Today I passed what is for me a huge milestone – having a ‘proper’ (nearly half hour) swim in the lido. My cold swims and my exercise swims were for a brief dizzy moment merged into one. Unfortunately my moment of achievement was marred by, at 28 minutes, the onset of hideous leg cramp. Now, I stretch before I swim (which often earns me funny looks) and my incidence of cramp in my calves has dropped anyway since I’ve used a different leg action in breast stroke. But I wonder if there’s any coincidence in the fact that the last time I had it this seriously was also at the lido, also after a full-length swim (last summer). Whatever the effect of prolonged active exercise in cold water, I was transformed in a moment from a graceful dart-shaped machine, at one with the water and channelling endorphins, into a flailing, panicking mess of arms and legs going ‘ow’. Luckily I wasn’t too far from the side of the pool but the combination of the pain and the knowledge that the longer I spent in the water, the worse it would get, made it a truly unpleasant experience. And a bit humiliating when surrounded by all those slick wetsuited triathletes (not that they look like they’re having any fun anyway). So, if anyone can recommend any good pre-swim stretches to avoid cramp, please let me know!
Today I tried for the second time to use the lido as my ‘normal’ swim location, with mixed results. There’s a world of difference between a ten minute dip and half an hour (or even just over 20 minutes, which is what I managed today), even wearing neoprene socks. For a start, I can’t just start pointing my arms and head and kicking off as I would in an indoor pool, as it takes about 5 minutes for my breathing to regulate after the initial shock of the cold (which of course is much more pronounced once I’ve put my head in the water). Then by the time it becomes physically more comfortable, I can feel my core temperature dropping and start to worry about how I’m going to warm up again afterwards. And the showers are too hot! A lukewarm shower would feel perfect – the ones at the lido would be too hot in any pool, never mind if you’ve just exposed your skin to 17 degree water for 20 minutes.
All of which makes me feel a bit of a wimp, although I have to say a lot of the swimmers were in wetsuits this morning. And nearly all doing crawl which probably has a greater capacity to keep you warmer. However, I do feel brilliant now, and have the major motivation that The Lido is 2 Minutes Walk From My Front Door and the knowledge that it will get easier either through my acclimatisation or the weather getting better. So I’ll return on Saturday and We’ll See.
Yesterday I finally made it to Hathersage outdoor pool for the first time (despite regularly visiting friends in nearby Bamford for about, um, 8 years). I really, really enjoyed it, although if I’m honest, I probably would have found much to moan about if it weren’t in the middle of the most lovely landscape in Britain. First it’s hot – which I can cope with, but which would put off many outdoor swimming fans. Secondly, it contains many children and has no lanes. I don’t actually mind that – I didn’t find it difficult to keep swimming up and down with the odd zigzag underneath the hurtling beach balls. Thirdly, it’s a bit limited in changing facilities. There are a good number of cubicles, some outdoor showers and two indoor showers, all unisex. So no naked showering (although I believe there are all female timeslots where this may be possible). And there are no lockers, but my experience will tell you lockers aren’t always a good protection.
However, after a very sweaty climb up the hill from Yorkshire Bridge and back down again to Hathersage (it was a humid day: it’s not just that I was a bit hungover. Not just) the soothing warm water was lovely and I really did just zone out and enjoy swimming. And although it’s in a built up area, the sense of sky somewhere like Hathersage is far, far more than you get even on Hampstead Heath. Billowing black clouds on my visit, but luckily no thunder. I wouldn’t change anything about it except maybe the addition of a sauna. And winter opening hours. But that’s just me, and given that it took me 8 years to get there, they probably shouldn’t start fundraising for it yet.