fitness · Guest Post · swimming

Being Underestimated by the Lifeguards (Guest Post)

by Mallory Brennan

Over the summer, I started lane swimming as one of the few socially acceptable fitness activities. Our outdoor pools were open with restrictions and it was almost impossible to book a lane. But once you did, it was fantastic! One swimmer per lane, booked in advance so you could schedule your time, masks worn in the changerooms and the pools themselves were outside!

Once September hit, I moved to the indoor pools. Now, I’m not going to say indoor lane swimming is risk-free since nothing is these days BUT I will say, for me personally, it is within an acceptable level of risk. One person per lane, pre-booked time slots, minimized time spent in changerooms and masks worn everywhere except in the pool itself. In addition, the gym I’ve been attending has two sets of changerooms and has dedicated one of the them ONLY to swimmers with specific lockers set aside all very distanced from each other. Once you get onto the pool deck, each swimmer has their own space on the bench marked off for you stuff and the lifeguards are diligent in reminding you to wear your mask until you are about to enter the water.

One of my favourite exercises when swimming is to tread water with a brick. For those of you who don’t know, lifeguards often train using a brick to create additional weight. These bricks come in either 5lbs, 10lbs or 20lbs and treading water with a 20-lb brick is equivalent to carrying a 200-lb person. This is the standard that all lifeguards (in Canada) must be able to meet.

These bricks are kept in the lifeguard office and you must ask politely to borrow them. Most lifeguards are slightly flummoxed by this request since most people don’t know they exist let alone want to use them for exercise! When I first started swimming at this gym, I had to explain myself and the lifeguard had to check with her supervisor before I was allowed to use the brick as they don’t normally let people use them due to risk of injury. Now it’s not an issue and so far, it’s been the same lifeguard on duty who remembers me.

This morning, it was different lifeguards on duty and when I asked, they were clearly flummoxed by this request. The following conversation took place:

  • “I’m not sure if you can use the bricks, I’d have to check with my supervisor and she’s not here right now”
  • “I was here earlier this week and the lifeguard on duty checked with your manager, it wasn’t an issue.”
  • “Okay”. (Goes to guard office and audibly asks the other guard to pass out the 5-lb or 10-lb brick).
  • “Actually, I was using the 20-lb yellow brick last time. Can I use that one today?”
  • “That one’s only for lifeguards, I’m not sure we are allowed to give it out to people”
  • Other lifeguard comes out and looks at me: “Are you a lifeguard?”.
  • “Yes although my NLS expired over the summer”
  • “Just give it to her”

And I got the heavy brick! I will admit, there was moment of pleasure watching the initial lifeguards face as I cheerfully started my exercises with the 20-lb brick. Following 15 minutes of drills with the brick, my legs feeling rubbery I exited the pool area and went on about my day.


Mallory is human, currently doing graduate study in Community Music. She loves traveling and spending time outdoors and prefers not to wear shoes when possible.