I’ve swum laps at a number of city pools around town over the years. I can count five off the top of my head, with my favorite being the pool built for the 1932 Olympics. Most of the pools are pretty easy to get to, but there’s always been a closer one, in my own neighborhood, that has eluded me. It’s called the Valley Plaza Pool, and I’ve checked on it maybe once a year, – and it’s always been empty. This pool is visible from the highway, so imagine my delight when I glanced out the window the other day… and it was full of water!
I went online and finally learned, after six years of living in this neighborhood, that it’s a seasonal pool, and only open from June to Labor Day. I was determined to swim laps in it before the season ended, so I went yesterday. I walked there, since it’s only a half mile from my house. And after years of daydreaming about swimming laps right around the corner, I learned… it’s the worst pool in Los Angeles.
Ok, ok… I’ll clarify that statement. It’s actually a very nice facility.
And it’s not like there are crocodiles in it, or contaminated water, or turds floating around. It just happens to be the worst for swimming laps. And that’s because they’ve sectioned off the pool into different areas with ropes, and the ropes bisect the pool all the way across. Here’s the same photo, with the ropes highlighted in red:
See? No way to swim back and forth the long way without getting clotheslined by three ropes. I asked the staff, and they never ever arrange it differently. Ugh.
But I had walked a half mile to get there and changed into my suit, and I didn’t really want to go all the way back home to get my car and drive elsewhere. Plus, I was inspired by the incredible swimmers I watched tear it up in Rio, and my own recent open water workouts… so I accepted the situation and committed to swimming laps back and forth the short way.
The lifeguard said that the short side was 20 meters, but that didn’t look right, and when I got in the pool, it didn’t feel right, either. Plus, 20 meters is a bizarre dimension for a pool, anyway. Olympic pools are 50 meters long, but the most common competition pool length in this country is 25 yards. I grew up on swim teams, and every single pool I ever practiced or raced in (with the exception of one) was 25 yards.
The nice thing was that the pool was nearly empty, except for a couple families with kids splashing around in a shallow part. They had one lane roped off, across the short side, and I had it to myself. But I had a hard time getting into a good rhythm in this odd pool, and I couldn’t do backstroke because there weren’t flags, and as much as I tried to channel my inner Nathan Adrian, I couldn’t. But I counted and did 25 laps anyway (50 lengths of the pool), and called it a day. I don’t know how long it took, because there was no big clock (another standard fixture at lap pools) – maybe 20-25 minutes.
Even though I didn’t want to swim laps anymore, I felt like I was cutting my workout short. So I swam into the deep part, and did 10 minutes of water polo treading drills – intervals where I would alternate basic treading with shorter bursts of tougher tasks, like treading water with my arms straight up over my head. I had forgotten how exhausting that was – and we used to do at water polo practice while holding weights. Did I ever tell you I played water polo for two years in high school? I was terrible and I hated it.
The pool did have a springboard and a short diving platform, so I played around for another 10 minutes and dove a few times, seeing if I could make it all the way to the other side before coming up for air. (Easy peasy.)
Including locker room time, I was at the pool for about an hour, before walking the half-mile home. I still felt my workout was a little lacking, so I immediately laced up my shoes and did the 14-minute MAX Interval program on my Bowflex MAX Trainer. I burned 281 calories in 14 minutes (whoa!) and happily considered my workout complete.
THEN IT WAS MATH TIME. Before leaving, I measured the short side of the pool by literally walking the whole thing heel-to-toe. It was the same as 65 and 2/3rds of my feet. At home, after my workout, I measured my foot, and my big, size-13 canoes are 11 inches long. So, that meant the pool was 723 inches long. That’s 60 feet, almost exactly. (My measuring technique was rather accurate!) So the lifeguard was wrong. The length wasn’t 20 meters, it was 20 yards. And my 25 laps equaled exactly 1,000 yards. That worked out well!
ONE FINAL THING: I was mentioned on the Self magazine website a few days ago! They ran a story on Friday where a writer named Anne recalled her experience taking one of Richard Simmons’ classes years ago. It’s a fantastic description of how extraordinarily unique his classes were, back when he was teaching classes, and Anne shares how it forever changed how she thinks about fitness. I don’t recall meeting Anne, but we met, and I must’ve made an impression, because I’m the only person at Slimmons she mentions in the article by name, besides Richard. That’s pretty sweet. It’s a good, quick read – CHECK IT OUT HERE.
Keep it up, David!