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.

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