Friday, December 18, 2009

Swimming, Canadian-style!

Dear Swimmers


Just before you all slope-off for a great Christmas and New Year break after our last session on Saturday 19th December (and re-commencing on Monday 4th January with the schedule as per: ), I just thought you might find a couple of my musings on the quirks of swimming in Canada somewhat amusing given that we are rotating between 4 council-run pools here. I don’t wish to offend or seem in anyway ungrateful (especially as our next stage of our trip is the U.K where we’ll be lucky to even get a bath in nevermind a swim!) and I apologize now to Mishy for posting this, but it was just too good to let it slip by!


Every country has their fare-share of swimming pool “quirks” (none as much as the UK!), but whilst training over here in Canada, these are some of the most amusing ones which make you realize just how good we have it in Perth. So, the next time it’s 2 degrees warmer / colder at Claremont than normal or you have to share a world-class 50m lane with more than one other person, spare a thought for your Canook-brothers and sisters over in the Great White North:


1. It is illegal to go for a swim in Ontario without prior showering with soap and warm water in the facility’s change-rooms. According to legislation 565/90, Ontario Provincial Law demands that no swimmer shall enter the pool without first having cleansed themselves. If any swimmer is caught not doing so this is punishable in a court of law and further action may be taken against the facility management for not enforcing this. I am deadly serious about this – can you imagine me enforcing this at the Claremont Pool at 5.30am on a wet and cold July morning?! No, didn’t think so!


2. Whilst it is customary for most pools to open at 6.00am for Early Bird lane lap swimming and to actually let swimmers into the facility 10 to 15 minutes beforehand to get changed in readiness for the pool lifeguards being ready (good), swimmers are actually kept behind a sophisticated cage-wall to block them from entering the pool deck area until exactly 6.00am (bad). In pools where this cage has not yet been fitted, swimmers stand about on pool deck looking anxiously from one to the other like racing drivers on the start grid until such time that the lifeguard gives the signal to get in. This is usually that of resting their empty cup of Tim Horton’s vanilla-flavored coffee by their lifeguard chair and shouting “let’s get going, eh?!”


3. Despite all the pools that we have swum in measuring exactly 25m x 15m (i.e. standard regulation for a 6-lane 25m competition pool), only two lane ropes are ever used, even in lap swimming sessions. These two lane ropes evenly divide the pool into three thirds and yet swimmers are instructed to still swim as though six lanes were present. This causes a  huge amount of confusion and frustration as each lane alternates between clockwise and anti-clockwise in direction. Collisions are inevitable and par for the course. What is doubly frustrating is that there are always three other lane ropes laying on the side of the pool just screaming to “Use me! Use me!”


4. The lap clocks in all the pools we have visited have not one clock hand (i.e. one on the “0” and the other on the “30”) but two, neatly dividing the clock into four quarters. In all fairness these are color-coded, however, being approximately half the size of Australian pool clocks make them extremely difficult to read and interpret, even with my 20/20 X-Ray Vision Speedo googles. Good job we are armed with our trusty Wetronomes!


5. It is customary for all swimmers to totally ignore the signs allocating “fast”, “medium” and “slow” and just randomly jump in any old lane as they see fit. This, I don’t need to tell you, is incredibly frustrating!


6. It is $5.67 (plus tax) to swim for one hour at these pools. The tax thing is the bane of my life – why-o-why can’t they just add it and tell you the real cost of each session (for your reference this works out to be $6.05) – it’s not like anyone is asking for a receipt to claim their GST and PST back from a lowly early-morning dip!


7. Every pool is kept at a lovely (not!) 31 to 32 degrees celcius with a poolside surround lacking any airflow whatsoever and maintained at what must be at least 45 degrees celcius. Forget the showering legislation and the risk of spreading Cryptosporidium this way, I’d suggest lowering the temperature in the pool by 5 degrees and the pool surround by at least 15 and these bugs will stand no chance.


To cap it all off, after this morning’s “Fresh & Fruity” session I was accosted by one of the local swim coaches as I exited the pool wanting to know what or who my swim cap was (“Swim Smooth”), who I trained with, where I’m from, how many names could I drop in the swimming world and was this even half of the number he could (!), how much FINA sucked, how every other country apart from Canada was doping their athletes and was I aware that he had been coaching for at least forty thousand years before I was even conceived? I wasn’t even coaching when he saw me, just having an enjoyable swim and minding my own business! The funniest thing was that he was so insistent that he have my full name (presumably so that he could look me up and check on my credentials?), and yet when I asked him at the end of the very long and tedious conversation what his full name was he just responded with “Chuck*…Coach Chuck…you can call me Coach!”. OK, “thanks Coach!” I said as I walked off, vowing never to engage eye-contact again with anyone on a Canadian pool-deck who looked remotely like a coach.


*the “part-names” have been changed to protect the innocent!


Finally, last year I posted some “Christmas Fitness Survival Ideas” at:


…so if you’re struggling for a few ideas, please check them out if you’re wondering what to do to keep fit over the 2-week holiday period. NB. A few of the links on that Blog aren’t available any longer, but the general plan should be useful for you!


Cheers and have a great Christmas everyone!


Coach ;-)

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