple times, others for just a quick 30-minute dip, and still others for hours on end. She loves it.
My total pool visit count isn’t anywhere near 50 this summer, but I do my best to enjoy the chlorine water and din of children’s play when the weather heats up. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a local pool that comes close to the beauty of my mother’s beloved Bay Pool here in Columbus. I’ve tried the Worthington pool (separate adult swim pool, but $15 entry, $11.50 after 6 PM!), Devon Pool in Upper Arlington (nice enough, but small), and Grandview pool – pictured above. It’s not as nice as Bay, but it’s a decent pool and charges just $3 after 6 PM. The water is clean, there are two dedicated lap lanes, and it’s not usually very crowded, especially on week nights.
When the weather turns cool, I’m forced inside, but when inside looks like this, it’s not so bad!
If you are a swimmer or aspire to be one, I urge you to find an indoor pool that doesn’t make you want to stick a pen in your eyeball and twist it around (bonus points to anyone who knows the origin of that phrase!). I used to swim at LA Fitness where I teach spinning, but the pool is only 18 meters in length, 3 lanes wide, and generally unappealing. Paying the $8 / visit to swim at the RPAC is worth every penny (still undecided on paying $3.50 / visit to park, though..)
I haven’t always been a swimmer. Much to the contrary, I didn’t participate in any sports growing up – my inner athlete only appeared when I went to college. I was on the swim team in middle school at one point, but I quit for two reasons: 1.) I couldn’t figure out how to dive off the platform and 2.) as I told my Mom at the time, “when do you get to talk?”. Apparently I wanted to participate in social activities, not ones that required an hour of your head in the water. Despite not swimming competitively, I do have very fond memories of spending hours and hours at the pool on hot summer days, tossing dive sticks into the water, playing synchronized swimmers with my friend Brandy, and eating frozen Snickers bars from the snack bar (the highlight, obviously).
Right around the time I graduated college, I injured my Achilles tendon (minor) and found myself unable to do my go-to form of exercise, the elliptical (which, ironically, I never ever do anymore and HATE). I was fully addicted to exercise and couldn’t fathom the idea of taking an extended period of time off to let my injury heal. Enter swimming! At the time, I could barely swim more than a lap or two at a time before needing a break, but at least it was something.
That injury healed quickly, but it taught me a valuable lesson: when life gives you injuries, go swimming! This isn’t true for all injuries, of course – the stress fracture in my hip that kept me sidelined for months when I was 23 prevented me from doing any activity, including swimming. But more often than not, swimming comes to the rescue. Two more times after that I experienced various foot injuries that kept me from running and spinning and brought me back to the pool – this time for longer periods.
I credit these injuries with making me the swimmer that I am today. It was during those periods that I slowly but surely worked up my endurance and my form. I went from barely being able to swim two laps without stopping, to alternating freestyle and breaststroke, to swimming freestyle for a mile. I also credit my high school BFF Allison for initially improving my stroke many years ago and my cousin Talya for perfecting it every year when we swim together over the Thanksgiving Holiday. Both were competitive swimmers in high school, and their form tips (keep your face straight down, roll your body to the side with each stroke to glide through it, kick from your hips, not your knees, etc.) have been instrumental in improving my technique.
Today, I can swim for an hour with just a few short breaks mixed in. And I’m actually pretty fast – fast enough to place second in the swim portion of an indoor triathlon! I find swimming to be incredibly relaxing and soothing in a way that other forms of exercise are not. It’s healing yet challenging. I don’t swim more than once a week at most. With no music (it’s occurred to me to purchase a waterproof MP3 player, but I kind of like the quiet when swimming) and lots of repetition, it can be a little bit boring. Once a week is just enough to enjoy the benefits without getting antsy or burnt out. My muscles also appreciate the variety – my body responds much better to a variety of activities than it does to too much of the same thing (running, spinning, yoga, strength, swimming etc.)
And the best part? Swimming makes you hungry! Last night when walking home from a 9:45 PM bang trim I made a spontaneous decision to take advantage of the very short line at Jeni’s Ice Cream (I won’t speculate on the reasons for that very short line…#listeria). After tasting their new salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks (tasty), I opted for a “small” of darkest chocolate (always a winner) and their new double toasted coconut. Yum!
So tell me – how do you feel about the water? Are you a fish or a stone?