Your Lane Awaits

You know who she is but don’t give her much thought. The others seem to garner more attention, while she’s pushed out of the limelight. She has lots going for her yet a smaller following, in the grand scheme of things. Stylish retailers such as Lululemon even appear to favor her step sisters – yoga and running – designing hundreds of glamorous ensembles for them but so feOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAw for her. Well, she just doesn’t deserve that kind of disrespect. That’s right, it’s high time she got the fan base she deserves in the exercise world.

Say hello to lap swimming!

I know, I know, swimming pools are something many prefer to just linger around while socializing with friends, take a dip in to cool off during warmer months, or enjoy along with a healthy dose of natural light and vitamin D. Heck, the last time your body may have entered a swimming pool for exercise could’ve dated as far back as that swim unit in PE class. But that’s okay. I was never on a swim team in my younger days but have discovered as an adult that swimming laps makes me incredibly happy. I love swimming for exercise and want to share it with others who have either asked me for more details about how to get started, or who haven’t considered lap swimming as an exercise option in years. So yes, what I’m proposing here is good old-fashioned lap swimming to help get or keep you in shape, or simply to mix up your regular exercise routine. And there’s no better time than spring season to begin.

Yes, I understand. You prefer to (fill in the blank here) for exercise. But even the most dedicated athletes enjoy cross-training (or so I’m told). So why not visit your local swim hole and give lap swimming a test drive? I’ve even simplified the process for you below. You’ll find my quick tips to get started, assuming you know how to swim and your doctor says it’s ok to try. Just please promise me one thing. Don’t be that annoying person at the pool, like Mildred from your book club, who does it all wrong.

Step #1 – Pick your pool
Decide which pool you’d like to visit. Have one in your backyard? Unless it’s a very large rectangular pool, the constant back-and-forth around kidney-shaped curves will drive you mad and cause you to instantly curse my name so please select a pool elsewhere. If you’re lucky enough to belong to a club featuring a pool with a lap lane, go for it since you’re already paying monthly dues and should maximize your sunk costs (no pun intended). Another option is to search “lap swim” on the Internet and up should pop a list of local community swimming pools. Many have pre-established adult lap swim hours so simply research your desired location/their fee policy (most offer a drop-in rate or a lower cost multi-swim punch pass) and pencil in a day on your calendar to start.

Step #2 – Get your stuff ready

Bathing suit – wear one. Ladies, please do not choose a skirted swimsuit bottom like Mildred or you will experience something called drag and feel as if you’re swimming with a 5-pound brick. And gentlemen, please do not swim in your underpants. An actual article of clothing called a swimsuit is required (unfortunately, experience has given me reason to clarify this).

Goggles – your eyes could become irritated by the water without them, and you will want to see the edge of the pool clearly during a fast approach while trying to outrace the 70-year-old swimming way faster than you in the next lane. These older swimmers are my exercise idols.

Swim cap – helps to keep your hair and goggles in place as you swim. But please don’t be like Mildred and arrive at the pool already wearing your swim cap – tragically uncool.

Waterproof sunscreen – apply this before going to the pool so it has time to absorb; no one wants to be in the same pool with Mildred after she’s just slathered on a goopy white sunscreen seconds before pool entry.

Waterproof bag – to help neatly transport your stuff to/from the pool so you don’t look like a pack mule

Towel – self-explanatory

Pool shoes – flips flops are my favorite

Water bottle – for hydration in between laps, as needed

Earplugs or nose clip – for those who don’t enjoy the feeling of water channeling through their facial orifices. And a special note about ear plugs: make sure they are waterproof. If you mistakenly use the soft, squishy foam kind Mildred recommended, the water will quickly absorb right through and you’ll feel like a very unhappy cat commencing bath time.

Optional – kickboard (most public pools I’ve visited have a stash of these for patrons to borrow but you may prefer to bring your own); swim fins (to help yourself go faster next to that 70-year old who will still be swimming faster than you), and a combination lock (if lockers are available to store items).

Step #3 – Have a positive attitude
The first time you lap swim, choose whatever stroke(s) you’d like for however long you’re comfortable. Freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, dog paddle, sidestroke—it’s all game! Don’t worry about what others think; they’re not watching you and could really care less about what you’re doing (except the lifeguard, who will hopefully notice if you’re in trouble).

Be prepared to share your lane if the pool gets crowded. Be courteous and stay on your own side. Just promise me you won’t pull a Mildred and bring negative energy to the pool. For example, it’s not okay to say no to someone who wants to share your lane, do your widest breaststroke kick in a shared lane with a person trying to swim next to you, or ask the sweet 16-year-old lifeguard to call the cops on the man wearing his tighty-whities for an indecent exposure citation (he will figure out what to wear next time after one of the guys in the locker room tells him to get it together).

Step #4 – Enjoy the benefits
Lap swimming certainly isn’t easy, but I’ve found it to be a great way to stay fit, clear the cobwebs out and think more clearly/positively about my day, get fresh air (if visiting an outdoor pool), and socialize with friends who also lap swim.

I hope you have as much fun as I do with lap swimming, or that mixing up your regular exercise routine with pool time is something that will bring you great joy. So let’s hear it for that step sister of exercise – she really is quite a beauty!