The Lifeguard Clock (aka: swimming without a watch)

Monday, July 11, 2016



I lose all sense of time when I'm swimming. As soon as I'm front crawling, it could be 5 minutes or 45, I really have no gauge – it's one of the reasons I love it so much. Outside of the pool, I am ruled by clocks and always know exactly what time it is and how long I've been doing whatever it is that I'm doing, but when I'm swimming that all disappears.

I used to have a waterproof watch, but I haven't been able to find it since I moved homes almost two years ago, and most of the time I don't miss it. I guess if I counted my lengths I'd know approximately how long it'd been, but I don't. I can't let my mind wander to all the strange and wonderful places it wanders to when I'm swimming if I'm trying to remember that I'm on length 8, or is it 10?

"Fancy" indoor pools have a racing clock, the red-blue-green-yellow second hand counting down when you have to push off the wall, even if you still haven't caught your breath, but most City of Toronto pools don't have them (or they do, but they broke years ago and are now art installations). Most indoor rec pools usually have a clock somewhere, perched above the pool, often times an hour off because no one re-set it when when Daylight Saving Time started or ended. Then, I count out my 30-minute warm up, 10 minutes of kicking, 5 more minutes of front crawl, 10 minutes of sprinting and 5 minute cool-down.

But outdoor pools rarely have a clock big enough to see from the deck. I would love do it not to matter, to be able to swim until I was tired, but I usually know I've got 45 minutes to an hour to swim.

My trick to make sure I don't entirely lose track of time, is the LZV-patented Lifeguard Clock: using the lifeguards' changeovers to mark the minutes. Guard changes at big pools usually happen every 15 minutes, 20 minutes at smaller pools. I try to remember one feature about a guard near the fast lane – that they're wearing a cowboy hat, or reflective sunglasses, or have a ponytail, or a long-sleeved shirt. When Cowboy hat is replaced with Ray Bans, I know it's been 15 minutes. When Ray Bans is replaced with Side Pony, it's been 30 minutes. It's not a perfect science, and sometimes guards look so similar it's hard to tell if there's been a guard change or not, but it keeps me from getting out of the pool after 10 minutes, or staying in for hours...

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