Friday, July 02, 2004


Been swimming a few (5) times in the past few weeks. Always had the impression that going swimming would involve some faff when in fact it's surprisingly faff-free , all you need to take are your trunks, towel and some shower gel. Compare this to a trip to the gym requiring: change of pants, change of socks, trainers, t-shirt, shorts, towel (x 2), shower gel, bottle of water.

Got the idea for swimming after reading that it could be mediatory, what with you controlling your breathing and all. Have not been able to reach anything like a trance like state for fear of bumping into someone or swallowing water, also I'm unable to empty my mind or think profound thoughts as I'm concentrating too much on my swimming. I'm always obsessed with loosing count of how many lengths I have done, how many I have left to do, if I should revise my goal for number of lengths, if I revise my goal (upwards) what fraction of the new total have I completed, if I revise upwards then will this cripple me in future swimming sessions (I'd always have to do at least as many as I did last time). I'm also obsessed with what the life-guard is thinking about me, I assume they are working out how likely it is that I will require their services, I imagine them having a little chuckle with themselves along the lines of: "well, there's no need for me to worry about that one, he's never going to get into trouble... in fact if I do need to jump in after someone, he'll probably end up being the one rescuing me!". This is another reason why I only stick to breast stoke, when I do try to swim front-crawl I look like I'm drowning, get a comparable amount of water in my lungs, and am knackered after half a length. I could probably survive for a couple of lengths, but don't want to be added to the life-guard's mental list of potential problems. I'd heard that accounts from victims of near drowning talk about a stage after the panic when they feel a deep sense of shame and stupidity for allowing themselves to drown: "what a complete idiot I am to be drowning, what sort of wally gets themselves into this mess?".. etc. Another reason for me avoiding front crawl is to avoid having such a conversation with myself: "you stupid twat, you were going along quite comfortably with your breast-stoke, what on earth possessed you to start swimming front crawl? You know you look like a knob when you do it, and that life-guard went for a tea break after seeing there was no way that you were ever going to get into trouble"... etc.

Back to the meditation, I imagine that swimming on your back would help, as you get that amazing calm that comes with having your ears submerged and getting distant muffled sounds from outside mixed with the industrial noises of the pool. Only if you are doing back-stroke then your nose / mouth is never submerged, so you are not forced to control your breathing, and I worry about bumping into people or the possibility of some kid doing a bomb onto my stomach or the fact that I'll stop swimming, stand up and everyone will have gone and I'll be left on my own in the pool (this could be a practical joke the other swimmers are playing on me, or it could be that everyone has vanished and I'm left alone in the world).

Yesterday I went to the national pool in Swansea for the first time (there were better web pages to link to, but I love the naff picture of a car on this one). Unfortunately the 50m pool was being used for other things (it was also split in two 25m pools by a underwater boom), so I swam in the small (25m) pool (just to clarify there were essentially 3 x 25m pools at the time I visited). This was my 4th pool in the last few weeks and I am beginning to get an appreciation for the qualities of the pool that make it suitable for swimming lengths. Ignoring the facilities, cost, parking, number of other people/kids, the pool in Swansea was the best I'd swam in based upon:
a) amount of chlorine - actual the two pools in Newcastle seemed to have less chlorine, but Swansea was acceptable and nowhere near as bad as Pontadawe (must be some stinking urchins in the Swansea valley).
b) temperature - it was cool enough to swim in comfortably. City pool in Newcastle was actually cooler, but Swansea was quite acceptable.
c) lack of interference caused by other swimmers and yourself - not sure of the physics behind this one, but in some of the pools you are battered around by currents and waves created by other swimmers, or created by you against the side of the pool. In Swansea you seemed to be able to just glide through the pool without being affected by anyone else, or the sides of the pool. Maybe it's also true to say that other pools had a underlying swell or current (i.e. all water in the pool flowing together) this makes swimming far from effortless.

Matt informs me that the depth of the pool is an important factor in keeping the water calm, and that lane dividers can help to break swells.
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