I seem to have amounted up rather a quantity of swimming passes (not as many as library cards, but that’s another story). As my Usual Pool pass is due to expire on October 31st, and I’m not planning to renew for the first time in 7 years, this seems like a good time to think of the value I get out of them. My annual Usual Pool pass is heavily subsidised, tremendously good value for money and I probably go into ‘profit’ after about 6 months. By contrast, I’ve had a Heath swimming pass over the ‘summer’ months (May to November) two years in a row and I doubt it paid for itself either year. I would probably break even if I used my student card to get the concession, but as I work full time I don’t really feel that’s right. Essentially, the ponds and the lido are things I want to exist, even if I only visit 10 times over the spring, summer and autumn, so I’m happy to view the rest as a donation. For me, the key is knowing I can drop in for 10 minutes when the water is cold without feeling I’m wasting a fiver.
My real folly this year is my Swim London card . I think as a scheme it’s excellent value for money, but I really should have been content to pay as I went while I still had membership of Usual Pool. It’s beginning to change, now that Usual Pool is no longer on my way to work and Kentish Town Baths has reopened (and I’ve moved 15 minutes walk away from it), but mostly I’ve paid the monthly fee for the security of knowing that if I’m anywhere in Camden or Hackney, I can use the local baths. But hey, it hasn’t broken the bank and tomorrow morning I’m delighted to know that I can waltz into the Clissold Pool on my way into work from bf’s house.
A friend recently posted to facebook about taking up running, because their life was too complicated to commit to classes. One of the things I like about running is that it requires so little infrastructure. Ownership of three swimming passes has virtually given me the freedom I need to replicate this underwater. Just waiting for Islington and Westminster to capitulate. Especially now Marshall Street baths have opened!
On Saturday I had my first proper cold weather dip at Gospel Oak lido. Actually I’d been in the pond the week before, but the lido at 14 degrees is significantly colder than the pond at 16. That’s something I’ve learned from cold water swimming – the effects of one or two degrees of temperature drop can vary significantly. Still, it was lovely. I’d been for a 30 minute run just before and, since I knew that I wasn’t going to be swimming properly, was just able to enjoy being in the water. The only thing that wasn’t good about it was that I went to have my legs sugared afterwards and my skin was Very Sensitive Indeed after their ten minute icy immersion. Ouch!
I made a classic Heath-swimming-amateur’s mistake today, arriving at the Lido (nice and hot from a run) just as it was closing. I’d forgotten that because it’s cheaper to go to the early morning and late evening sessions than during the day, they close the pool to new entrants for an hour at either end of the daytime session. Of course at the end of this month it will change again as it will only be open first thing in the morning. So much to learn! Anyway, I went up to the pond instead which was lovely. If I were fit enough to run uphill (admittedly almost the highest point in London) I’d have aimed to run to the pond in the first place. But I’m not. Yet.
I experienced contrasting swimming temperatures at the weekend. On Friday I went for what will probably be my last full-length(ish) swim this year at Gospel Oak Lido, now 2 minutes’ walk from my front door. For one reason or another, I found 18 degrees really quite hard going and couldn’t last longer than 20 minutes. However, now it’s so close, it won’t be a problem for me to have a quick cold dip as well as a proper swim in warmer water.
On Sunday I visited Thermae Bath Spa on a hen weekend. At 33.3 degrees, the water was something of a contrast. Very little actual swimming took place – not because I couldn’t swim in water that warm, but because it was really too crowded to do more than a few strokes. However, it was absolutely lovely floating in the New Royal Bath admiring the view of the city, especially when it was raining. A very enjoyable getting wet experience all round.