Joys of Lap Swimming

curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

I thought that I would start this thread as a counterpoint to the “Perils of Lap Swimming” thread. I was thinking that some people may stumble on this site as they are learning about swimming and I didn’t want them to only see the “angry Bob” stories.

It’s different swimming pool laps vs open water in many ways. But one of the big differences is the social aspect. There is no avoiding other people when you swim at the pool. Most of those interactions are fun and positive. There is also a mutual encouragement aspect when a group of people are all swimming in the same pool.

This idea was brought home to me yesterday. There is this girl who has been showing up reasonably regularly since the beginning of the year. She is quite large and I’m sure the first step out of the locker room in a bathing suit was a bold and intimidating moment for her. The thing that I noticed is that despite her obviously being out of shape she actually had pretty good form. She was approaching her workout in the best way possible for anyone who is just starting out. Short distance, rest, short distance kick, rest, a little bit of chin ups on the starting block, rest etc. For an hour.

She now has made it to February. I decided to strike up a conversation with her. It turns out she must have had some severe back problems because she sure seemed to know all the parts and afflictions as she described how it had completely messed her up. She said that she used to swim a lot when she was a kid. I said that I could tell because she had good form, she just didn’t have the strength and endurance yet. She was very happy that I noticed and said that getting back into swimming has been the first thing that she has been able to do that hasn’t caused pain.

I said that since she had made it through January, she was now committed. She said that she is getting better at not making excuses and actually getting to the pool. I’m really glad that I took the time to talk with her. She now knows that other people are watching her progress and are rooting for her. Plus she now knows that she has to keep showing up. Heh, heh, heh… I hope to be able to help her keep motivated. It must be extremely difficult to put herself out there like she has and it is going to be a long haul just to get in half decent shape. But it will be so worth it.

For me, this kind of thing is one of the joys of lap swimming.



  • suziedodssuziedods Charter Member

    I like this! One of the things I like about lap swimming is when I swim next to the youth teams. You know.. when the water gets roiled up, the waves from their splashing and diving come rolling into your lane..the excuses I hear when my head is out of the water... the laughter! It makes me feel 15 again and instantly brings back memories of when I was on a youth team. Besides being good for training, it's good for the memories.


    Looking for the next big thing.. ... @suzieswimcoach

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandAdmin

    There is no sea state that I've ever encountered that replicates the unique sensation of swimming in the one public lane (all my pool swimming is public lane) while the rest of the pool contains the Aqua Aerobics Ladies.

    This belongs in both threads.

  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Ventnor, NJCharter Member
    edited February 9

    I sometimes have days that are so stressful and intense, that the only thing I want is to follow a black line for a few hours, simply to shut my mind off. It's quiet in there. Back when I lived in another town and had to fight for a lane in a pool 30 minutes from home, I would occasionally get to swim with an elderly woman in the lane next to me. She swam with as much focus as I did, though much more slowly and without as much finesse as she must have when she was younger. We never said a word to each other while, just shared a quick smile if we happened to finish a set at the same time. I never knew when she would be there, but it was always an incredible calming treat to get to share the water with her. One day we finally had a conversation in the sauna -- she was 94 and swam every other day for 45 minutes, no more, no less. I told her I wanted to be her if I got that lucky to live as long. After that conversation, she decided we were friends and every time we saw each other, she would test out one of my "toys" (fins, kickboard, pull buoy, etc.) She fell in love with my yellow fins because she thought they looked like duck feet ('cause they kind of do.) You can't even begin to imagine how awesome her giggles were when she was trying those out and realizing how fast she could move with just a flick of her toes. I miss her and wonder if she is still swimming.

  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallSenior Member

    Here's something from a few weeks ago which made my day. There was a girl of about 12 (ish) in my lane, hammering out a tough set. I tried not to get in her way. We both climbed out over the end of the lane, having finished our sets at the same time. She laughed as she pointed out our finishing together.... and since she'd opened the conversation, I asked her if she was doing extra training. She said she'd left swimming club, as it had become too expensive, but that she knew what she had to do, so she was writing her own sets and training in the public sessions. Nobody was pushing her. She smiled all the way through her set. Impressive young lady! If I ever feel lazy, I think about her commitment and feel guilty enough to work harder.

  • I just switched to swimming at my local YMCA and the change had been great. Lower water temperature, homey feel, and more swimmers and lanes. It's busier but everyone is sharing and making it work. It's good slowly meeting the regulars, and experiencing the open water training of swimming while the aqua aerobics class does their thing. I'm glad I switched. Plus there is complimentary coffee!

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    There's a guy who has been coming in to my pool for a while. He had suffered extensively from Lyme disease, losing his ability to speak or stand. When he first started coming in, he was in a wheelchair and needed an aide to get onto the pool lift. He couldn't swim a length of the pool without stopping. He got a motorized scooter several months ago, so he can get to the pool on his own. He's been coming in twice a day, nearly 7 days a week since then. He's made amazing progress! He's able to stand up and get on the lift himself and can swim 50s without stopping, much faster than he used to. We regularly chat with him about his progress and encourage him. He just lights up with a huge smile when we talk about how much swimming has changed his life. His tenacity is humbling and an inspiration.


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • glennglenn New Member

    for the great thing about laps in a pool is I swim straight

  • ssthomasssthomas Charter Member

    So, I swim at lap swim about 98% of the time in the winter. I love the social aspect of masters, but hammering out 3000 yards of 50s in an hour and 15 minutes doesn't always appeal to me, which is why I lap swim. Obviously, I like it- or I wouldn't keep going.

    I've met SO MANY people in the last year or so since I've been consistent at the same pool:

    -The really, really nice swim instructor, Janice, and several of her students. She only does more advanced private lessons- either to get kids ready for club or to help refine some of the triathletes swimming skills. She noticed my swimming, and didn't hesitate to tell me how much my kicking (or lack thereof) sucked. :-) We've become friends- she has me talk to some of her students (young and old) to give them a little more motivation. The 3rd grader, Chris LOVES to race me when we can get a lane next to each other. I assured him that in less than 5 years, he'd be MUCH faster than I am. Janice is definitely more outgoing than I am, so through her I've gotten to know so many others at the pool.

    -There's this guy, Eric. He's a pretty good triathlete. He thinks he's a terrible swimmer- but he's actually pretty good. He says hi and gives me a hug whenever I see him. He was very impressed with my Lake Powell swim, so he tells everyone he meets at the pool about me and encourages people to swim with me, so they can say they've swum with a record holder. I think it's hysterical and really don't mind sharing lanes with random people (so long as I'm not getting kicked in the face)

    -Then, there's the lifeguards. I adore them. They're high school kids, mostly, and they're just the nicest. I've worked at some pools where the lifeguards clearly aren't impressed with the girl who swims forever. These kids though- so nice. I told them I don't care if they pull the lane ropes out on me while I'm swimming (since they have to transition from short course in the evening to long course in the morning). They're very impressed I can swim backstroke without lane ropes... I have a few favorites and I'm usually sad if they aren't there when I am. They miss me if they don't see me for a few weeks.

    -I've also seen a daughter/dad team who come in and do workouts together. Warms my heart. :-)

    So yeah, I'll complain about the crazy people- but the benefits are really better than the not benefits.

  • Love this thread! I share so many sentiments with everyone. I can get grouchy and turn into a teenage hating old lady pretty quick- but this thread reminded me of some of the things I love about the youngsters and the pool.

    In the evenings I also love it when the club kids are there. They motivate me and I try to race them- which in turns pushes me to really work all out! Their enjoyment and love of the sport is great. We had one of them joining us 2 times a week in the morning at masters practice last year. He was a pure joy, and man did he make me work!

    And when I work out alone, as much as I try to keep my head down, I can't say it doesn't lift the ego when someone asks for help, because you're "really moving" lol.

    I am fortunate that I seem to have more "good" stories than "bad" about sharing the pool, and I will try to remind myself of that!

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Several cool things that I've experienced...

    There was the guy who swam in the next lane from mine one day and wanted to watch me swim because he thought I swam well. (No, I don't THINK he was being creepy--it didn't come across that way). ;) He said I made swimming look easy. (Who, ME?) So, he swam a 50 with me--and proceeded to dust me! ;) Humble pie!

    Then there was the time I had finished my workout and the pool had just been set up for open swimming (lane lines taken down, rope across the middle of the pool). I did some easy drills and then was more or less relaxing, when a man told me I looked like a good swimmer so he asked for my advice--about why he would get so tired when he did freestyle. I watched him and realized he was trying to swim too fast and burning out, so I suggested he slow down some more and he was able to get across the pool (he was still in the swimming the breadth phase). He was so excited by not feeling as wiped out that he thanked me for my help.

    I mentioned in the other thread that one day, the only uncrowded lane had a much faster swimmer than I am, but the guy invited me to join him in his lane. I protested that I'd be in the way, but he said no prob, he could get by. We both finished our workouts around the same time, and chatted a little--which is how I found out he was a high school swim coach. So I asked him if he'd mind looking at my stroke b/c I was training for a five mile swim--he had me swim away from him and toward him, then gave me some very helpful feedback and encouragement.

    Or there were the lifeguards who applauded when I finished a 10 thousand yard swim.

    Mostly, these days, I swim w/ my masters' group--our coach is wonderful! He challenges me, giving me intervals where I'm saying "I have to do 100 on THAT?" Yet I'm also flattered that he thinks I can do it. He's also a great wit--he'll come out with some joke or pun or such when I'm feeling discouraged, so he makes me laugh.... I said to him once, "Oh my God, I'm a terrible swimmer," to which he replied, "I can't tear you in two." He pushes and challenges, but he's also just as ready to tell me when I've done well--and when he compliments me, I KNOW I'm doing something right.

  • In the winter I mostly swim on my own, lap swim, 4-5 days a week--I have flirted with masters but am so terrible at non-free strokes that it ends up being a real grind and I always return to swimming on my own. My home pool is a Denver recreation center in the (quickly gentrifying) 'hood, and the mix of people at the pool is wonderful. Some of my favorites: the youngish hipster guy who is a sous chef at a local restaurant--he has an enormous beard and he thrashes back and forth for a few laps and then talks to the lifeguard in Spanish; the shy teenage lifeguard who guards before she goes to school--she swims for the local high school team and has mastered guarding whilst dozing in the lifeguard chair (I'm always afraid she will fall out); the woman who is about my (middle) age with only a right leg--she comes out on the deck on her crutches and always gets in the pool on her own, refusing help; the young triathletes who come in and hammer out 2500-3000 and then, if we end up finishing together, say to me "you swam a LONG ways"-- yes i love open water but I also love winter in the lap lanes!

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    Sarah4140 said: ...Some of my favorites: the youngish hipster guy who is a sous chef at a local restaurant--he has an enormous beard and he thrashes back and forth for a few laps and then talks to the lifeguard in Spanish...
    yes i love open water but I also love winter in the lap lanes!

    How funny! There is a guy at my pool who fits that description except the Spanish speaking part. He comes in once a week and cranks out some laps. At some point we will be stopped at the end at the same time and he always looks over at me and goes, "Damn you are fast". I always say that fast is relative. I never say it's because he's a triathlete... ;)) I suppose if he shaved off the hipster beard and lost the board shorts he would be a little quicker, but he's a good guy regardless. And the restaurant he works at is a good place too.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited March 6

    "Perils" are winning.

  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallSenior Member

    Well, I was having an awesome swim today, after 3 days away at the CS&PF Dinner.... times were down, I had loads of energy, felt great..................... then at 2k, I caught my wrist on the lane rope and............. continued in Perils of Lap Swimming. L-)

  • ssthomasssthomas Charter Member

    I could put this under perils, but I'm going to add it to the joys- cuz in the end it made me smile. :-)

    Last Saturday, I was 4000 yards into a 6000 yard set. The fire alarm went off and they made us all get out and go stand outside while the fire trucks came and cleared the building. We were standing, wet and cold, in 30 degree weather for about 15 minutes.

    I saw a few grumpy faces- but for the most part, people were taking it all in stride. The lifeguards had grabbed towels and pulled a few mats out for people to stand on. The sun was out, so it wasn't toooooo terribly cold. Every kid I saw was laughing.

    On our way back in, a lifeguard asked if that had ruined my workout- I told him it wasn't ideal, but a great lesson in flexibility. He laughed and I assured him it was no big deal. :-)

    This Saturday, I learned that a 3 year old had pulled the alarm in the basketball gym. His dad happens to be a police officer for the next city over, so he made his kid stand in the lobby and greet the firefighters when they came in to explain to them what he had done. I think he learned his lesson- and really, what little boy hasn't wanted to pull the fire alarm?

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    evmo said: "Perils" are winning.

    I noticed that and I didn't want to load this one up with fake posts. But somehow we need to get the joys to overcome the perils. (I had a great day today. First day after a recovery week. I felt like Michael Phelps. Except for the speed part.)

  • swimrn62swimrn62 NY, NYMember

    Great threads. Thanks to a tough work life, I get up really, really early 4-6 days a week to swim in a pool. It's difficult every morning; often cold, always hard to find a parking space, and on occasion I convince myself to roll over and go back to sleep (the 4 day weeks). But no matter what, as soon as I jump in and push off the wall, I'm gone. Not tired, not @ work, not thinking of current or past events. I'm just joyful for the duration. So while I could weigh in on either side, I chose joy (and chose NOT to read the urine thread, posts, or articles).

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaMember

    I swim with a gal who is 25 years my senior, and I am 53. She hobbles into the aquatic centre with a great big cane, which has 4 big rubber feet. I think that cane has more traction than my 4X4 truck. The lifeguards usually help her get into and out of the pool. She may be crippled on land, but in the pool she is amazing! Swims for an hour every morning, does a variety of sets and drills. I would never ever tell her that she reminds me of the Star Wars character Yoda! I am in awe of what she must go through every day to get to the pool and inspire us all with her performance.

  • ViveBeneViveBene Member
    edited March 7

    Lap swimming in winter usually makes me feel better, there is a clear interval to swim (unlike "head for the 3rd buoy" :) ), and a good hot shower after eases afflictions of all kinds.

  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MAMember

    I had a 1K TT at the end of a 5K workout last Saturday, and I may or may not have bribed myself to swim hard by promising myself a stupidly hot epsom salt bath for that night. I love cold water, but I also love hot baths.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    Darn it! The Perils currently outweigh the joys 100 to 20. Lap swimming must be terrible...

    Well, I will try to swing the balance ever so slightly. Yesterday I was well into a nice set and taking my 15 sec rest when a semi regular showed up at the lane next to me. He asked how I was doing and I gave him a slightly out of breath "great". He smiled and said, "well at least you are here and that inspires me." I thought that was pretty cool. Even though swimming is an individual sport, we all inspire each other.

    100 to 21. Take that!

  • mamillermamiller Member

    A couple of years ago, one of the pools I frequent for lap swimming hosted the Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships. There was some grumbling from the lap swim regulars about reduced lap swim hours, but some of us volunteered to be timers for the meet. Among the amazing swims I got to time were one fella missing both an arm below the elbow and a leg below the knee doing a 400 meter (LCM) freestyle in 4:40 and change, along with a lady with absolutely no arms and no legs below the upper thigh completing a 50 meter backstroke.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    mamiller said: ... Among the amazing swims I got to time were one fella missing both an arm below the elbow and a leg below the knee doing a 400 meter (LCM) freestyle in 4:40 and change...

    Holy Moly! He can beat me with one arm tied behind his back. That is incredible!

  • ssthomasssthomas Charter Member

    Last night, a man I've swum with a few times who is hard of hearing was expressing stress about having to ask to share a lane with someone. A friend and I were sharing and two other lanes only had one person in them, each, but both of the people swimming solo were doing things like elementary backstroke down the middle and swimming fly down the middle My pal was reluctant to ask either of the others to share. Since apparently, I've been very assertive lately, I flagged down one of the solo guys and asked if my buddy could share. Of course, the guy was more than open to sharing and immediately moved over to one side and they both shared a lane happily and sang kumbaya. :-)

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaMember

    So, I swam with 'grumpy girl' today. She has been a regular for the last few months, and most people bail from her lane as soon as she gets in the pool, me included. She always picks the medium lane, even though she is quite accomplished. If someone gets in her way or crosses the lane, or some small thing occurs, she can become vocal... Well, she got in this morning and the other lap lane was pretty full so I just stuck it out and swam with her. After a few minutes, we both hit the wall at the same time, and she came over to talk to me. I held my breath expecting to be scolded for something. She was grateful to have someone swim with her! Wow. Turns out she was in a car accident a year ago and still has a dreadful concussion. She can't swim in the fast lane because the bottom drops off, and the changing slope gives her vertigo, also the head injury seems to affect her ability to cope with any change in the lane in front of her, for instance if one of the water walkers crosses in the lane. She also explained that the constant headaches make her irritable and short tempered

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaMember

    ^continued She seemed so genuine and nice, and I just wanted to hide under the pool deck because of the way I had thought about her without knowing anything about her. I had a concussion from a bike accident, so everything she was saying resonated. Now I look forward to swimming with her again!

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    There was an elderly couple who swam at our pool. The man was really nice and he would swim a slow majestic breast stroke while singing in Italian. (He once told me that he lived in Trieste during WW2). I would occasionally share a lane with him although it did require me to be even skinnier than usual. He was quite rotund and to his credit he still wore his speedo briefs proudly. He recently died and his family showed some pictures of when he and his wife were young. They were quite the striking couple.

    She, on the other hand, never quite rubbed me the right way. But she was a somewhat regular swimmer and usually swam in the slow lane. She started showing up less and less frequently and that was fine with me. One day I was swimming along in the fast lane and she was just floating across my lane in the middle of the pool. I stopped and glared at her and she calmly continued across the entire pool to the slow lane. Another day she walked across the end right as I was doing a flip turn. I saw her at the last minute and missed her, but jeez...

    I was chatting with her pleasant husband in the locker room after a swim. He told me how difficult it was because he was taking care of her and she had Alzheimers. I put this in the Joys of Lap Swimming because it's interesting that something as mundane as paddling back and forth in a pool can yield life lessons in a subtle way.

    Also, I want to run up the score...;)

  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Ventnor, NJCharter Member

    Also adding to the score here as I would far more prefer to hear the good stories than the bad...

    When I was training for my first marathon swim, I would do my long swims on Saturday morning. Half the pool was reserved for laps and the other half was for swim lessons allllllllll morning. They would start with the babies and then by the end of my swim, they'd have 8-10 year olds working on their dives and stroke. As loud as the pool would be, I always looked forward to watching the range of ages experience the water and see the utter and total joy of a toddler about to fling themselves into the pool. Once the teachers realized my schedule that year, they would bring their kids learning stroke to the lane next to me, so they could watch me. They would even occasionally stop me to find out when my IM sets were and I would always tell them whenever you want them to be.

    Perhaps that was why I loved training for my first marathon swim so much -- my long pool swims were NEVER lonely!

  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member

    Several years ago, the one Y I swim at had a 30-something lifeguard named Melissa who was 100% reliable in showing up at 5:30 am, was bright and happy, could resolve any dispute with just a smile and was absolutely loved by everyone. She was a former drug addict and had lived on the streets and had turned her life around. One day she showed up looking like she had been run over by a truck - I mean really bad and could barely interact. I asked her what was wrong and she broke down crying. Her 20-something brother had fallen in the shower the night before and had died. She was totally distraught, not only because of the death, but also because her minimum wage lifeguard job meant she had no way to get to his funeral in Seattle (2000+ miles from here). Within 15 minutes, all of the 5:30 AM lap swimmers and water walkers got together and we were able to collect enough money to allow both Melissa and her disabled father to fly and stay in Seattle for the funeral. Knowing that you are swimming with people like that makes all those laps just a little easier.



    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member

    Wow, hard to follow that up, @Leonard_Jansen but I'll try.

    The Y my girls swam at was great. It was small (4 lanes) and had an inordinate number of noodlers. Hard to get laps in, but the girls' coach welcomed parents who wanted to swim with the team anytime.

    One mother and I would regularly swim with the team. The coach (with our permission) would chide the kids "Look, Mr. Tyson can swim without complaining," and it really did motivate the kids to have two old people swimming with them.

    Great coach, very welcoming, and despite me and the other woman not paying anything extra, he'd still coach us. Learned a lot from him.

    Sadly, the coach wasn't liked by many parents ("He's too tough on poor Stevie") and finally left. Broke my daughter's heart. Half us parents wanted our kids in a competitive program, the other half just wanted their kids to get exercise or a babysitter. :(

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    IronMike said: Wow, hard to follow that up, @Leonard_Jansen but I'll try.

    ...Great coach, very welcoming, and despite me and the other woman not paying anything extra, he'd still coach us. Learned a lot from him.

    Sadly, the coach wasn't liked by many parents ("He's too tough on poor Stevie") and finally left. Broke my daughter's heart. Half us parents wanted our kids in a competitive program, the other half just wanted their kids to get exercise or a babysitter. :(

    I've had a couple coaches over the years. In high school I couldn't stand my coach. He was tough, disciplined etc. We had serious workouts and he would have his expectations for every swimmer written on every single set. We would have to report our times and he would write them all down on his clipboard. I thought he was the worst coach ever.

    Now that I'm mature and all, I realize that this guy was the best coach in any sport that I have ever had. I wouldn't be half the swimmer I am without his skill and dedication. And somehow he imparted to me that work ethic that he had. Sometimes parents should sit back and let the coaches do their job. And sometimes the results aren't evident that week or month.

    One other subtlety in my coach's methods. Note how I mentioned that he had every swimmers times reported and he set every swimmers goals and expectations. That was crucial. He had every swimmer performing to the best of their abilities. We had swimmers who were top notch and swimmers that were swimming in lane 6 and the coach demanded that everyone did their best. And that's what it's all about...

  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MAMember

    I got to the pool far later than normal and my friendly guard "accidentally" gave me a couple extra minutes to swim before pool close so I could get almost all of my workout in. I think my workout was far more aerobic than originally designed because I swam it pretty much straight through, so even though I was 300 short I'm calling it a wash.

  • ssthomasssthomas Charter Member

    I did my first 10,000 yard swim in a long time at the pool last night. The lifeguards cheered and celebrated with me when I was done. Love those kids!

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Had that happen once! So sweet! Do they know your max distance! That would be standing ovation territory!

    BTW, congrats on the USMS Swimmer ink!

    ssthomas said: I did my first 10,000 yard swim in a long time at the pool last night. The lifeguards cheered and celebrated with me when I was done. Love those kids!

  • jendutjendut Charter Member

    ssthomas said: I did my first 10,000 yard swim in a long time at the pool last night. The lifeguards cheered and celebrated with me when I was done. Love those kids!

    Yes, well, I think the guards cheer every Sunday when I finish but only because they can stop watching me (the expression would be "watching paint dry") My own children actively avoid working that guard shift- imagine the horrors of your MOM being that WEIRD lady! :))

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