Letter to a Chlorinated Lap Pool

28 Aug

Dear Chlorinated Lap Pool,

It’s not me, it’s you. I love swimming.

Give me a pond or a lake or the ocean and I’m happy. Swimming in those bodies of water doesn’t feel like work – it is pure fun. Even when I get salt in my mouth or goosebumps on my flesh, I don’t want to get out.

But you are different.

First, there is the hassle. I have to take a shower before I get into your pool. I have to take a shower afterwards. I have to deal with a swimsuit that smells like chlorine. I have to make sure that I arrive at a time when anyone is allowed to use you.

Second, there is the equipment. I can’t just show up and swim. I have to remember to bring flip flops and a suit and a swim cap and goggles.  If I know what I want to do in terms of a training regimen, I may also have to remember to bring fins and a kick board.  And make sure my goggles aren’t going to steam up. So different from the swimming I do in my tri suit after a long bike ride where I bring nothing – not even a towel.

Third, there is the smell.  Chlorine and I are not friends. The smell puts a pit in my stomach and I am not entirely sure why but I think it has something to do with the memories from swim lessons as a kid. Diving off the tall diving board when I really just wanted to go back down the ladder…feeling torn between wanting to impress my swim teacher with how long I could stay underwater and wanting to get out of the pool and never go back…realizing my competitive nature but also realizing that I am not a natural athlete…it’s also the smell of fear.  Memories of water park experiences that didn’t go well – getting separated from my Dad in the wave pool – getting stuck underwater in the lazy river gazing at bare legs and inner tubes and not being able to find a path back to the surface.

Fourth, there is the counting.  Endless laps.  Over and over again. It’s like the treadmill except that if you forget your number, there’s no machine to remind you. Also, on the treadmill, you can pretend you are as fast as the guy next to you, because even though he’s going twice your speed, he’s still stuck in the same treadmill position as you.  In the pool, it’s pretty obvious how slow you are – even when you stick yourself in the Slow Lane (to announce it to the world at large).

Fifth, there is the sharing.  I don’t mind sharing a weight bench. But no one shares an elliptical machine or a foam roller. Sharing a swimming lane can be all kinds of tricky.  You swim too fast, you swim too slow, you cross into the other lane (my own personal issue), you try to be aware of the other people and where they are and you forget to breathe. It’s hard to settle into a zen-like state when you’re trying to kick with your entire leg (not from the knee down) and spear the water and time your breathing and keep your body straight like a log and keep track of how many laps and exhale when you are under water and try to stay in your own lane…and do all of this while being aware of other people sharing your pool space.

I love swimming but I don’t love you, Chlorinated Lap Pool.

Not yet.

But after listing some of my fears, I decided that you were the one I wanted to tackle next. I emailed a friend for some expert advice. And I am beginning to get over this fear – one step at a time. And because I can’t distract myself with music, I am having to deal with the irrational fears (hitting the side of the pool, crossing multiple lanes when I don’t swim straight (if you don’t believe this can be done, watch me bowl sometime), putting my swim cap on the wrong way) one at a time as they pop up.

Besides, learning to enjoy swimming laps seemed entirely more doable, and less cheesy, then trying to let go of my clown phobia.

Maybe we will never be BFFs, but I hope we can learn to respect each other in the next few months.  Does that seem reasonable, pool?

Your New Friend,


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