fitness · Guest Post · swimming

Adapting (Guest Post)

by Diane Harper

This year has been full of adaptions and adjustments, not least to our fitness routines. Some adaptations have been relatively small; when the pools closed in March, it was no big deal to move outdoors once it got a bit warmer, because I swim outdoors year-round. When the roads to our favourite swim spot became impossible because everyone else suddenly discovered the lake, my group pivoted quickly to staying at the river spot we normally use in spring and fall, and we figured out longer swims to get some distance in. When I didn’t need to cycle to work every day because I was working from home, I developed after work walking routines and even took up cycling to buy groceries.

Other adaptations have been more challenging. Ballet class in my living room means no more big movements across a huge studio floor. For months my barre was the back of a chair. Most jumping and pirouettes are gone – partly so we don’t crash into furniture, and partly because it’s hard for a teacher on Zoom to give individual corrections to people in tiny squares, all moving at slightly different times because of lags in the music.

So far in 2021, adaptations to my routine have become more important than ever. Like many I started January with Yoga With Adriene 30 days series on YouTube. I can’t do crow. I couldn’t do crow last year, either, and I gave up on the series because the failure intimidated me so much. Despite last year’s failure, I dipped in and out of yoga practice throughout the year, and joined a lunch-hour chair yoga series offered through my work this fall. That instructor offers lots of adaptations for people who might not be up to doing certain stretches. I was intrigued to hear her reminding us, twice a week, that we could switch things up in ways that were more suited to how we were feeling that day. That acknowledgement of alternate possibilities has been really helpful. This year, despite that dreaded crow pose showing up around day 19, I kept right on going with Adriene. I simply decided that crouching with my hands on the floor is a good alternative to crow (just getting to a crouch was plenty for me). Similarly, her happy hop to the front of the mat for forward fold, and graceful moves to lunge then plank are all ungainly scrambles for me, but just fine because I’m still showing up and having fun.

Some of the adaptations are dictated by our physical abilities. I started a  dryland training program with a local swim club in January; it is an hour of HIIT led by an athletic youngster. I had never done a HIIT workout before the Christmas break, so I am learning to take advantage of every adaptation she offers in order to make it through the hour without collapsing in a puddle. Other adaptations are more mental. Due to the latest lockdowns in Ontario, I get a two hour window to ride my horse just once a week (she lives at a horse boarding facility on the edge of town).  For several weeks in a row, Fancy didn’t want to be caught, so I spent an hour or more circling the haybale trying to get close enough to put her halter on. I couldn’t ride, so I counted steps instead. It wasn’t the workout I had planned, but I was outside and moving in the fresh air.

Has COVID forced you to adapt your fitness routines too? What have you changed and how has it worked for you?

Image: Diane in a colourful face mask, with Fancy, a bay horse wearing a blue halter.

Diane Harper is an aging athlete in Ottawa, who is slowly reconciling herself to the fact that she may never be able to do all the things.

Guest Post · snow · swimming · temperature and exercise · winter

Cold water swimming (Guest post)

Sam is contemplating cold water swimming. I’m one of the people whose facebook posts have her intrigued!

I started this spring. Swimming last year was so much fun I couldn’t wait to start this year (I live in a coastal village). I read a bit; I listened to some podcasts. I found one of my climbing friends is an experienced freshwater swimmer; I asked her lots of questions. COVID-19 was on so I was looking for excitement close to home this spring.

In late April, I started getting in and out of the water. I had a good few months of swimming through the summer and as late as October (the ocean stays warm longer than lakes do). I went back to dipping in and out of the water in November, and now (mid-December) I’ve even resorted to a wetsuit.

  



I remember swimming in lakes in Saskatchewan as a kid–the water was cold enough to produce blue lips in August. But here, in the North Atlantic ocean, I’ve been learning about whole new levels of cold. There’s ankle-aching cold (coldest); there’s shooting-nerve-pains-in-the-hands cold (a little less cold—that’s an existing vulnerability); and there’s a neck-cramp cold (almost swimmable). Above the neck cramp temperature, I can stay in the water and swim.

These are all November – December photos. Mind you, it’s Nova Scotia (not Saskatchewan), so November – December can still mean +9C.

That doesn’t sound like much of an advertisement, does it? The thing is, it’s a very satisfying experience. Hugely refreshing. A mood lifter. It makes an enormous difference if you tell yourself on the way to the water: ‘I’m really looking forward to an ice bath.’ (You don’t have to believe it when you say it.) It also helps to refer to swimming in lakes and the ocean the way the British do–as “wild swimming.” (Doesn’t that sound wonderful?)

There are safety concerns. I understand it’s best to walk in instead of dive or jump. Monitor your breathing. When your body wants to gasp and you halt your breath, that’s an involuntary response to the cold. If you’re going slowly, you can re-establish your breathing before you continue. If you’ve jumped in over your head and you do this, you could drown when you gasp and take in water. Make it your initial goal just to get in and out. Only gradually start to extend the amount of time you spend in the water. When you start to do that, you should do some of your own research to learn about what’s safe and what to pay attention to in your body. Your body temperature will continue to drop for some time after you get out of the water (20 minutes, I believe)–you have to plan to get somewhere warm, get the wet clothes off, maybe even take a hot shower.

(I won’t go into the sauna options, but I have to admit I first got into water this cold in April in Geneva, at the Bains des Pâquis, where there are three kinds of heat–sauna, hammam, and turkish bath–on offer when you get out.)

I have gone in one day when there was snow on the ground, but I’m nowhere near going in when there’s ice on the water, unlike Cath Pendleton.

Here’s more about Cath Pendleton:

Cath Pendleton, from the Outdoor Swimmer website.

https://outdoorswimmer.com/news/to-make-me-happy-just-add-cold-water-q-a-with-record-breaking-ice-swimmer-cath-pendleton

fitness · Guest Post · swimming · winter

Winter Swimming! (Guest Post)

by Diane Harper

I have been swimming with a small group of women for about 15 years now. I met the core group at a city-run weekly swim practice. One year when the pool was closed for major repairs, we started going to swim at a lake in nearby Gatineau Park. Eventually the pool reopened, but by then most of us had joined other swim clubs, so long lake swims became our way to connect. We usually wound up our season with a Labour Day post-swim lunch of hot soup and sweet baked goods on the beach.

A line of women in colourful bathing suits, at a lake shore

In 2014, we decided to see how long past Labour Day we could keep going to the lake. We didn’t get very far that year, but a few of us were in quite early the following spring. The following year we did our first-ever Vampire Swim, which is held on or around October 31, ideally in costume, and aims to encourage blood donations or raise funds for the Red Cross. The minimum distance was 25M. To set it up with the city, we had to have paramedics on site for safety – we laugh about that now!

After the Vampire Swim, we decided to go back the next day so we could claim we had swum in November, then we did a polar bear dip to get a December dip done, and by then we were hooked on the idea of trying to get into the cold water at least once a month. It has meant driving all the way to the St Lawrence River to find open water in the coldest months. 

Over the years, a few friends have moved on while new folks have joined. This year, with many pools closed or severely reducing numbers due to the COVID outbreak, outdoor swimming has exploded, and many are still swimming in December. Competitive ice swimming and challenges such as the “ice mile” are also growing in popularity. (https://www.internationaliceswimming.com). 

Three women wearing bathing caps crowded into a small tent, while a fourth peeks in through the door

This is definitely not an activity for everyone. There is a real risk of hypothermia so we have strict protocols: avoid ice, as you can easily get cut; one person on shore while others swim; get out before you think you need to (a three minute dip is just fine!); layers of clothes with no zippers or buttons work best; there is no room for modesty. In previous years, we would pile into the tent to help each other strip off wet bathing suits quickly, get dried and dressed. We would hug each other in the car until people were sufficiently warm. In the COVID times, we have invested in individual changing tents, and we are keeping our swims shorter than normal so we can maintain physical distancing.

So why do it? Because it’s fun! On sunny days the air is glorious and we feel extra alive. On grey days we have an excuse to get together with friends outside the house. On snowy days, we can feel all bad-ass; there is nothing like passing cross-country skiers on they way for a swim. And almost every day, we have the place to ourselves, so we can be loud – squealing or cursing as required to help us get into the water.

My friend Nadine (on the right) and I are wearing winter hats and bathing suits, lounging in the water as we support our elbows on the ice

Diane Harper works for the federal government in Ottawa. She loves to break the stereotype of the stodgy bureaucrat by trying new things and pushing limits as often as possible.

season transitions · Seasonal sadness · swimming · winter

Winter swimming!

Snow swimming!

I’m fascinated by people who swim in the winter months. I’ve got friends who do it and who post their photos to Facebook. Each time, I’m intrigued.

I wrote about the trend of winter swimming last year on the blog.

People say it has  remarkable health benefits including helping with seasonal depression and with relieving the symptoms of menopause. It’s said to be all the rage: Why wild swimming in depths of winter is the new natural high.  People write about the subversive joy of cold water swimming.

There are even battles between the old school hardcore winter bathers and the new trendy winter swimmers who favour fleecy robes for warming up after.

And then this video came across my newsfeed.

Maybe I should just give it a try?

What do you think? What’s the coldest weather/water you’ve swum in before? Tempted to do it again? Love it? Hate it? Tell us your story!

aging · beach body · beauty · body image · fitness · swimming

Take your batwings and fly far far away

There’s an ad in my newsfeed that seems to greet me each morning. It’s an ad for very modest bathing suits targeted to older women. Each morning it makes me grumpy.

The bathing suits are fine. They’re not to my taste. (That phrase makes me smile because it’s what my kids used to say, when young, and served with a dish they didn’t like.) So no judgement, you wear one if you want, I won’t say a thing. They’re just large and drape-y and cover a lot of skin.

I’m not the only blogger getting such ads in their social media newsfeed. It’s almost as if active women over fifty were their targeted demographic. Catherine blogged in September about women over fifty wearing whatever we want in the water. And just last week Martha blogged about an ad campaign that shows naked bodies of all ages and shapes moving in a variety of ways. She also commented on the bathing suit ads.

Writes Martha, “It’s sad because not ten minutes after I started searching for a link, I got an ad in one of my news feeds for Bathing Boomers swimwear, swimsuits marketed to mid-life and older women to camouflage their “lives well lived.” The web copy says the goal of the company is to help women feel dignified, stylish and confident by hiding all the problem areas (the jiggly bits and bumps).

Here’s a newsflash: you don’t make women feel confident by saying parts of their body are a problem. I think I’ll add Nova’s ad to my happy video stream just as a reminder that all bodies are beautiful in their own way and we don’t need to hide anything regardless of how we are shaped.”

Now there are all sorts of reasons for preferring more coverage, protecting against sun exposure being an excellent one. But that’s not the reason this company offers. Instead, their pitch is making life more relaxing by covering up our aging flesh.

The ad reads: “It’s a long overdue gift for women of a certain age who are ditching the denial and diets and now can look at a glass of wine without seeing 300 calories in every pour. We are all on board for a concept that embraces aging bodies, bat wings and all.”

A gift? Last I checked they’re for sale and we buy the swimsuits.

Bat wings? Older women don’t have batwings. We have arms. Some are large and some small and they come in different shapes. Arms don’t need labels. They’re arms. That’s all.

See Cankles, more broken body parts you can feel bad about, or please let’s just stop and Bingo wings and dinner plate arms: Let’s put our wit to work elsewhere.

Also Let’s label all the body bits and have fun with it! and Sam rejects your ‘amazing arm shapers!’

I am not going to buy anything that use body shame as a marketing tool.

Unless you meant bathing suits for actual bats.

That I’d like to see.

Bats, sleeping, upside down, as they do. Photo by Rodrigo Curi on Unsplash
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.

Bricks

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.

cycling · Guest Post · running · swimming · triathalon

Why Will Writing Make You a Better Triathlete? Or Ten Maxims of Writing for My Students (Guest post)

by Şerife Tekin

I turned 40 last Friday. To celebrate my efforts to become a triathlete in my late 30s I went to the beautiful Canyon Lake with a super-triathlete friend. With no actual race or scheduled event in sight due to pandemic, we executed our very own choose-your-own-adventure triathlon. We swam for 40 minutes, rode our bikes on high hills for 40 minutes and ran for 40 minutes. I would have never considered waking up at 4am and pushing hard nonstop for two hours a kind of celebration but, hey, maybe that was what 40s were for. I suffered with so much joy. It was the fittest I’ve ever felt; I could have probably gone for another round of 40+40+40 (after having snacks!)

How come it felt easy and fun even though triathlons are still so new for me? Two reasons: First, the foundational triathlon training program prepared by my awesome coach and my ability to stick with it thanks to pandemic’s side effect of no travelling. Since March, all my work-related trips (averaging 2 per month) were cancelled and I stayed put with a solid uninterrupted time to dedicate to my research, writing, and training. The second reason was me discovering that triathlon training and writing have so much in common. Since March, I have also been thinking about the graduate course I was going to be teaching this Fall, on Philosophical Research and Writing. As I contemplated on my own research and writing process to find the best way to pitch the course to my students, I realized how much in common (academic) writing and triathlon training have. I started transferring my attitude to writing to my training. Triathlon training, just like writing, I realized, involves a lot of suffering and joy. Here are the ten maxims that have been working for me; perhaps they will work for you too!

1. Do a bit everyday

Noone ever wakes up one day to find themselves transformed into a strong athlete or a prolific writer. It takes a lot of consistency. Develop a routine and do a little bit of writing/training each day.

My habit of writing by using the Pomodoro Technique – in 25-minute chunks – served me well in my tri-athletic endeavors. Even when I don’t feel like writing (I almost never do!) I convince myself to do it just for 25 minutes. Most of the time that one 25-minute chunk turns into 4 or 5 because I eventually start enjoying it. Similarly, I started taking a look at the training I have for the day and dividing it into 25-minute chunks. It helped me overcome the mental obstacle of say, having to run 70 minutes in the summer heat of Texas: It was only two chunks of 25 minutes with a 10 minute warm up and 10 minute cool down.

2. Track your progress

Tracking your progress enables you to celebrate small victories or think about what you can do to improve. In other words, don’t wait to finish the project you are working on to celebrate – your dissertation is not going to be done in four Pomodoro sessions. Instead, give credit to how much time and work you’ve already put into it. As a bit of a productivity technology junkie, I use an app called “forest” to track my writing time; after each 25 minutes the app plants a tree. It is so fun to see a forest emerge out of nothingness. Similarly, it is motivating and sobering to see how many hours per week I spent running, biking, and swimming on my smart watch and Strava.

3. Don’t worry about perfection; allow yourself be awful.

Accept that every day is going to be different. Sometimes you spend eight Pomodoro sessions just writing random sentences with no sense, logical coherence, or whatsoever; sometimes you pump out a well-argued paper in just four. Similarly, sometimes (often!) running sucks all the life out of me; everything hurts, I am short of breath even after 10 minutes. I learned to accept the pain and carry on. As my coach always says, it will always hurt, regardless of how fast you can go; even the elite athletes suffer. Just plow forward. You need to be really bad at it before you can be good at it. If you need more inspiration listen to Ira Glass on storytelling.

4. Read or foam-roll if you feel stuck.

Sometimes, you just can’t write, you are stuck. After hiding under your blanket with your eyes tightly closed having a panic attack (this is a very typical process for me when I start a new project), get up, wash your face and read. Just relaxing into reading will help get back to writing. I think the reading-equivalent of triathlon training is foam-rolling; when everything hurts and I “can’t even…” anymore I get on the foam roll, it relaxes my muscles as they get stronger.

5. Rest. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Take at least one day off per week. Get enough sleep. Take naps. Eat. These all fuel your writing and training. Always keep snacks around.

6. Balance between sprint and endurance workouts.

Sometimes work on multiple projects simultaneously in one day: 25 minutes for that article revision, 25 minutes for that conference abstract, etc. Make sure to also work on a single project for a long time in a given day, such as your dissertation or book. Endurance writing is necessary for big projects. Similarly, do multiple sports in one day (combining cycling and swimming in a day is always a good idea; or a bike-run brick) while training but make sure to do one long session per week on one of the three sports.

7. Enjoy solitude

Get comfortable being alone, in your head, for hours at a time, both for writing and triathlon training. Yes, you need to spend time, writing, by yourself. That is the only way you improve. Similarly, you need to run, ride, swim, by yourself, for hours at a time, to make progress. It will get uncomfortable at times, be ok with it.

8. Find your peeps

Yes, you need peeps. You need them to feel inspired and motivated but you also need them for the honest and sometimes brutal feedback they will give you. Get comfortable with sharing your work with your peers, supervisors, or anonymous referees and receiving feedback. You might hate it at first but taking the feedback seriously will make you a better writer. I love receiving feedback; someone took the time to challenge you, that’s just so precious! Similarly, get comfortable training with other people and getting feedback on how you are doing. You might be the slowest in the group (I often am!), or you might have no idea about the technicalities they are talking about, but listen, learn, enjoy. Try to incorporate their recommendations into your training.

9. Listen to yourself but not too much.

Listening to yourself is a double edge sword: acknowledging how you are stuck in your writing or you really don’t have time because you have to fulfill x,y,z, responsibilities are important; you can work on addressing these so that you can dedicate time to writing. But don’t always believe yourself– these thoughts might be your mind making up excuses to avoid the discomfort of writing. When you feel this way, go back to advice number 1, do it for 25 minutes. Similarly, while training, listen to yourself: if your knee is stabbing in pain, be sure to skip the run that day, but maybe try to drag yourself out of bed and go for your run-meet even when you really feel like sleeping in.

10. Showcase your progress

Whether submitting a conference paper or sending articles to journals for publication, get out there and see how you do. You will learn a lot and make solid progress. Similarly, do races or group events once in a while to see how much you’ve improved and what else you can do to push your limits.

Şerife Tekin is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Medical Humanities at UTSA. When she is not moving around she can be found petting her kitty cat Cortez. Her website is www.serifetekin.com,

fitness · swimming

Water water everywhere: what wetsuit to pick?

Swimming is fun. Swimming in summer is double-fun: hot days, blue skies, refreshing (or maybe bracing) water, and the feelings of exertion and weightlessness, all in one glorious package.

But after summer comes fall. And fall means cooler days and colder water. But, intrepid swimmers have options, and technology has provided us with a good one: the wetsuit.

Women in triathlon wetsuits, waiting for the start of a race.

My friend Norah swims at Walden Pond as often as she can in the summer, and it’s one of her favorite things. This year, we’ve been speculating about what life will be like come fall, when our access to outdoor activity starts to drop off. I suggested she think about buying a wetsuit to extend her swimming well into October, maybe longer. There’s a lot of variation in temperature, but who knows.

Temperature ranges for Walden Pond, in Concord, MA, USA.
Water temperature ranges in the fall for Walden Pond, in Concord, MA, USA.

Seems like an obvious thing to do. I offered to do some online research and also ask around to get advice. Turns out, buying a wetsuit is complicated in a bunch of ways:

  • wetsuits vary by sport (swimming, diving, surfing, kayaking)
  • wetsuits vary by thickness
  • wetsuits vary a lot by price (fair enough, so do bikes…)
  • wetsuits come in different styles– shortie, full length, sleeveless, etc.
  • and then there’s the sizing
  • Who is in charge of this? I want to speak to them

Here is a sample size chart for women’s wetsuits:

Wetsuit lady sizes. None of these sizes are coming close to fitting me.

Just in case you think, oh, that’s just some wacky off-brand wetsuit site, here, Orca’s wetsuit size chart for women (Orca is a major brand of wetsuits):

Oh, Orca-- no sizes for me here, either. What up with that?
Oh, Orca– no sizes for me here, either. What up with that?

I’m actually not looking for a wetsuit for myself (at the moment). But I am looking to help Norah (who would fit in an Orca wetsuit) navigate the treacherous waters of wetsuit shopping. So:

Can you help?

Readers, do you have tips on how to buy a swimming wetsuit? In particular:

  • Do you tend to order multiple sizes online and then return them?
  • Do you go to a local store to try some one, and order from there or online?
  • How did you get help in getting the right fit for swimming?

I’m posting on some triathlon groups and getting some info. Any tips you have would be most welcome. Thanks!

fitness · swimming

Pandemic swimming: more fun than the regular kind! (Say what?)

Like others on the blog, I enjoy a nice splash in the pool. And like others on the blog, early in the pandemic my regular swims were probably the thing I missed most (after hugs). Here in Ontario we’ve been able to get back in the pool for over a month now, but that doesn’t mean things on the swim front have been back to normal, exactly.

To my great surprise, I’m totally ok with this.

(Two photos of Thames Park Pool in London, Ontario. One shows kids splashing under a waterfall in the kids area; the other shows the detail of a 50m lane, with a kids’ wading entrance and waterslide in the background.)

I am a hyper-competitive human; I really like going fast and beating others when I’m pedalling or swimming or even yoga-ing. (NB: I realize this is Not At All The Right Attitude in yoga; I’m working on it, I swear.)

I am also, however, not a gifted swimmer. I like swimming, and I can do almost every stroke (butterfly eludes me, alas). But I’m also bottom-heavy, and I struggle not to drag my lower body through the water on an angle. I’ve never trained as a swimmer, so my stroke ain’t anywhere near perfect. For the last few years, I’ve been swimming twice a week with more gifted swimmers than me, and that’s helped a lot. But I’m not exactly going to be Michael Phelps-ing my way up the lanes anytime soon. Or ever.

So swimming, in the before times when lots of people could share a lane and swim together and overtake each other (or creep up behind one another and tap the slowpoke’s toe, what I like to call The Bop of Doom), was a mixed bag for me. Splashing in water = YAY! Swimming with fast people while Type A = performance anxiety and stress! Fretting about why my split time is slower than last week FFS = more anxiety and more stress, plus a soupçon of disappointment in self.

And swimming in the after times? Well I’ll tell ya.

I’m incredibly out of practice on the stroke front, and sore from head-standing with the amazing Alex and bouncing around the countryside on my road bike, and yet – IT IS SO MUCH MUCH MUCH MORE FUN.

swimming-holes-feature
A young girl in a purple stripy swimsuit blasts into a swimming pool. Her eyes are closed, she’s blowing bubbles out of her mouth, and her arms are splayed. SHE IS HAVING AN AMAZING TIME IN WATER!

When the world crashed to a halt for me on 12 March, the day after my last shared lane swim, I had no idea it would be until mid-July when I’d get to freestyle up the lane and breast back again. But that’s how it rolled out.

My home city decided to open a limited number of pools this summer, after we entered Stage 2.5, and to make all swims “open”; that is, great fun for kids, but no real lanes to speak of (unless it’s a rainy day or you catch the pool at exactly the right time, and the one sort-of lane is mostly empty of frolickers).

Meanwhile, my work city crafted a booking system that lets registered users book themselves into both lane swims and open swims exactly one week in advance; this means swimmers are guaranteed their preferred time slot, but you have to be really quick about it – lane swims in the two large pools book out within a minute or two of registration opening. Given that I travel to my work city irregularly right now, that’s meant I’ve only had one opportunity to book into my beloved former neighbourhood pool, Thames Park.

lfp20190621mh24_72182512-e1593616284821
A white male swimmer breaststrokes up a 50m lane at Thames Park pool while a lifeguard watches. I was so excited to go for a swim I forgot to take any pictures of ME!

It was a warm early morning in late July when I rolled out of bed and threw the dog in the car to make the 1.5 hour journey up the highway; my swim was booked for 9am, and I had work meetings and a haircut following. I dropped the dog with my folks, aka her besties, and drove to the pool. Thankfully, we were permitted to use the toilets in the change room, where I pulled off my dress to reveal my swimsuit underneath. We were also permitted to bring our own gear with us, so out onto the deck I marched with my pull buoy, my kick board, my goggles and my training fins.

Once on the deck, I found I was nervous but everyone else was chill; I sensed a lot of “regulars”. When the announcement came that it was 9am we chose lanes and jumped in; there were exactly enough spots available for two people to share a 50-m lane. This was a huge treat; morning swims at this gorgeous pool are super busy under normal conditions, and I usually end up swimming there alongside the Phelps-types. Cue stress response.

But today? Under sunny blue skies I took off up the lane; much too fast to start, I realized when I got to the other end and was winded. I breasted back, enjoying the feeling of stretching my sore, sore quads and hamstrings, and then tried to moderate my thrill on the way back up, preserving air for the return trip.

In the before times I’m hard on myself in the pool; even though swimming is cross-training for me, I like to push to ensure I’m getting good cardio along with a range of movements. On this sunny morning, though, I gave myself a “first swim in four months” pandemic pass and let myself do all my favourites: lots of kicking, goggles on my forehead while I took in the happy sights of my fellow swimmers and the guards, the children’s play area and mini-waterfalls all around; lots of pull to practice my stroke gently and give my shoulders some love. I breasted more than usual – I love breast stroke! – and decided not to care that I wasn’t pushing myself to improve! improve! improve! my rusty freestyle crawl.

I mean, who cares? It’s a pandemic! Nobody in this lane to compete with. And see above re not exactly Michael Phelps anyway. Why not just enjoy this amazing, sunny, body-hugging time in the cool splashy water? Especially after the spring and summer we’ve had.

Back at home, I’ve been practicing a similar attitude in one of my local outdoor pools. The sweet little 25-yard job in my neighbourhood park isn’t open for the summer, but the slightly bigger, newly renovated number over the highway bridge is, and after long rides on my bike I drive over, queue up for a few minutes, and then jump in the water just to stretch myself out. I love doing figure-four stretches at the deep end ladders, or star-floating on my back and grabbing my ankles to do a water-supported bridge. I swoop and dive, stand in the shallow end to stretch my quads, and take in the sight of happy kids developing and nurturing the deep love of water that I cherish, too.

4652.float
A stripy beach ball floating on sun-dappled water. BLISS!

Isn’t it weird that it took a global pandemic for me to remember that swimming is about joy? How about you, friends? Have these strange times helped you reconnect with movement that you’d forgotten brings you joy, too?

 

swimming

Back in the water again! A guest post in four joyful voices

Monday morning. Back to work after a holiday in Prince Edward County. One of the things I loved about my time on Sarah’s family farm was the swimming pool and playing in the pool with her 6 year old nephew who just loved the water so much. I think he could spend all day in the pool and when I wasn’t riding my bike or reading books and patting Cheddar, I could too.

I got home to so much doom and gloom in the news. But also there in my Facebook newsfeed were the happy faces of four London guest bloggers, including my daughter Mallory, all swimmers, all so thrilled to be back in the pool or the lake. I just couldn’t resist sharing their happy stories with you. I know one of the regular bloggers Bettina has written about this too. See her post Fish Back in Water to add to the chorus of happy voices.

Enjoy!

Mary

There is something about moving in the water and something even more about swimming outdoors, that cannot be replaced. It was with great delight that I was able to book a lane at Thames pool in London Ontario. Social distance, two per lane, advanced booking, for one hour.

The sun was shining, creating magical reflections in the water. It was quiet and I was in my happy place. For one hour, all was well in this crazy world, in my world.

You can read Mary’s past guest posts here and here.

Savita

There’s a saying: you’re one swim away from a good mood. In these pandemic times, it’s more like you’re one swim away from…overwhelming happydancing joy! At first I was both excited and nervous. Excited because Swimming! Nervous because COVID19! But once I got to Thames Pool, the nervousness dissipated. Screening, distancing, 2 people per 50 m lane. Everyone was on good behaviour. So I could focus on finding my movement through the water. I struggled through 900m and it WILL hurt tomorrow. And that will feel awesome!

Thames Pool! Oh, darling, I’ve missed you so!!

You can read Savita’s past guest posts here.

Mallory

Pride flags on a sandy beach

Morning Dip Traditions

This summer, for the first time in a very long time, I am staying in Southwestern Ontario. Normally I would be spending my summer in Northern Ontario working at Rainbow Camp, a summer camp for 2SLGBTQ+ teens.

One of my favourite camp traditions is morning dip. It’s a wake-up call, a way to start your day feeling fresh, renewed and sometimes cold! Even when no campers join me or in between sessions when we have no campers, I still love starting my day in the lake.

This year, we are running a virtual camp called Rainbow Online Connection. Monday morning was our first full day and it also happened to be the first day of lane swimming at a nearby outdoor pool so guess how I started my day? Morning dip! A little more athletic than I’m using to starting my mornings but still a great start to my day. (And for those of you interested, our first day of online camp went amazing!) See Rainbow Camp for more information.

You can read Mallory’s past guest posts here.

Amanda Lynn

Smiling in the sun, with water and beach in the background

Summer just isn’t summer for me without getting into the water. Outdoors. At the height Ontario’s COVID isolation, my biggest fear was that summer would come and go, and I wouldn’t get to float in Lake Huron. When they opened the beaches at Pinery Provincial Park, we went up the first day. The water was a brisk 59F, but I still dove in with relief.

We’ve been back to the lake three times since then. On calm days, the sun shines through the blue water and I look up to the sky from below the surface. I bob back up and drift gently, and I feel whole.

You can read Amanda’s past guest posts here and here.