Cherry pickers and zoom booms

A while back, Kerry Clare asked in the comments how the lightbulbs in the flood-like lights towering above indoor pools are changed, and ever since I haven't been able to stop wondering (Yes, breastfeeding at 4am is a perfect time to obsess over those damn light bulbs, thanks for asking!)

So I finally asked a lifeguard! And he knew! And then I followed up with my all-knowing pool/swimming source, Coach Dave...

Cherry pickers, scissor lifts and/or "zoom booms" (telescopic forklift-y things).

They bring them in from outside and drive them on the deck (how this happens, I'm not sure, but apparently much of this equipment is max. 6 feet wide, so maybe they get in through double doors?)

AND, they have to close the pool, and sometimes even drain it, for fear of falling/broken glass!

Tada! Mystery solved!
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Swimming + pregnancy + bed rest lite

Even though I love swimming, when people talk about the joys of swimming while pregnant, I always wonder if these women swam-swam before they were pregnant or if they're talking about bobbing in the slow lane. I mean, the weightless thing is great, and though it is still my favourite thing to do pregnant or not, for me swimming pregnant is definitely more challenging.

Before I was even showing, my abs stopped working, muscles I never really considered while swimming. But just weeks in, I kept crashing into the lane ropes and had to really work to swim in a straight line.

Then of course there was the ever tightening swimsuit situation. I kept my suit from my last pregnancy (that was already on its last legs) but had made the mistake of leaving it in the sunroom over the winter so the elastic in the straps had gone brittle. (The trick was wearing a bikini top underneath!) I probably should've bitten the bullet early on and bought a maternity suit, but I couldn't justify spending money on something I'd wear for such a limited time (and all the maternity suits seem to be more for lounging then for a swim-swimming anyway!) My swimming ladies banded together and got me a new suit for a baby shower gift (um, BEST!) and I am so thrilled to retire that poor old suit once and for all!

I should also add that I was nauseous for seven months and though getting to the pool wasn't easy, swimming was the only time that I didn't feel hungover and carsick all at once. An hour of respite = heaven.

After that horrible seven months wrapped up, this pregnancy kept dishing out surprises. With a hernia and crazy loose joints that kept me on bed rest lite, swimming (and biking strangely enough!) were the only things I could do that weren't horizontal. Swimming was my salvation and I'm truly not sure how I could've made it through without it.

It was a strange and bizarre thing to swim with intense Braxton Hicks contractions or having to stop and shove my baby's foot in from under my ribs in the deep end, but it was so liberating and so glorious to be able to move, and feel my muscles tire. 

Of course my suit got tighter and tighter, literally splitting at the seams to accommodate my growing belly. I'd get raised eyebrows every time I got in the fast lane, and I can't tell you how rewarding it was to still be able to keep up...ish.

I have never been a stand around chatting in the shallow end swimmer (I figure if I'm already at the pool I need to maximize my time swimming!). But I became a stander around in the shallow end, waiting for Braxton Hicks contractions to let up, or waiting for the baby to settle, making small talk the other standarounders. And I met some lovely folks - the elderly gentleman who had had a stroke who had been told by the lifeguards he didn't belong in the fast lane until he kicked all of our asses, giving me a conspiratorial wink that made my week; and another pregnant woman who was due in August; and a woman with spiky red hair who told me that I might not believe that swimming was the highlight of her day. I told her I did believe it because it was also mine.

I swam the day before I had my little girl - chuckling at the wide-eyed belly stare I got from every patron and lifeguard - and am now counting down the days till I can be back in the water. Countdown: 29 days!
  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The long countdown to summer swimming

What's a swimmer to do when the snow flies and the winds whip below zero? (Well, if I was Jessica J. Lee, I'd bring a hammer to the lake and swim anyway, and if I was Rhya, I'd run straight into the water, but I am decidedly not either of them. I am a cold water wimp!) Winters are long in Canada for us outdoor swimming lovers.

Last Saturday was cold, and the morning started *very* early around here, but the sun was shining, so we headed east to the beach and the lake and to check out this year's Winter Warming Stations. The sand was sprinkled with snow, but the sun shone off Lake Ontario in brilliant shards. It was so beautiful.

My favourite installation was Collective Memory – bottles stacked on top of each other, with pens and paper for participants to add their own stories to the wall. (Letter writing?! Anonymous collective participation? Be still my beating heart!)

I also loved buoybuoybuoy – so many blues, the lake's, the sky's, reflected in the oval mirrors. 

How I love standing on the beach where the lake looks like an ocean...the countdown to summer swimming is ON!

ps: Check out last year's winter warming station adventure!
  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, March 9, 2017

Polar Bear Dip - Into the Abyss

On January 1st at 12pm, under the icy rays of a winter sun, I dove into Lake Ontario and a new year.
  • It was 3 degrees Celsius (that’s 37.4 Fahrenheit)
  • It was cold.
  • It was blue.
  • And it kick-started my spirit. 

Looking out at the lake that morning, its surface glimmering, as though it was somehow floating millions of tiny diamonds towards our shivering skins, I felt giddy and had a nervous smile that could not be calmed.

Some how water looks richer in the winter, before the ice and snow capture it for their own.

So why the dip? Why jump into ice cold water on the morning of New Year’s Day, when I could have just stayed home bundled up and enjoying some family time:

1. The Polar Bear Dip is for a good cause, the money raised for this event goes towards Habitat for Humanity.

2. After an incredible year of swimming in 2016 —momentous swimming, full of adventures and beautiful swim holes —I wanted to continue that trend into 2017. I wanted to start the year in water, and not just a pool, a big body of water. I wanted to start my year by jumping into something grand. The intention was to run, leap or just flop into the abyss… and see what happens, with a smile and a shout!

3. Maybe there is a tiny part of me that just likes a good old fashioned adrenaline rush.

The Toronto Polar Bear dip takes place once a year at Sunnyside Beach. Swimmers or Dippers, I suppose, begin to gather on the beach around 11am to stake out their spots, by laying out blankets with all their extra warm gear at the ready. The actual dip happens an hour later at noon.
Me, and the my team of supporters (my husband Kyle, daughter Nomi and sister Kaurel and her little one, Lila) showed up early. I registered and got my super cool Polar Bear toque. Then we waited in the crowd of over 600 dippers for noon to arrive. There was classic rock, people in hilarious costumes (ahem, a gang of bearded men in pink tutus and g-strings… EPIC), and lots of puffy winter coats covering up swim suits of all sorts.

At noon, they gathered us together on a section of the beach that had been cornered off with some tape. I was standing beside a father daughter duo who had done the dip the previous year. They told me that the year before it had been freezing rain and was so miserable out and that we were very lucky to have such a great day this year. Sun and relatively little wind. They were also discussing their “entry strategies”, would they run, would they walk, would they walk half way and then just throw themselves in? It was all up for debate.

Then the countdown started.

And then I was running with a crowd of many towards the shimmering water! My entry was a run, and a flop. I’d like to think it was a dive, but it was flop. I went right under, it was sharp and invigorating. It woke me up. The adrenaline froze in my veins. And then just like that, I was running out of the water and towards my warm clothes on the beach.

I was probably in the water for maybe a 1 minute total. But it was awesome. I loved the freeze, I loved the crowd and the excitement. And I loved that the start of 2017 was spent in a beautiful body of water! Huzzah!

Now someone get me to a sauna!

So here are my takeaways…
1. Arriving at 11am, though I had a very quick registration process and snagged some prime real estate on the beach for my stuff, was kind of not so great… because I had an hour to wait in the cold. It would have been fine to come a little later and stay a little warmer.

2. Wear lots of warm loose clothing and make sure to bring some kind of large moo-moo style outfit to change under after.
3. Swim shoes are a really good idea!
4. On that note, don’t make the mistake I made and wear socks in your swim shoes. You have to wear swim shoes because the bottom of the lake is mostly stone, so it’s nicer on your feet. I thought I would keep my socks on, because it was just so cold. BIG MISTAKE! When I got out of the water, the cold socks just retained the chill and my feet were like Popsicles. Just take them off. Trust me. Go in with you suit and shoes ONLY! I should note that I also jumped in with a toque, that was okay because I could take it off right away.

5. Have a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee ready to go.

6. Cheering squads are pretty nice to have!

7. However you decide to get in… go all the way… dunk that head and wake up! It’s worth it.

  • Rhya
  • Friday, February 3, 2017

Swimming Bingo: The Indoor Edition

Though we three swimmers are already counting down the days till summer swimming, there are still many winter dips to be had. If you're hardcore like Jessica, you've got your toque and hammer and hop in no matter how much ice is in your way, and if you're a cold water wimp like me, there's always the pool.

And now you can play SWIMMING BINGO along with me and celebrate all of the inevitable pool mishaps and delights! Download your Swimming Bingo card here!!

  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Ultimate Swim Weekend 2016

I don't believe in heaven, but if I did, it would involve sleeping in a king sized bed and a lot of swimming. Imagine my absolute delight when a few weekends ago as an early birthday gift, my fella told me to pack a bag with track pants and my swimming stuff, put me in an Uber and handed me an envelope that had a key card to a hotel room. 

And that's how I got to live out my ultimate dream weekend: a king sized bed, and a lap pool three floors up. 

The lap pool at the Intercontinental in Yorkville isn't a full 25m, but when you have an entire pool to yourself, and nothing to do except sleep and eat and swim from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, it doesn't much matter. 

My first swim was Friday night. The pool was empty and perfectly turquoise and the CN Tower lit up every four strokes. When you are used to swimming at the rec centre, dodging all sorts of interesting strokes and various levels of swimming ability, there is something so incredible about finding your own swimming pace. 

Afterwards, I found the sauna and started a brand-new book in the warmth, then ordered room service and ate steak and drank wine in bed. It was the most perfect evening. Post-swim sleep is so very deep (especially when you know there won't be a toddler waking you up at any point in the night!)

The next morning I was up at the crack of dawn (because I have a toddler and my body won't let me sleep in), but I read the entire paper and drank coffee in bed then put on my suit and the cozy hotel robe and padded down to the elevator for Swim #2 (Not even having to get dressed, and taking an elevator to the pool this positively extraordinary!) The pool was empty once again and I swam and swam until my arms ached. Then I hung out in the sauna and kept reading. Heaven, I tell you!

And because my fella is so awesome, and knows me so well, he left swim biscuit supplies in the hotel room, and sushi that I ate post swim, in bed, watching Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel. 

Swim #3 took place in the window between a post-brunch nap and dinner reservations (again, I had the pool to myself until the last few minutes when three siblings played the most hilarious nonsensical game of tag that reminded me of my sister and I oh-so-many years ago) and I 100% had goggle marks around my eyes for dinner.

Swim #4 almost didn't happen because the pool was packed at 9:30am on Sunday (Note: that is prime kid-hotel pool hour! Wait till everyone checks out at 11, or is at lunch around 12!) No 8-year-old wants their handstands interrupted by a lap swimmer no more than this swimmer wants to be weaving around games of frozen tag. I asked for a late check out time and went around 12 at it was blissfully empty once again. My final hotel dip. I swam for longer than I intended because I didn't want it to ever end.

The goggle marks didn't have time to fade before my fifth and final swim of the weekend - my fella got me a pass to the new salt water JCC and a print-out of the swim schedule. It was just a hop skip and a jump from "my" hotel pool and they even lent me a lock.

Years ago I swam at this pool at 5:30 every morning before my hour and a half commute to work. (I don't know how I pulled that off, especially in the winter!) It was a beautiful pool then (salt water! Best!), and it's even more beautiful after this newest reno. I wasn't used to dodging other swimmers after my decadent weekend of solo pool time, but it wasn't very busy and it was still a pretty lovely swim with the late afternoon sun filtering in. 

Near the end of my swim, I broke my own cardinal rule of not talking to swim strangers (because who wants to stand in the shallow end and talk about the weather when there is swimming to be done!) because this elderly gent's goggles were so awesome. They looked like aviator goggles that Amelia Earhart  might wear. Turns out they were from the 60s, and this man had worn them ever since. Amazing! 

Ultimate Swim Weekend complete. It was the most decadent and glorious weekend I have known, one that I will return to for the rest of the winter!
  • Lindsay
  • Monday, December 12, 2016

The last day of swimming lessons and (unofficial) swimming badges

The last day of swimming lessons always loomed large. There would be no treading water or long swims, no head-tilt-chin-lifts on the deck, just diving for nickels and gold coins in the deep end and playing frozen tag in the shallow end. All fun and games until the last few moments where you'd stand, shivering on the deck, waiting for the instructor to call your name and hand you your report card, thick with a badge stapled to the inside corner, or crushingly thin if you hadn't passed.

It has been years – 20 to be exact – since I passed my last swimming class, and I was surprised to feel that same rush of equal parts excitement and nervousness on Tuesday for my son's final class. Granted, he's not even 2, we only made it to 4 lessons (which, just so we're clear I see as Victory x4) and it took him a while to get comfortable in the water each time, but he did! It was incredible how much his comfort level grew – he jumped in more than once and went all the way under water! He learned to blow bubbles! And kick! Now, when he sees illustrations of pools, he says "I jump!" And when we talk about swimming, he jumps. "Swimming! I jump!" Huge wins. All of them.

So imagine my disappointment when not only did he not get a badge, he didn't even get a report card. Bah! Not cool, instructor, not okay (and yes, I'm following up with the facility...!)

He might not have gotten an official badge, but he got a badge – a handmade one to go with the one he got last fall – because jumping in and blowing bubbles need to be both commemorated and celebrated!

(Pssst: If you know a kid, or adult, who needs an LZV-embroidered badge, head over here. I love nothing more than making badges to celebrate accomplishments big and small!)
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It's the little things: A bathing cap for long hair

I have a lot of hair – like, when I was dancing, I overdeveloped my neck muscles from holding up my huge pile of hair a lot. And it's long. Which is fine usually except for the 3-4 times a week I try to shove it all in a bathing cap. I can't even count the number of times I've had caps split poolside, or snap back on my forehead leaving behind bright red welts.

Until now! I stumbled on a "long hair" swim cap and it has entirely changed my swims. It's silky instead of rip-your-hat-out rubbery and there's room enough for my bun/ponytail without giving me an instant mind-splitting headache (you know the one). 

NOTE: This is not sponsored, and there might be other long hair caps out there, but this silver Speedo gem is pure long hair swimming heaven. Best $17 I've spent in a long while. 
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Swimterview: Jessica J. Lee + wild swimming in Berlin

Jessica J. Lee / Photo by Paul Capewell

Two things I have never swum with: a touque and a hammer. But Canadian-born, Berlin-based Jessica J. Lee swims with both on the regular (WHA!). I met this swimmer on Twitter and am so inspired by her Berlin swim-ventures, her winter swimming and her upcoming book, Turning, that charts her swim in 52 swimming holes in and around Berlin.

LZV: How did you get into wild swimming? 
JL: I started swimming in lakes when I lived in Nova Scotia a decade ago – I had been scared of lakes my entire life so it was a big deal to start swimming in them. But I really picked up wild swimming when I was living in London, swimming at the Hampstead Heath Ladies' Pond. It's one of the world's few women's only swim spots, and is the only one in Europe that is open every single day of the year. It is pure magic.

LZV: You swim all year round. Outside. (Just typing that gives me goosebumps!) How did you start? Why do you do it?? Do you have any tips/strategies for extra cold swims? How long do you swim for? Do you swim-swim? Front crawl? Breaststroke? Paddle about?
JL: I started winter swimming a couple of years ago when I was preparing for my doctoral fieldwork with winter swimmers at the Ladies' Pond. I had always swum a long season, but had never made it through winter until then. I slowly built up by swimming consistently after summer ended. I try to swim a minimum of once a week (ideally three times) and when the temperature really dips (below 8 degrees) I start counting my strokes. 

The winter is the best part – the way it changes the body, brings you to life. In the depths of winter, if I'm breaking ice (I carry a hammer in winter!), I'll swim a minimum of 45 strokes. At that point, I'm swimming breaststroke while wearing a wooly toque. It's not so much a workout as it is cold water therapy!

LZV: Wild swimming is huge in Europe, but not really here, in Canada. Is it because it's too cold here? Any insights on why?
JL: I think the term 'wild swimming' is sort of a funny thing in the Canadian context. In Britain, it has made sense to really 'reclaim' the idea of swimming in lakes, rivers, and the sea, but in Canada we have such an entrenched lake swimming culture, so it doesn't seem like a vital term here. Really, it just means swimming in natural bodies of water/outdoors. In Ontario especially, it's a bit harder to swim through winter—though I've done Great Lakes swims in winter—but on the coasts, winter swimming is definitely happening. 

LZV: What are the differences between outdoor swimming in London/Berlin/Toronto?
JL: I think the big differences is access to lakes and swimming holes. In London, there are really only two decent options within the city itself – the ponds on Hampstead Heath and the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Toronto is also a bit frustrating for this reason – safe access to the lake is so limited to the east end or the Islands. I often find myself trekking across town for a five minute swim in wintertime. In Berlin and the surrounding countryside, there are actually thousands of lakes, so it's possible to swim pretty easily wherever you are. It becomes more a part of everyday life.

LZV: What are some of your favourite swimming holes?
JL: I love swimming off the dock at my parents' cottage in the Trent Severn Waterway – it's familiar, comforting. The Ladies' Pond on Hampstead Heath – the most beautiful and secluded swims in a lovely community of badass women. And the many lakes of Berlin... my weekly swim is Weisser See, an urban lake in a park, because it's near my house. But I love so many lakes here: sandy, clear lakes like Habermannsee, which was a quarry; forest lakes like Bötzsee; enormous blue swathes of water like Wandlitzsee. There are too many to choose from.

LZV: You're writing a swimming book (!!) So amazing and I love the "rules" for your 52 swimming holes:  no swimming pools, no wetsuits. All the lakes must be reachable by public transport, bike, or on foot. All must be reasonable distances (i.e. day trips) from central Berlin. I almost can't imagine being able to access so many different lakes from a city centre. What have been some highlights? What has been completely unexpected?
JL: Writing Turning was such an extraordinary time for me. I spent an entire year exploring the lakes near my home in Berlin, which allowed me to really begin to feel at home in the landscape here. It's strange, but I know my way around the countryside near Berlin better than anywhere in the world now! The whole process had highs and lows - it was a beautiful, enlivening experience to swim through the seasons, but it also began to grate at some points, when I was tired of trekking out every weekend and just wanted to hide away for winter. 

I didn't expect to find it as frustrating or emotional as I did. It took a lot of mental wrangling, not least because I was trying to finish my PhD at the same time. But now that it's all done, I feel stronger for it. I think it taught me a lot about how strong I am, and that I can often be a bit too hard on myself (like, say, forcing myself to swim in 52 lakes...). The people here in Berlin and Brandenburg were so encouraging and kind throughout the process, and that really helped. And my German improved a fair bit. The book is out in June in Canada with Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Canada.

Some of my swimming links/tips:
The UK Outdoor Swimming Society has a great Instagram feed.

When I was working on my book I became obsessed with lake science, so I love Sally Warring's Instagram feed, which is mostly microscopic videos of algae.

My lovely swim buddy Nell Frizzell wrote a guide to winter swimming for the Guardian a couple years ago.

Amy Liptrot's memoir, The Outrun, about recovery and the islands of Orkney feature some beautiful passages on winter swimming. A must read.

Thanks so much, Jessica!!!
  • Lindsay
  • Monday, November 14, 2016

Fall swimming miscellany

It feels like the off-season, which is not technically true because there's still quite a bit of swimming happening, but swimming definitely doesn't have the carefree, always-keep-a-suit-in-your-bag-in-case quality of summertime. Now swimming occurs in tiny chlorinated windows that require planning and layers and strategies for not letting your hair freeze on the way home. I'm not complaining, swimming is always glorious whether it's sky overhead, or a cement ceiling, sand underfoot or grotty tiles, but it's definitely a different season for Swimming Holes We Have Known.

A collection of recent swimmy things:

1). I read on Twitter that someone dressed their kid up as Penny Oleksiak for Halloween. How amazing is that?! Pure gold. I already made our family costume (that is sadly not swimming related) otherwise *I'd* want to go as Penny!

2). I was chatting this afternoon with my fast lane buddy who I haven't seen since the spring, and after catching up about our best summer swims, he told me about a guy who gets his hair cut  by the same barber, who swims to work. IN TORONTO!!! He gets in Lake Ontario at Mimico and swims downtown. Isn't that something!?! If you know of this fella, put me in touch! I'd so love to chat with him!

3). I missed my swim windows for almost 2 weeks and was starting to feel squirrley, but finally made it for a midweek swim this week only to find out that the schedule had changed in my absence and there was only 10 minutes left. Usually I would be so frustrated, but somehow I was just so thrilled to be able to swim, even for 10 minutes, that I enjoyed every second of it. 

4). After my swim this afternoon, the change room was silent except for a handful of women getting changed. Usually people are chatting but there was something so comforting about the sound of a brush through chlorinated hair, the snap of bathing suit straps, the wrinkle of caps being removed (If you listen carefully, you can hear foreheads sigh in relief...)

5). My toddler and I have made it to two swim classes so far -- that's 200% more swim class than last term. And with the additional crowd sourced tips, Class 2 was even better than Class 1. (Also, can every parent/caregiver who gets their kid to even one swimming lesson a term get a badge and/or bottle of wine?!)

Happy swimming, even if it is for 10 minutes...
  • Lindsay
  • Saturday, October 29, 2016

Kiddo swimming lessons, Round 2

[Edited Oct. 17th: Now with crowd-sourced additions!]

When my kid was six months old, I signed us up for swimming lessons. I felt like such a PARENT! But the reality of a wet, cold, wriggly not-yet-sitting-up baby with a limited (VERY limited!) bench space and a stroller-less changeroom complicated my idyllic views of myself as the super swimming parent. But we managed to make it to most classes, even if it was the biggest ordeal of the week. Sadly, he didn't get an official badge (though I made him one to commemorate his ingenious inchworm kick!)

We signed up again in the winter, and were shocked that even though we forgot to register at exactly 7am, we still managed to secure our first choice class time. Turns out no one signs up for swimming lessons in the winter because a) WINTER and b) see A. We got to the first class, which was an enormous feat unto itself, but I got the times wrong and we "swam" for the last 15 minutes of class. And then Jack had a cold, or I had a cold, and then a doctor's appointment, and then it was so cold, and then snow, and then before you know it, we missed every single class, except for those first 15 minutes. Whoops.

Jack warmed to the water again this summer, and we started swimming lessons again on Tuesday. This time, Jack can sit. Stand! Walk! It is a game changer. So much easier to get him out of a wet bathing suit and into clothes! It's super loud, our teacher is a huge fan of yelling, which is a bit much for my little guy, and it took a while to get into the water, but once we did, it was great. And this time around, I'm armed with a few extra tips:

1). I bike over. Or I'll drive when it gets too cold. The walk was just too long, lugging bags of towels, snacks, etc.

2). I pack a million towels. Okay, four. One for me, one for him, one for the floor for Jack to stand on and one for good luck. That was we can both be wrapped in towels the minute we get out of the pool so no one hits the I'm-so-cold-I-need-to-scream phase and no one has to stand on the grimy tiles.

3). We do whatever we want. Jack isn't in to jumping in, or kicking, or (god forbid!) dunking his head under. So we do our own thing. We gets balls and boats and splash around and sometimes blow bubbles and sing our own songs. I'm sure the instructor hates me, but whatever. This isn't about her...

4). Jack outgrew his swim diaper, but because I'm really not sure how many times we'll actually make it to the pool, I picked up some disposable swim diapers. I'm usually anti-disposable, but man oh man, they're a game changer on the please-don't-poop-on-the-ride-over-mad-dash to the pool. We'll get him another "permanent" swim diaper for the summer when we're in the water all the time, but for now, we're going with toss aways.

5). Bags! I pack extra tote bags so I can have a bag of his clothes, my clothes, extra towels, etc. Makes the post-swim change way faster.

6). Phone in a ziploc baggie. Too many puddles and wild children to risk a bag-less phone.

7). This is probably common sense, but it's taken me a while to figure out: Pack all the warm clothes. Hoodies, toques, trackpants. It seems like overkill on the way over, but is so welcome on the way home.

And crowd-sourced additions:

8). SNACKS! Bring all the snacks. It might be the only way to get changed yourself...

9). If you've got evening lessons, put your kid straight into PJs post-swim (Brilliant, Carolyn!)

10). Keep a swim bag packed and at the ready to keep the pre-class mania at a minimum (Good call, Katherine! I also keep an LZV swim bag at the ready.)

11). If your kiddo is in the pre-sitting up phase, change 'em on a bench against a wall so they don't roll off. (Good tip, Kate!) I'd also add corners are the best spots to stick your little one (and use your legs to keep them put while you change).

12). Wear *your* suit to the pool. Totally key. Changing one human is hard enough. (Though does make for a lot of commando trips home, don't forget to BRING YOUR UNDERPANTS!) Good one, Erica!

13). A bumbo. A friend used to bring a bumbo with her to swimming lessons to keep #2 still while wrangling #1. Brilliant as always, Jess!

14). There is a pool in Ottawa that HAS A PACK & PLAY IN THE CHANGE ROOM so you can stick your kid in it while you change. It might be worth moving cities just for that... The changer oom at our local is so wee strollers are banned, but if yours is big enough, it might be worth suggesting to pool management??

There was a mom of an older kid who offered to hold Jack last fall while I changed and I almost wept from her kindness. I have yet to be able to pay it forward, but I'm gonna!

And a note to the new-ish moms in the change room who were so embarrassed about their bikini lines – NO ONE'S LOOKING! I swear. No one cares. (I tell myself that at length swim, too!). But really. Who cares if you haven't shaved/waxed/whatevered. Everyone's too busy juggling wriggly, slippery kids. No one's judging anyone...

Most of all, I aspire to sit on the deck while Jack swims like Kerry now does. One day, one day...Her ode to Guardian Swim is perfect and hilarious and gives me hope for the days where I'll be able to read while Jack does bobs/treadswater/stride jumps into the deep end...

  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, October 13, 2016

A secret morning swim

Tip: If someone, anyone, ever asks you to show up at a pool before the sun rises, when you'll be the only ones in the water, say yes.

Waking up at 4am is never very much fun, but waking up at 4am to drive across the city with one of your swimming besties to see the sun rise over an Olympic pool perched in the sky, and sneaking in stolen lengths in an empty pool, now THAT is fun. It feels like a thousand years ago now, but it was a highlight of the swimmingest summer on record.

I'd always wanted to swim at the Donald Summerville Olympic Pool in The Beaches (known to locals as the Olympic Pool, according to the lifeguard/manager who was up before dawn with us), but trekking to the opposite end of the city is tricky with a kiddo. It did not disappoint – there are three (!!) pools perched in the sky, with a view of the lake, the CN Tower, the rumble of Lakeshore traffic. One pool is a diving tank with a huge diving tower at 5m and 10m (my legs quake just remembering them), a smaller square-ish pool in the middle, then a 50m beauty, made even more beautiful under a rising sky.

Though we are swimmers, not jumpers, we jumped. (And in Rhya's case, jumped and jumped and jumped!)

LZV: I watched Rhya jump and jump, more and more proud of her with each descent. I didn't want to. I really didn't, but if I hadn't, I always would've wondered if I should've tried. So I tried it. And I know now with 100% certainty that I'll never do it again. It was truly terrifying. The water was SO far down and there was WAAAAAY too much time to think in the air. That suspension of everything except my mind trying to figure out how to hit the water, without having any control over my body was one of the most disorienting and unpleasant feelings I've had. I have no idea how divers do what they do. I flailed in the air. Air is nothing like water. I much prefer being amphibious...

After the thwack and sting of the bellyflopped parts of our bodies had worn off, and the sun was big and bright over the beach, we snuck into the Olympic pool and swam 50m lengths, marvelling at how much longer it felt than the 25m (and sometimes 25 yard!) we're used to.

Some Things I'll Never Forget About Our Secret Swim ~ Rhya

On an early morning in July, Lindsay and I took part in a film shoot documenting outdoor pools and swimming in Toronto. A pool date we nicknamed our “Secret Swim.”

Before this dip I’m not sure I’d ever woken before the sun for a swim or had the chance to stand on the deck of an outdoor Olympic sized pool, with only the company of a dear friend by my side.

After our “secret swim,” these are two experiences that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life!
I will also never let go of the memory of the sun rising over the lake, while the horizon swelled up with the promise of warmth, letting loose a million crystals to dance across the smooth surface of our sleepy lengths stretched before us.

And then there was the jumping in from heights I never thought I would fall from (too many times to count!) I’ll never forget to point my toes again; water can be truly unforgiving! Oh and the wedgies were unreal. We also got to witness a professional diver fall gracefully out of a handstand, from the top diving platform and barely make a splash. It was truly magical.

And last but not least there were the lengths Lindsay and I shared at the end our time at the J. Donald D Summerville Olympic Pool. A perfect end to a secret swim.

But if Lindsay and I ever have this chance again, we will not wait for the crew to arrive before we jump in. We will break the rules and dive into the morning and never look back.

  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Guest blog: Coach Dave Ling on long distances, coaching and getting sunburns

I met Dave Ling in the early 00s on the decks of the University of Toronto Pool where he was a guard and I spent all of my spare minutes swimming through undergrad essay conundrums. He swam on the Varsity team and was the first long distance swimmer I'd ever met. He's now the coach of the St. John's Legends Swim Club and a most inspiring swim chum. (He also answered all sorts of my swimming questions during the Olympics!)

Your race was the 1500m. What drew you to long distance swimming?

My best race in the pool was the 1500 and I also swam quite a few Open Water races 10km and 25km marathon stuff.  I swam distance because it became quite apparent in my early teenage years that I didn't have natural "speed" and every time I kept swimming distance events I'd have better results... eventually it just became a pride thing, I loved swimming, I loved racing, the best way for me to be "relevant" in terms of the Canadian swim scene was to swim the distance freestyle events.

I tried to swim for 2h this summer, but got kicked out after an hour and a half and was astounded by how boring it was. How did you not get so bored? Additionally, what's the longest you've ever swum at one time?

I swam some 25km open water races that took the better part of 6 hours... did I get bored? Sure.  But my competitive urges were significantly stronger then the momentary boredom.  I loved the challenge of the distance stuff, I took pride in doing things other folks would not dare to even try.

You used to swim competitively, training for hours every day? Do you miss it? What do you miss? What don't you miss?

I swam for 17 years, loved every year, finished with my final season being my best season.  Training a lot, it was a major part of the lifestyle.

I miss the feeling/the confidence I had in my abilities to do anything in the water.  I miss getting to see my best friends (teammates) every day for 2-4 hours a day.  And most of all I miss the competitive outlet it gave me in my life, even if the person I was most competitive with was myself most days.

I don't miss the constant body ache and the chlorine sweats...they were the worst.

What have you taken from your swimming life into your coaching life?

The primary thing would be the understanding of the process... what goes into a long and fulfilling swimming journey and knowing it's a marathon and not a sprint.  So many families bring their kids to our sport and want immediate results and get incredibly emotionally invested in the early years of their child's development and then the kids end up "burning out" because too much is being asked of them by their parents and their coaches... it's sad and unfair.  As a swimmer, I never felt the sport was ever unfair to me so it's important to me as a coach to do all in my power to be fair (which takes on many forms) to my swimmers and their goals.

What are some of your favouriting swimming/coaching moments?

My favourite swimming moment was probably when I first qualified for Sr. Nationals in the year 2000.  I was not a young superstar, I was 20 years old, I wanted to qualify for Olympic Trials, my coach Linda Kiefer was the best guide and mentor I could have ever hoped for to get me there.  I was at the CIS Championships at the University of Guelph swimming the 1500FR.  There's usually a final lap bell that comes at 1450m of the race but in my race the officials were a little confused and rang the bell at 1350, 1400, and 1500...but not 1450...thankfully my UofT education taught me how to count, I managed the race properly and earned my qualifying cut.

What made the situation even more enjoyable is that I was informed by my teammates that Linda was angry and yelling at the officials while they were messing up the counting of the race and at the end of the race Linda had to apologize for being cross at the meant my swim mattered, it meant she cared, it's symbolic of what makes Linda a great coach to this day.

As a coach, my favourite moments come about 3-4 times a year watching kids go an important breakthrough time after putting in the work to earn that swim. It's the best feeling, it makes the year long grind worth it, and then some.

What's your favourite advice to give swimmers?

I have a favourite diagram I draw for my swimmers about 3 or 4 times a year called 'the Learning Process' and it goes into the 7 different stages that go into achieving goals.

If you're looking for more practical advice for ANY on your swimming from the outsides-in.  That is, become a better kicker and become more away of what your hands are doing at the top of your stroke. If your hands aren't right at the top of the stroke then they will never be right at any point in the stroke and you will just be reinforcing incorrect habits every time you swim.

After training in dance, people often ask me if I now take classes "for fun" but there's no way. It would feel ridiculous to not be able to take classes at the level I was used to. But tons of people do. Do you swim recreationally?

I feel 100% the same way you do about dance.  I occasionally like to get in the water and move around but I have zero interest in "swimming laps" or swimming in a Masters program.

If you're at a cottage, or pool party, what do you do? (I don't really know how to do anything except front crawl and always feel so awkward...!)

Right now I usually sit around and get a sunburn.  I like getting in the water with my sunglasses on, taking a few strokes and fooling myself into thinking the only reason I'm not "swimming" is because I have sunglasses on.  The other dorky swim thing I do is I scull my hands in the water a lot and try to fool myself into thinking I still have good "feel" for the water.

You married a fellow swimmer! Was your wedding held underwater?

If I was in the kind of shape I was when I was a swimmer, I would have been all for that.  

We had an incredible number of swimming friends at our wedding, we held the wedding at Knox Presbyterian (across the street from the UofT pool), and we held the reception at a venue we would not have known if it were not for swimming... so in a way our swim lives were all around our wedding and in a funny way a large part of our love story. We hold our swimming experiences in a fond place in our hearts.

Thanks so much, Dave! You're so inspiring!

Dave Ling swam for 17-years with the COBRA swim club, Brock Niagara Aquatics, and the University of Toronto.  In recent years Dave has taken on a coaching career that saw him serve 8 successful years at the Toronto Swim Club as an assistant and starting this Fall he has taken over as Head Coach of the St. John's Legends in St. John's, Newfoundland.
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Back in

I have never been so thrilled to see these grotty tiles and worn wooden bench as I was this week. It had been 16 (looooooong!) days since my last swim and there were skylights instead of sky, and the water was so warm it was more bathwater than pool water, but it was still amazing. Back and forth and back and forth. It was exactly where I needed to be.

The most incredible part of the swim though was the elderly man who walked onto the pool deck mid-way through the hour. He took slow deliberate steps to the pool deck, limping in a way that suggested he had maybe had a stroke. He slipped into the water, ducked under the lane rope to the fast lane and proceeded to tear up the pool. Full on blazing. He swam circles around all of us. It was incredible.

And then I worked and worked and worked all afternoon, my skin still smelling of chlorine. I biked across the city for a meeting with goggle marks still ringing my eyes and biked home in the early dark, and arrived home to mail (YAY!) and if that wasn't exciting enough, it was a pass to one of my favourite pools from one of my new swimming friends, Lindsay of Masters' Swimming fame! Swimming pals are the best pals. 

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, September 23, 2016

A Swim Hole Enthusiast's Guide to Surviving Winter

 Winter is coming… here are some tips on how you can beat those chilly non-swimming blues…

1. Mourn The End Of Summer
Have a good cry in a pile of beautiful pile of fall leaves. Accept the end of summer, move on and prepare yourself emotionally for the long winter months to come. That means, pull out the comfy pants (Hello #TrackPantsClub), stock the pantry with stew ingredients and hot bevies... mmm cider! And have blanket fort supplies always on hand! Let the sad tears fall and then accept the start of snuggle season!

2. Do Your Research
Start researching and crafting your INDOOR pool strategy now. Star all the local pools in your neighborhood and start collecting their schedules as soon as possible, so you can have them on hand in a bind. If you are visiting family or friends out of town (and still in a winter climate), research the area before you get there! Be prepared, know the schedules before hand so you can plan some out of town swims! An indoor swim is a great way to mix things up. And there are some amazing swimming complexes all over the place!

3. Discover “Slow Swimming”
The winter is a great time to focus on some “slow swimming” aka SPA swimming. A favorite of mine! I’ll be headed to Body Blitz for certain this winter to float around that salt water heaven, smoothie in hand. I’ll also be taking some dips in the tiny cold pools at my other favorite pastime - Sauna-ing. Steamul has an awesome cold dunk pool that you can actually cannon ball into after an insanely hot sauna. And Banya offers a more rustic option… though standing room only (quite shallow). AND spas like the Scandinave have outdoor hot pools that you can relax in during the winter season. It’s a divine experience, except for all the heavily enforced “no talking above a whisper” policies. I, without fail am always shushed at these types of establishments… but the excellent outdoor soak is worth a wee bit of shushing.

4. Go On Vacation!
Obviously this is budget dependent. But if you can swing it, nothing like hitting up an ocean for a week in a far away land. Or you can just do what I did this winter and drool over photos of said oceans on the internet.

5. Create and build a “Swim-spiration Board”
What is a “Swim-spiration” Board? It’s a simple idea, essentially a mood board modified to reflect all things swimming. The idea is to collect anything and everything that makes you happy about swimming and put it together in one place. It could be as simple as a Pinterest board or you could use a cork board. I’ve started one on a big white sheet of paper. To start I’ve been listing places I would love to try swimming next year. Collecting samples of the color blue and making notes on great swimming scenes I see in books and movies. And making notes about swim crafts and badges I may want to achieve over the winter season.

Hopefully this tiny list brings some happiness to all of us swimmers out there who are walking past our favorite outdoor pool, now empty and haunted with summer ghosts, or driving by our favorite bodies of water whose warmth is being stolen away from us by the fall winds.

Winter does not have to be all that bad. And before you know it… summer swim season will melt before us once again, all full of potential and watery adventures.

But for now we hibernate and wait.

Oh and here are a few bonus ideas for the winter:
Try some swimming crafts!
Who is up for a float?
How about a polar bear swim… I’ve thought about it… but not sure I’m ready yet.
Head to Iceland, jump in a dry suit and take a dip between two continents!
  • Rhya
  • Saturday, September 17, 2016

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