Thursday, 18 August 2011

The tyranny of swimming pools

They say that running is a very democratic sport. You don't need to invest a fortune in order to participate. You just need a pair of legs and a place to run. You can choose to run by yourself or with others. In a park full of people or in the woods, all alone.

Swimming, on the other hand, is a different matter. At least if you live in Sweden and have no choice but to swim in a pool. Then you need to share a very small space with others, regardless of your ability and theirs. Like it or not, you have very little say in the matter.

So, as I entered the pool for the first time in months, I wondered apprehensively how the day's session would be. Would I get kicked in the face? Get a bucket of water on my face by an over enthusiastic crawl swimmer? Have to zigzag to avoid the slow swimmers? All of the above?

Well, at least I didn't get kicked in the face. But I did swallow an unhealthy dose of chlorinated water when an ambitious swimmer crawled past me vigorously, causing a minor tsunami to find its way into my nose.

Have you tasted chlorinated water? It's about as palatable as cat litter.

I tried to suppress my cough and keep swimming but it was no use. The agonizing coughing noises I made to relieve my nose from the burning sensation reverberated off the walls, startling a few old ladies doing the dog swim in the slow lane. But my torture didn't end there. As I swam on, trying to expel the last drops of water from my throat, I was met by several obstacles. First, the lady that had snubbed the slow lane, in order to float vertically in the middle of the pool, motionlessly. Then, the group of pensioners jumping up and down in a corner at the shallow end.

What's wrong with using the slow lane for such activities, instead of forcing me (and the others who are there to - I know it's hard to imagine, but try - SWIM) to swim around them? Why? Why use the central lane? Why on earth would you pay good money to stand there and jump for 10 minutes, blocking my way, only to go out and disappear afterwards?

Swimming pools are evil.

Bitching aside, the actual swimming part of this session went really well, by my standards. I remember the first couple of times I tried to swim in the pool, struggling to even get past 25 metres using breaststroke. Now I can swim 100 metres without resting. I think I can hear the phone ringing right now. Must be Sweden's Olympic Team, asking me to join them.

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