Today I did the big splash into 5 degree water (air temperature somewhat colder – no we don’t know why the water was warmer, it isn’t normally) at the pond and I can honestly say it’s the coldest I’ve ever felt in the water. However, after the initial few seconds of shock, most of my body simply felt a pleasant tingling. The big exception was my hands, so just at the point that I was starting to enjoy it, I realised I’d better get out before my hands became incapable of gripping the ladder. I managed about 2 minutes and did feel amazing afterwards, but buying gloves is going to be essential before my next dip, especially with next week’s weather forecast. Unfortunately, most of the gloves I see online seem to be designed to make swimming harder. For some reason, it is a selling point that they will provide swimmers with the ‘maximum resistance’ in the water. Eh? I just want to be able to stay in long enough to enjoy the water thanks.
This was going to be the post in which I took back everything I’d said and blogged about the magic of swimming in a warm pool in Central London under the stars… but it’s not going to be. I really did have a ‘wow’ moment when I climbed in yesterday evening. It was a fresh, cold and pretty still evening and the pool wasn’t (yet) too full. After a couple of lengths I moved from the slow to the medium lane, which was perhaps my mistake. I was sharing it with three others swimmers and, while I don’t think we were swimming at radically different speeds from each other, I kept getting stuck behind them and they never once let me take them over at the end of the lane. Is it significant that they were all men? Well I don’t suppose I’d be mentioning it if it weren’t, but the point for me is that it *always* happens in the medium lane at the Oasis, far more than it happens in other pools. To give a 100 percent fair picture, things weren’t as bad as they have been on other visits. The pool temperature wasn’t too warm, the water in the shower was nice and hot, but not unbearable and, yes, the changing rooms were freezing and dingy, but the cleaner was really friendly. Anyway, there’s nothing else for it but for me to learn to love it as it’s now my only West End pool…
I broke my swimming fast in rather a grand way on Friday, by having a lovely 35 minute swim in the small, but very pretty, pool at Tylnley Hall Country House Hotel. Spa pools tend to be on the small side and I’m not sure if whether it’s because nobody’s really interested in doing any exercise when they’re on a spa day, or because people who like swimming don’t bother to use them because they know they’ll be small. However, it wasn’t very full and I was able to do plenty of swimming in circles on both Friday and Saturday. The Friday evening swim was especially atmospheric as darkness fell and the underwater lights came on. Needless to say the outdoor pool wasn’t open but that would have been even nicer. Will just have to ‘comfort’ myself with a trip to the Oasis tonight.
The first of the season’s full-blown colds has descended and I’m not running or swimming (in cold or hot water) until it’s flown off again. I must admit to feeling a bit off-colour all week. On Wednesday I considered for … ooh, at least a second… not going swimming because I felt a bit wibbly, but went anyway and felt much, much better afterwards. But the symptoms returned redoubled yesterday and I officially have lurgy and, while it’s not particularly bad, it’s just before I’m about to sing a Very Big Choral Work in two different cathedrals. I have friends who will blame the cold water swimming and others who will say I should have stopped exercising as soon as I started to feel crap. But I know perfectly well that what ran me down was four nights in a row of socialising, the first of which was Very Boozey Indeed. I don’t think the swimming made a blind bit of difference either way. So there.
Despite having free access to nearly 40 pools in London, on Monday I paid a fiver to go the Queen Mother’s Pool in Victoria. Working in Westminster and needing to get a train to Wandsworth Common, it seemed more sensible than travelling up to Camden and the nearest pool to my destination within the scheme Brixton Recreation Centre isn’t really very close. The Queen Mum’s suffers from being not particularly big and being very, very busy (well if I was paying to use it, then there’s going to be lots of others). The changing rooms seemed to have been designed in a way that ensures there’s water everywhere and bumping into your fellow-changer is inevitable. I enjoyed the swim, but it was a toes-to-swimming-cap situation where the speed was dictated by the slowest swimmer.
Today by contrast, I had one of the two medium lanes to myself for much of the swim at New Usual Pool. Surprisingly, when I shared it, it was first with someone swimming a slow breast stroke whom I had to overtake and secondly with someone doing crawl who had to overtake me. But there was plenty of room for all of us and it wasn’t stressful. While I was changing one mature lady remarked ‘I had to decide whether to park for free and go to swiss cottage or pay 50p and come here’. So it’s not just me.
Finally, on Saturday, I was able to test out the ‘cold water hangover cure’ at the pond. I wouldn’t use the word cure exactly, but before and after showed an immense improvement. I was also trying out my new bootees and it made a big difference. They were pretty easy to get on and off as well and I can see they’ll be useful getting in and out less facilitated bodies of water. Unfortunately the hangover was bad enough that running home wasn’t an option, but warming up wasn’t as hard as it had been the previous week.
Yesterday my new neoprene socks arrived in the post! I’ve hesitated about getting them because I understand they’re difficult to get on and off and I’m in the water such a short length of time, it hasn’t seemed justified. But I have noticed that my feet start hurting with the cold almost as soon as I start enjoying the temperature of the water and I’d like to see if they make any difference. Also, I found this summer that I couldn’t do my everyday swimming in unheated pools because I couldn’t last 30 minutes in the water, even in warm weather, again because my feet really seemed to suffer. So I did some lurking on message boards, notably the Outdoor Swimming Facebook Group, and sourced some experienced opinions. I loved the description ‘nice and toasty’. That has to be my favourite description of being warm, as I love toast. These will get their first outing at the pond on Saturday. The test will be whether I can get them off afterwards when I’ve gone all fingers and thumbs before the real cold kicks in!