The Slowest Lane

Swimming Pool in Prague

Swimming Pool in Prague

I’ve never really been a strong swimmer. Even into high school, I was forever in the “learn to swim” group. I never got a bronze medallion. In fact, I struggled to get my 50 metre certificate. And once I’d achieved that I pretty much gave up on the idea of being a good swimmer.

For me, it was mostly a lack of co-ordination. I never really got the hang of having my arms in the right position at the right time. And kicking? Oh my goodness. My body was forever falling below the surface of the water. Even with those flotation devices, my big fat arse kept dragging me down.

Also, blessed/cursed with a fair complexion, I usually found myself with a case of sunburn every time I wandered outside. All of that, and the associated psychological baggage combined together with a slight fear of the water to pretty much convince me I’d never be a good swimmer.

Subsequently, I’ve never been much of a beach or pool goer either. But something happened on my holiday that’s helped me come to terms with the “inner swimmer” in me. I think it was the holiday atmosphere. And the fact that it was bloody hot in some of the places I visited, especially Stockholm for a while. As a result, I went swimming quite a few times while on holiday. Well, not so much swimming, more paddling around.

In common with Tom, I went for a swim today, for the first time since returning from Europe. My local pool, near Central Station is closed for renovation so I went to the recently re-opened Cook & Phillip Pool near St Mary’s Cathedral.

Every other time I’ve been in the area, the smell of chlorine has been strong. However, they seemed to have sorted that out now. And it was actually a fairly pleasant place to go. There’s a little sun shine area, a wading pool for kids, and obviously a fifty metre pool.

In the fifty metre pool there was a bunch of people doing laps. Up and down. Up and down. Mostly, they were doing freestyle, though some were doing breast stroke. As for me… well I’ve always been a fan of the side stroke. For some reason or other, I’m okay at side stroke. I’m also okay at back stroke. But today it was side stroke. And so that’s what I did… in the slow lane.

The problem I found, though, was that the slow lane was still quite fast for me. “Slow down guys”, I thought to myself, as I found myself chased up and down the lane by an assortment of breast strokers and freestylers. I actually think they should have been in the medium pace lane, as they were swimming at about that pace. But as I couldn’t be bothered arguing the point, I just settled into the appropriate pace that suited me, and figured if they wanted to go faster, they could swap lanes.

In the lane next to us, there was a bloke in his forties who was learning to swim. From time to time I stopped and looked over at him, to see how the lesson was going. He had a one-on-one teacher who seemed really good, and really concerned to help him. You could see from the look on his face he was confronting some long-held fears about swimming, and taking life into his own hands. “Good on you mate”, I thought to myself.

And that’s when I noticed most of the people at the pool weren’t very good swimmers either. As I looked at their strokes, their body placement, their breathing patterns, all of those things, I noticed most of them were doing their best to avoid drowning. A two-bob expert eh?

Anyway, all of these things have combined to give me the motivation to keep going to the pool, to try to improve my swimming, and to keep doing this both for enjoyment and general fitness. Fingers crossed I can keep it up when I return to work next week.

It was the perfect way to spend an hour or so this afternoon. And then I walked back home which was a very pleasant experience and watched a little bit of television before catching up with Kate and Damien this evening.

Damien now has a blog also which he has established to record his own travel experiences. He’s going to China at the end of the year, and then returning next year to travel mostly alone for six to eight months across land between Asia and Europe.

As Kate has been to China on and off a few times over the last few years (and is returning next week), I brought them together for dinner to swap notes and experiences.

They’re both fans of travelling across land, taking trains, going to small villages, and they both agree the journey is just as important (if not more so) than the experience of travel. I disagree with them both on that, as previously discussed here. For me, transport is just that, a means to get somewhere as quickly as possible. But anyway, that’s all part of life’s diversity, blah blah blah. The only slow travel I like is in the pool.

  1. Good for you to pick swimming up. Almost weightless and great muscle movement.

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  2. Ah, the C*** & Feel-up pool. I’ve swum there once in a while but it’s not my favourite pool – too many things floating in the bottom that probably shouldn’t be there. You’re right that lots of people don’t generally swim very well – lots use so much energy but aren’t going very fast as it’s all converted into splash and not speed. Not that I can talk – I’ve been videoed a couple of times which is quite confronting to see all my bad habits!

    So, will we see you at the Icebergs any time soon? Now there’s a real pool! :)

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  3. I learned to swim from scratch about three years ago. I never learned as a child. And I love it. I’m not very fast, and I need to rest after every 100metres, but I try to swim 500m two times a week, as well as 250 m of running in the pool at least once a week. The Ian Thorpe Pool in Harris St is very nice and not chlorine-y. We swim there or at the pool at Sydney Uni (after work = convenience).

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  4. Peter – thanks for the wishes.

    Tom – I wish you hadn’t mentioned things in the pool. Ewww. I agree Icebergs is a great pool, though it’s a little inconvenient for me.

    MH – Yes, the Thorpie pool. When I return to work next week, it’s gonna be very convenient I hope.

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  5. I swam very slow laps for a couple of years at the Sydney Football Stadium pool and whilst I didn’t lose weight my body noticeably toned up which was nice.

    Unfortunately I picked up an infection in my right ear and within a few years lost total hearing in that ear. I’ve been reluctant to return to swimming ever since but it is a particularly effective, if boring, form of exercise.

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  6. Ahhh – the problem of finding a slow enough lane. I expect all those people who you think should be in a faster lane than you have been squeezed over by the really dominant types who are swimming too fast in the medium land. But I agree there are some who seem to exhibit a kind of twisted false modesty that simultaneously enables them to lord it over those of us who are truly slow, of whom I certainly count myself one.

    It’s funny you should have found yourself swimming when overseas. I wonder if it is a kind of reflex Australianism – I’m sure the first time I ever said G’day was in Edinburgh, or at least the first time I realised I’d said it (to another Australian) was there; and swimming really must be Australia’s national sport – at least in comparison to the number of swimmers per capita elsewhere.

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  7. Victor – that sounds terrible. I understand your reluctance. And for me the key is not to consider it exercise. Exercise is boring. Swimming is fun.

    Marcellous – I don’t think it was an Australia reflex. I think it was just the fact I was on holiday and it was hot. But yes, there were occasions when I bumped up the accent a notch or two while travelling.

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