Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Perils of a New Pool

Photo borrowed from
It's September, the month during which my local recreation center pool is shut down for maintenance and servicing for three weeks. The search for somewhere to swim in my local area sent me right to the door of a big chain health club/gym. Now, I know I should be thankful for finding a nearby place to swim, but after my workout this morning, I'm feeling judgmental (please note the term "mental" in there), so I'm going to make fun of health clubs (and by default, health club "types"). Any resemblance to actual persons or places, real or in the movies, is strictly non-coincidental.

Here's a little background information: I break into a cold sweat every time I get near muscle-bound body-builder types. It has something to do with my first experience in a fitness facility at age 15 when I was strength training at my swim coach's request. At that age, there were a thousand things I'd rather be doing in the evening than being scrutinized and chastised during workouts by men with giant muscular bodies and tiny heads who missed their calling as drill sergeants and whose only job qualification was to use the word "reps" in a sentence.

Thus, in case I collapsed from repressed fear, I made my husband Jim meet me at the health club. And it was indeed a good idea, because as soon as we walked in the door, I was struck with the inability to speak. I know this because when I finally worked up the courage to make eye contact with someone there, Jim was already pointing at me and saying (to the receptionist): "She's interested in seeing the pool." Within moments, I was being handed a clipboard and giving away my email address and phone number. All this just to look at a pool?

After signing on the line, the next step was to "take the tour." (But, seriously, can I just look at the pool?) We were greeted by a dark-haired muscular, well-groomed, bearded young man wearing the required slightly-tight polyester clothing that conforms oh-so-subtly to muscle curves. Yes, I notice these things. Yes, I'm stereotyping. I looked back at the sign on the door to make sure it didn't actually say "Globo Gym."

To be fair, this particular fitness center/health club/gym was not populated by beautiful people with tight bodies like in the TV commercials. The population (and cost) actually did look a lot more like Average Joe's -- the numbers occupying treadmills and machines were sparse at best. And they do have a boxing ring. But what about the pool?

We went to look at the pool: "It's 25 meters, a mini-Olympic size pool. It's three feet deep at one end and slopes to five at the other."

Me (mini-Olympic, wtf?): "Really? Wow! That should be great. I'm not used to swimming meters."

Gym guy: "What size pool are you used to?"

Me: "25 yards. Will it be difficult to get a lane? Are there usually a lot of people using the pool?" I note to myself that there are four lanes, not all occupied, each less than half the width of my rec-center pool. The lanes are so narrow I've decided butterfly is an impossibility unless I chop off my arms at the elbows. There will be no sharing of lanes here unless one person has gills. One lane is occupied by non-swimmers, and the club's whirlpool is adjacent to the pool (they could almost share the same water).

Gym guy: "No, I never see people waiting. The only time you'll have trouble is during water aerobics classes." He then assures me that morning and after-work hours will be no problem. And... "people can share lanes." Hmmm, has he actually seen that? I'm guessing he doesn't go near the pool often, but I could be wrong.

All things considered, I decide on a month-long membership to start, if just for the pool. And cool, they throw in a free session with a trainer. Maybe, just maybe, this will be my big chance to learn about strength training for the winter. And for the bike.

Fast forward to this morning -- my first workout at my new pool. I grab a locker, get out my pull-buoy and hand paddles and walk onto the pool deck. I'm instantly aware that this is NOT a place for someone as self-conscious as I am. I may be the first person who knows something other than sidestroke to step foot in this pool. I start swimming. I'm instantly aware that three feet is barely enough depth for my hands to clear the bottom. Flip turns at this end will be interesting, if not painful. I come to the wall at the far end. I'm instantly aware that this is NOT a 25-meter pool.

Ok ok ok ok (spoken like Joe Pesci's "Leo Getz") -- call me a POOL SNOB, but here's where the tiny heads come in. Do NOT tell me a pool is 25 meters if it isn't even 25 yards! I can understand the meters vs. yards mix-up, but come ON! This pool is not 25 of anything! Maybe this place has no concept of measurement units unless they involve weight.

I get over the frustration quickly and regroup. I need to get my workout in. On the return lap, I am instantly aware of being watched. A man in the whirlpool is half-way out of the water, bent over the lap lane watching me. This is a little too close for comfort. I decide to breathe on the other side. I get on with my workout, keeping an eye on the people who come and go to the pool. I mean, the whirlpool. And the steam room. And the sauna. It's 6:30 a.m., is this a pre-workout steam? I decide to stop looking.

It's going to be a long September. Do you think they have a dodgeball team?


  1. bwahahaha! I feel the same way about gyms...they scare the bejesus out of me. Way to go conquering it. :o)

  2. Did you not know that after 15-minutes of lifting weights, including 10-minutes for talking about “reps”, that every gym rat hits the steam room? It helps them get their sweat on so they don’t feel guilty about hitting that Dunkin Donuts just down the street (please tell me there’s a Dunkin Donuts down the street).

    My gym is the same way when it comes to the correct length of the pool. The outdoor lanes are 50M whereas the indoor is anywhere between 23 & 24 yards. I imagine when they measured the pool it was a scene right out of Spinal Tap. You know, when they wrote the dimensions for the Stonehenge stage set and indicated inches and not feet (if this makes no sense, rent Spinal Tap and you’ll laugh your ass off).

    Oh, and are you serious about that 3 feet deep thing? I would be in danger of scraping my belly on the bottom ;-)

    Enjoy your month in hell.