This year, they built a brand new aquatic centre a block from my house. It's stunning, so modern and asymmetrical, and when I looked in the windows, it looked really cool. I pictured myself jumping in the pool and bobbing around. Maybe I'd get a floaty board and do some kicks; perhaps I'd tread water in the deep end and then dive down to touch the bottom. I've never been much of a real swimmer. I did take lessons at the Y as a kid, but I didn't like the water very much, so sometimes, after Dad dropped me off, I'd skip my class, opting instead to hang out in the lobby. Then I'd wet my hair in a sink just before Dad came back to pick me up again. Over the years, I eventually learned to swim so-so. I knew I'd never be a lifeguard, but I could tread water fine, and I liked being in hotel pools or the ocean on vacation.
I'd been meaning to check out the new pool for some time, so last week, during a pretty slow work day, I checked the schedule that I'd picked up one day and discovered that I was in time for the adult lane swim. Lane swim, I thought, was a far cry from floaty boards and playing in the deep end, but I nonetheless grabbed my suit and towel and rode my bike up the street to Regent Park Aquatic Centre.
I changed into my suit, took the requisite 'warm shower with soap' and then walked onto the pool deck, where I had three choices of lane speed: slow, medium and fast. The slow lane had lots of older ladies in it, some chatting with each other, and some bobbing up and down or doing the doggie paddle. Was this one for me, I thought? The fast lane had some thin men of all ages and some young, athletic looking girls with soccer shoulders. Everyone in this lane looked like serious swimmers because they had goggles on. Some even had rubber caps. And yes, they were swimming pretty fast. I decided the medium lane was probably right for me. There were six or eight other swimmers doing various crawls and strokes. Some had goggles or caps; others none. So I jumped in and took my place in the swim progression, moving counterclockwise up one side of the lane, and down the other; simple swimming for exercise, like real adults do.
Thanks to my early aversion to swimming lessons, I can't actually do a consistent front crawl and breathe to my side for more than ten seconds at a time. I was running out of breath pretty easily too, between the cardio involved and working muscles I hadn't in a few decades. All in all though, I was keeping up just fine in the medium lane. The water felt good to me, and so did the mini sense of accomplishment I was experiencing, real lane swimming for the first time in my life.
When I got home, I googled 'best swim goggles', (Speedo Vanquishers, apparently), changed my clothes, and headed downtown to buy them and a big healthy adult salad. What began as a day hoping I'd have some time to frolic in a pool had turned into a very adult morning and afternoon of looking after myself and being good to my body.
In the last six weekdays, I have been to the pool on five of them. I'm trying to form a habit of swimming, of being good to myself, and of trying to get better at something I used to fear. It feels like growing up.