Lake Huron: A salt-free ocean

It has taken me forty years to discover the absolute joy that is Lake Huron. Forty year before I found Ontario's MOST GLORIOUS SWIMMING LAKE! The greatest of Great Lakes for swimming (though I've never been in Lake Erie or Lake Michigan, so maybe I should hold off on grand pronouncements...)

My kiddo has a kindergarten pal whose family bought a bunch of cabins up near Sauble Beach. They had a flash sale, and the thought of a beach+lake swimming was a dream come true, and so we packed up piles of towels and bathing suits and headed north west for a last minute Covid-cation!

I'm used to the Muskoka/Haliburton drive – city, city, highway, smaller highway, trees and lakes, and more trees and lakes until you come to your trees and lakes. But this drive was all small towns and farms and more small towns and more farms and then turquoise blue shining at the end of the road. It felt like a mirage! But there it was, turquoise and stunning.

There were four (!) sandbars, and clear, turquoise blue water and sand for as far as I could swim. No murky bottoms. No getting tangled in seaweed. No fear of fish swimming underneath you. It felt like ocean swimming, except without the salt or the tides. It was truly glorious. I was shocked, given the size of Lake Huron how warm it was, but it wasn't even that cold!

My kids are 5 and 3, and we'd never done a beach vacation before, but it was PERFECT. They built sandcastles and "rivers" and played with their toy dinos in the sand for hours. The water was shallow and perfect for kid swimming. It was blazing hot, and I was grateful for the little sunshade tent we borrowed. My youngest had s'mores for the first time, and a writing pal and her fella had the cabin next to us, so we managed some post-kid-bedtime socially distanced hangs.

I went on some glorious swims straight out from the beach, and a few parallel to the beach, depending on the waves and the wind. The sunsets were absolutely extraordinary, and one evening, I hopped in the lake and swam along the golden shimmering path until the sun had disappeared. They were the most glorious swims I've had...well, ever, actually. Truly remarkable.

I also got to wear my stunning Minnows Bathers suit – my 40th birthday present to myself!

Lake Huron! Sauble Beach! Truly a revelation!! This might have to become an annual tradition!

(Note: this isn't sponsored at all, and Minnow bathers are the best suits, and Westview Beach Villas is a most perfect place for a rustic beach-y, swim-y retreat!)
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Pandemic Swim Diaries: A swim tether

I have a new best friend. She always shows up for 6am swim club, makes sure I get a solid swim in, and always has my back. May I introduce, my beloved swim tether.

(This is in no way sponsored, ps. I just really really love my swim tether!)

A friend has a backyard pool, a kidney bean-shaped turquoise dream, that has truly been my saving grace during this pandemic. (I'd love to swim at one of Toronto's outdoor pools, but the timing+work+childcare (ahem, lack thereof) has so far made it impossible so far). BUT, at 6am, my pal's pool is empty and after seeing Catherine McKenna (currently the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities) swimming in her tiny above ground pool on Twitter, I knew a swim tether was my key to swimming joy.

I ordered the travel pack and it is so easy – I just loop the webbing around a fence post, clip the waist band around my waist and...swim! It's like I'm on a treadmill. But swimming. It was disorienting at first – dizzying to not see the bottom of the pool move, but I've gotten used to it and my hour-long swims are saving both my physical and mental health.

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, July 20, 2020

COVID + swimming pools in Toronto: A crowd-sourced guide

The pools are OPEN! I repeat THE POOLS ARE OPEN (okay, some of them!). I really wasn't sure if they would be this summer given the PANDEMIC and all, but they are open and that is wonderful for so many reasons.

BUT the City of Toronto site doesn't have a lot of information about HOW each pool works (and yes, each pool seems to have different processes and procedures). I believe that this is an equity issue and have flagged it a number of times with the city, but nothing seems to be changing (a lot of pools still say "Closed due to COVID"), but instead of raging about it, I figured we could work together like we did last year and make a crowd-sourced user guide to Toronto pools so that more people are able to access this amazing resource.

PLEASE send along info as you find it over Twitter: @lindsayzv or at IG: @swimmingholeswehaveknown_ And PLEASE pass this along! Info about timing/procedures, capacity are all helpful.

First things first: ALL OUTDOOR POOLS ARE FREE. And most are doing a 45-minute swim/15-minute clean schedule. Most pools are doing a 11-11:45am length swim and a 12-8pm leisure swim, with some exceptions. Also, NO toys/noodles/flutterboards allowed. Lifejackets/PFDs are permitted (but I think have to be brought in).

Also, this information is crowd-sourced and is subject to change. I recommend calling the specific pool if you have any questions. Also, it seems from people who have been swimming that the numbers of people allowed in varies pool-to-pool and day-to-day. I'm not sure why. Also, sign ins have been taking a while, so I'd suggest showing up in your suit (and maybe packing a book) if you can!

A list of all of Toronto's outdoor pools (addresses and phone numbers): HERE!

Notes from the City: All visitors to outdoor pools will be asked to sign-in with their first name and an email or phone number to facilitate Toronto Public Health contact tracing, should it be required. Outdoor pools will operate from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, 11 a.m. – 12 noon lane swim, 12 – 8 p.m. leisure swim. More info here!

Update: Please wear a mask to all facilities, or you might not be admitted.

Alex Duff Pool (at Christie Pits):
- universal change room
- marked and distanced queue spot for each person/family to stand in (or put your bag in and go find some shade!)
- if you don't get in, you have to wait until the next "intake"
- staff in PPE as COVID screening questions, take contact info and spritz hands
- bring belongings onto deck (no lockers!)
- leisure swim capacity: 40 (approx 20 people in the large pool, 10 in shade pool, 10 in deep pool)
- leisure swim: every hour (on the hour) from 12-8pm
- slide and diving board closed
- at the end of 45 minutes, whistle in blown and everyone leave through emergency exit
- NOTE: NO length swim

Blantyre Pool
- leisure swim capacity: 18
- no washrooms
- enter through change rooms

Donald D. Summerville Olympic Pool
- really not sure if it's open or not this year. The website says it's close for deck repairs, but it also has swim hours available. Have not been able to reach anyone via phone.
- rumour has it it *might* open July 6th

Fairbank Memorial Pool
- length swim capacity: 9 (width swim)
- leisure swim capacity: 65
- length swim: 11-11:45am
- leisure swim: 12:15-1, 1:30-2:15, 2:45-3:30, 4-4:45, 5:15-6, 6:30-7:30
- there are two pools - one wading pool and a standard pool divided into three sections (shallow/medium/deep)
- main entrance not in use
- big gate along side for entrance and exits
- universal change room and washroom available

Glen Long Pool:
- length swim: 11-11:45am
- leisure swim: every hour (on the hour) from 12-8pm

Giovanni Caboto:
- universal change rooms
- 50m
- length swim capacity: 7
- leisure swim capacity: 100
- length swim: 11am-12pm, two 30-minute blocks: 7 swimmers per half hour block
- leisure entry times: 12, 1:30, 3, 4:30, 6, 7:30-8pm
- leisure swim: broken into blocks of time - 15 minute shower/entry time for patrons, 45-minute swim time, then they clear the pool and close for 30 minutes for cleaning.

Greenwood Park Pool:
- wear your suit
- leisure swim: every hour (on the hour) from 12-8pm
- leisure swim capacity: 75
- when they close every 45 minutes, everyone leaves and lines back up (with social distancing) to go back in.
- no info yet re: length swim1

High Park Pool:
- no universal change room
- go through regular entrance
- no showers
- length swim capacity: 7
- leisure swim capacity: 100
- length swim: 11-11:45am / 7:30-8pm
- leisure swim: 12-12:45pm / 1:30-2:15pm / 3-3:45pm / 4:30-5:15 / 6-6:45
- note: the water is often *very* cold as the pool's not heated!

Lambton Kingsway Park Pool:
- enter through the emergency fence
- arrive ready to swim and limit time in change rooms (gendered, with a family change room)
- length swim capacity: 6 (Note: people start lining up for 11am length swim at 10am)
- leisure swim capacity: 25
- length swim split into two 30-minute blocks: 11-11:30 and 11:30-12
- leisure swim: every hour (on the hour) from 12-8pm
- no spectators on deck
- no flutterboards or toys permitted
- can bring lifejacket if needed

Monarch Park Pool
- length swim: 11am-12pm, two 30-minute blocks
- length swim capacity: 7
- leisure swim capacity: 75
- leisure swim: every hour (on the hour) from 12-8pm
- enter through the change rooms
- exit through emergency gate if changing isn't required.
- slide is closed
- change room is limited to 6 groups at a time (they recommend swimmers come in their suits)

Ourland Pool
- wear your suit
- length swim capacity: 6
- leisure swim: 25
- length swim: 11am-12pm (no word if it is split into two)
- leisure swim: every hour (on the hour) from 12-8pm
- NOTE: pool closes at 4pm on Sundays

Parklawn Pool:
- length swim capacity: 6
- leisure swim capacity: 25
- lane swim timing: 2 half hour slots: 11-11:30 / 11:30-12
- leisure swim: every hour (on the hour) from 12-8pm
- come in bathing suit, no change rooms
- line up at exit gate
- exit at other exit on the far side of the pool (near the bottom of the hill)

Riverdale Park East Pool:
- length swim capacity: 6
- leisure swim capacity: 75
- length swim timing: 2 half hour slots: 11-11:30 / 11:30-12
*NOTE: rumour has it, people start lining up at 8am for length swim
- leisure swim: every hour (on the hour) from 12-8pm

Smythe Park Pool:
- markings spray painted for physical distancing in line up (though maybe not a full 6' according to one swimming correspondent)
- lane swim capacity: 6
- leisure swim capacity: 100
- lane swim timing: 2 half hour slots: 11-11:30 / 11:30-12 and 7:15-8pm
- leisure swim timing: 12-12:45pm / 1:30-2:15pm / 3-3:45pm / 4:30-5:15 / 6-6:45
- Note: This 50m pool is AMAZING, but also notorious for having technical issue and the phone number never seems to work: 416-394-2741

Sunnyside Pool:
- lane swim: as of July 6: 10:45-11:15am / 11:15-11:45 / 7:15-7:45pm / 7:45-8:15pm
- leisure swim: 12-7pm
- length swim capacity: 40
- leisure swim capacity: 120
- every other washroom stall is open, every other sink is open, no showers
- enter through (gendered) change rooms

Wedgewood Pool
- lane swim times: 11-12, (but unconfirmed if it's split into two)
- leisure swim: every hour (on the hour) from 12-8pm
- lane swim capacity: 8
- leisure swim capacity: 25
- no change rooms

Westmount Park Pool
- lane swim times: unconfirmed
- leisure swim: every hour (on the hour) from 12-8pm
- lane swim capacity: 6
- leisure swim capacity: 24
- one universal change room
- bathrooms: 2/3 are available, with one toilet stall closed between the two
- note: their answering machine provides outdated information

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, June 29, 2020

Pandemic Swim Diaries: My first swim in 79 days

It has been 79 days since my last swim—easily the longest I've ever gone for without a swim. I am following the guidelines of our Chief Medical Officers and socially distancing—it is important, so important, perhaps the most important thing I can do. And (not but), I miss swimming. I miss a whole bunch of things—being able to work without getting snacks/finding lost stuffies for small children, seeing friends, hugging people, drinking a coffee in a coffee shop window, the ease of Before Times, but what I miss most is swimming.

I miss the headspace it affords me, the non-thinking thinking that happens over the course of lap after lap. I miss the exhaustion in my body. I miss the weightlessness of the water. I miss smell of chlorine on my skin. I miss the absence of pain in my back. I miss the meditation of it all. I've missed it so much I haven't even been able to think about it. I buried my suit, my goggles, my cap at the very back of my closet. I wouldn't let myself entertain the possibility of pools opening up for the summer. I could barely even read the two swimming picture books my kids love so much.

Then late last night, I got a text from a friend with a backyard pool saying her pool was open, and that she'd disinfect the key and hide for me if I wanted to come by for a swim. Buoyed by the research about COVID not being spread through swimming pools, I set my alarm for 5:45 and drove west to the suburbs. Armed with my bottle of 70% alcohol spray, with my bathing suit under my track pants, I tiptoed into her backyard, sprayed and unlocked the gate around the pool AND WENT FOR MY FIRST SWIM IN 79 DAYS!

Eight strokes to the wall and eight strokes back, over and over and over and over. I floated on my back in the centre of the pool and watched the sun creep over the neighbour's hedge. I kicked, I splashed, I treaded water. I pushed hard off the wall and glided to the other side. A cardinal perched on the tree above the water for my entire swim, my little red lifeguard.

Usually when I swim, my mind turns things over and sorts out writing dilemmas, and processes things I didn't even know needed processing, but all I did for the entire 45 minutes was think I LOVE THIS I'M SO HAPPY I LOVE THIS I'M SO HAPPY I LOVE THIS I'M SO HAPPY on loop.

It was a positively glorious morning. The best I've had in, well, probably 79 days. What an extraordinary gift.

  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, May 27, 2020

I am NOT a cold water swimmer

I am not a cold water swimmer. I have deep admiration for those who are. I am so inspired by Jessica J. Lee whose frigid dips are memorialized in her swim memoir (swimoir??) Turning, and am astounded every single day when I log onto Instagram and see my Team Mermaid pals swimming in 2 degree lidos. But cold water swimming I am not.

And so, imagine my dismay, when I landed into my favourite near-annual weekend retreat with plans to finish the novel I've been writing, interspersed with swims in the pool a few floors up, only to jump into the shallow end only to realize the heater was broken.

I tried to channel my inner mermaid, but alas, I could not and I only it eight lengths before retreating to the sauna.

It was disappointing to say the least, but there was a glorious blizzard outside and I ended up wandering in the snow instead, which was a pretty lovely alternative.

P.S.:This was my first glorious swim-retreat. So! Much! Fun!

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, February 7, 2020

Dreaming of summer swims

It has been a minute, well 245,100 minutes actually, but my computer was so old I couldn't upload photos, and though I was swimming up a storm, all my words were funnelled into novel writing, and kids' book writing and then the fall happened and transitioning Kid #1 to kindergarten was much more exhausting than I anticipated...Excuses, excuses. I have been writing blog posts in my head every time I swim and now that I've got a fancy new computer, it's time to write them onto a computer.

I don't know if it's the grey skies and the slushy puddles, but I've been dreaming of  last summer's exceptional swims – three of them primarily: a road trip swim date with my oldest kid at this lovely swimming hole, a dip off Hanlan's Point in August with my tow float from my UK mermaid pals...

...and our first tear-free family lake swim even later in August. I was worried the water would be cold as the morning's clocked in at a chilly 8 degrees, but the water was so warm. There was a mama bear spotting at the point I usually swam to, so I switched up my route and stayed closer to the cottage after realizing that swimming bear encounters are my ultimate fear.

Over the Christmas holidays, my not-always-into-swimming kid declared he wanted to go swimming, so of COURSE I dropped everything, dug out our suits and flew up to the pool for a morning family dip. The family swim times don't always jive with kid naps, but we found a morning slot and had so much fun! On our winter fun list is more family swims!

And with this renewed collective love of swimming, I started plotting summer swims. We're renting a new cottage this summer (on THIS lake, that I grew up swimming in!), and I've already put our Island swim/picnic adventure into the calendar.

To summer swimming, even if it is still February!

  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Roadtripping: Shade's Mills (aka the summer's best swimming hole thus far...)

I should really be packing. We're off to swim in a lake (two lakes, actually!) in a bit, but I went for a swim this morning in between the rain and the epic thunderstorm and my suit is drying, so I'm telling myself I can't possibly pack anything else right now...

But I must share the best little swimming hole before I go...

On the day before my oldest kid ended daycare, I drove west to meet up with one of my dearest pals for our *second* annual swimming road trip day (last year, we went here!). We started at Pinehurst Lake for a swim and a picnic and it was lovely. The beach isn't huge, and cordoned off swimming area wasn't too big, but we ducked under the rope and swam and treaded water and chatted. Then I swam as much of the lake as I could (it's very reedy by the edges!) and we picnicked and it was tremendously fun.

But we were two moms sans kids, and didn't want to stop at just one swimming hole, so we ducked over to Shade's Mills Lake for dip #2.

The beach was big and the lake was shallow, with a lovely sandy bottom. Across the lake was a bunch of hydro towers, but I liked to think of them as extra large lifeguard towers). We ducked under the rope and treaded water, trying to avoid the weeds. (Oooh, also we didn't, but you can also rent canoes there!)

And so, when I had my newly brave swimmer out of daycare, with a whole day in front of us, I decided that even though it's near Cambridge, just under an hour's drive from Toronto, Shade's Mills was the perfect lake for a mid-August swim.

It was perfect – the beach was big, the sun was hot, the lake was not (but also not too cold) and it was shallow enough for my 4.5-year-old to get really comfortable in the water. We swam, and picnicked, and swam again, then read and wrote letters, then swam some more and built sandcastle with our lunch containers and it was a most perfect day.

  • Lindsay
  • Sunday, August 18, 2019

Mid-July glory

It's mid-July, which means the end of July is fast-approaching, which means August is nigh and I'm trying not to panic about ALL THE SWIMMING I WANT TO HAPPEN! There are some grand swims on the horizon—a swimming hole date with one of my best ladies (sans kids!), a trip to Toronto Island, swimming lessons for my oldest timed so I can swim while he does, a trip to my favourite Haliburton lake...but as I sit here with my hair dripping with chlorinated water, I'm pretty excited about the last few weeks.

I woke up at 5am for my first training swim in 23 years (!). It was a beautiful morning—Sunnyside pool was still and glorious, the sun just rising over the Gardiner Expressway. My hope was that the triathlon team I was swimming with was going to swim the length of Sunnyside, but alas, we did widths. It was fun to swim with others—I so rarely do! And it was a bit of a confidence boost to note that I'm a stronger swimmer than I'd previously given myself credit for. If it was lengths, I'd be all for 5am starts, but I'll stick to sleeping in to 6:30 and doing my widths whenever I can rustle up childcare.

One of my first dips was in my newly beloved Smythe Park Pool—down a windy, tree-lined path to its 50m glory, and waiting for me in the parking lot was a snapping turtle! And then I had the glorious 50m to myself for a long stretch and it was magic. I've been back a few times and it's such a lovely, quiet spot.

I also remembered that the 50m Giovanni Caboto pool has an 8:30-9:15am swim (strange time, I know!) on Mondays and Wednesdays so I biked over on a daycare day and went for a glorious swim. I've heard it gets a lot more full in the evenings, so if there's anyway you can swing it, I highly recommend it!

I also just wrapped up a poolsitting gig (and the house attached to it!). There were a lot of cannon balls and star jumps and I even hosted my very first pool party (and then another because it was so much fun the first time 'round!)  My youngest is a water baby through and through and would wail every time it was time to take her suit off (I feel you, kid!), but the best part about it was that my not-particularly-exuberant-around-water kid FELL IN LOVE with it. He started swimming (in a puddle jumper) on his own, and was just bursting with joy. It was the greatest.

And one of the very best things about this summer has been everyone's responses to our crowd-sourced user guide to Toronto pools! I've gotten so many notes from SO many people, some I know and many I don't, with tips and intell about pools, and notes about how they're trying out pools for the first time, or have been inspired to gor for a dip. It's all so very inspiring. Holler if you have questions about a pool, or if you have any info about one not on the list yet!! (List is here. I just updated it today!!)

Oh, and we started an Instagram account! All turquoise blue and beautiful. Come find us there!

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, July 15, 2019

A love letter to Sunnyside Pool (on the radio)

It's no secret that swimming in the summer is my very favourite thing to do (followed closely by picnicking, then a tie between eating ice cream and eating BLTs...), so when Metro Morning called and asked if I'd be the first guest in their Enthusiast series, I jumped at the chance.

The outdoor pools in Toronto are free (FREE!!!!), and they are the most incredible public spaces. Of course I think the best pool in the city is probably the one closest to you, but I will admit I am partial to this one...

You can listen to be wax poetic with Matt Galloway about why I love swimming here!

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, July 12, 2019

Swimming pools in Toronto: A crowd-sourced guide

Summer swimming in Toronto pools is...well, the greatest. They're free (FREE! How lucky are we?!) and there is really nothing better than floating in the middle of the deep end on one of Toronto's scorchers. BUT, each pool has its quirks—at some, you need a quarter for the lockers, at others, a lock. At some, you can bring bags out on the deck, at others, it's a no-go... (The only constant? Always bring flip-flops...!)

The City site has all the hours/different kinds of swims available, but not the small details that make trying out a new pool easy. And so, let's make a list together! Send me your pool insider notes over Twitter: @lindsayzv or at our fancy new IG: @swimmingholeswehaveknown_

If you head to a Toronto pool this summer, let us all know:
- are there universal change rooms? Family change rooms?
- are bags allowed on deck?
- is it accessible?
- what's the locker situation like? Locks? Quarters?
- nearest transit stop? Is there parking?
- is there an area for strollers?
- anything else? Diving boards? A permanent-length lane? Lane ropes during length swim? A good view from the deep end? Sloped entry in the shallow end?

A list of all of Toronto's outdoor pools (addresses and hours): HERE!

Alex Duff Pool (at Christie Pits):
- universal change room
- bring a quarter for the lockers
- stroller parking on deck
- permanent lane for length swim (though it's narrow)
- multiple pools: splash pad pool for kiddos (not always open), shallow pool, regular pool with gradual entry, diving board, water slide!

Alexandra Park Pool
NOTE: under repair for the summer of 2019

Blantyre Pool

- no lockers
- no family washrooms
- very dirty bathrooms
- bags allowed on deck
- strollers allowed on deck
- lots of street parking
- on the #12 TTC bus line
- next to a park

Donald D. Summerville Olympic Pool
- gendered change rooms
- quarters for lockers
- open and curtained showers and changing area
- can take bags on deck
- stairs or elevator from change rooms to pool
- roped off lanes in 50m lane pool
- 25m leisure pool

Giovanni Caboto:
- universal change rooms
- small lockers that require bring-your-own locks
- stroller parking in hallway near entrance
- lane ropes during length swim (usually)
- bags allowed on decks
- ample deck space
- 50m!
- water slide

Greenwood Park Pool:
- lockers (need quarters!)
- can bring bags on deck
- accessible, gendered change rooms
- lane ropes during length swim
- gets pretty full of debris by evening

High Park Pool:
- no universal change room
- quarter for the lockers
- no bags on deck (though this isn't really enforced)
- separate kids' area with a splash pad
- close-ish from High Park subway Station. Parking in High Park (though it's usually full on the weekends)
- water slide!
- sloped entry in the shallow end
- distinct shallow end and deep end
- lane ropes during length swim
- nearby wading pool and splash pad
- note: the water is often *very* cold as the pool's not heated!

Lambton Kingsway Park Pool:
- gendered change rooms
- family change room
- parking available
- near tennis courts and baseball diamonds
- bike parking right outside pool
- bags allowed on deck
- no lockers
- lots of deck space
- entrance ramp
- lane ropes during lane swim (and gets busy after 5pm!)

Monarch Park Pool
- slide, diving board
- strollers/bags allowed on deck
- Note at the end of June 2019: "Due to mechanical issues Monarch Park Outdoor pool will not open as scheduled. Staff are working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. Opening date is to be determined."

North Toronto Memorial Pool

- space to store strollers
- a large amount of bike racks outside
- bags/items can be kept on deck
- sloped entry into the shallow end

Parklawn Pool:
- no lockers, but you can bring bags on deck
- heaps of parking and park nearby
- "family" change room is really far away from the pool and I think you still have to walk through one of the gendered change rooms (unless this has been updated)
- no lane ropes during length swim.

Rotary Peace Park Pool:
- gendered and family change rooms
- 25-cent lockers
- bags allowed on deck
- landscaped fencing and vines around the deck

Riverdale Park East Pool:
- gendered changerooms and a family changeroom
- lockers take quarters
- bags allowed on deck
- *cold* showers!
- the slide is currently closed (as of the end of June)
- Muskoka chairs available on deck
- strollers and pop-up beach tents allowed on deck

Smythe Park Pool:
*it's been closed a lot this summer, so call in advance if you can*
- no universal change rooms (though you can walk straight onto the deck if you're already changed)
- a small kids pool AND a 50m pool
- no bags on deck and no lockers BUT there's an attendant and a place to store your things (or you can just leave your bag by a fence near the pool, inside the facility
- there's also a splashpad nearby
- no lanes during length swim

Sunnyside Pool:
- very strict about the no bags on deck! (You can bring stuff on deck, just no bags!)
- bring a quarter (and a back up!) for the lockers
- permanent width swim (with lane ropes)
- no universal/family change room
- small spot for strollers in the hall on the way to the shower
- very strict about no newspapers on deck
- lots of deck room
- baby car seats and bassinets allowed on deck

West Mall Pool:
- recently renovated
- gendered and universal change rooms
- no lockers
- bags allowed on deck
- outdoor showers
- accessible
- abundant muskoka chairs!

  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, June 27, 2019

The first swim of 2019!!!

I woke up on Saturday morning, didn't hear any kids yelling for me and rolled over to go back to sleep, but then remembered IT WAS CHRISTMAS MORNING - a.k.a. opening day for Sunnyside Pool, and I bolted out of bed in a flash.

The first day of outdoor swimming in Toronto is truly my favourite day of the year. It was overcast, and chilly, but nothing can be worse than opening day two years ago (looking at you, nursing baby/thunderstorm/pool fouling...ahem!) and so, I piled swim stuff into my bike basket, remembered a quarter for the locker (and an extra, in case) and headed south to that turquoise I've been dreaming about for the last 10 months.

I was third in line, and when the doors opened exactly at 10am rushed to get dressed. There were no lane ropes in when I arrived (though they ended up putting them in mid-swim) and I was the third person in that huge, glorious pool. The air was crazy cold, the wind vicious, but the water was warm and steam blew off the surface. Cold water swimming I am NOT, so long as I was underwater, it was dreamy.

There were 12 of us in that huge pool. Twelve of us! And until the lane ropes were in, I swam lengths of that enormous pool, and then widths until I was brave enough to hop out and run to the change room.

I was smart enough to pack heaps of layers for the bike ride home—leggings, track pants, wool socks, then three layers on top, including a hood for under my bike helmet. It seemed like overkill, but the air was so brisk, I was grateful for the layers, and even wished I had mitts on the bike ride through High Park.

Here's to hoping the sun makes an appearance and not all summer swims end with winter wear. I am crossing my fingers.

PS: All the pools open soon, but Sunnyside and a bunch of other big pools in the city will be open in the evenings all week, and again next weekend. Pack your trackers and go for a dip!!

PPS: Last year's first Sunnyside swim. And 2017's. And 2016's!

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, June 17, 2019

Swimming badge: The SUPERHERO SPLASH

I have to admit something: I hate taking my kid to swimming lessons. I want to love it. I want to feel inspired and excited by the process, and all the potential, but truth be told, I despise the whole thing. I don't have to go in with my oldest anymore, which is a relief (also an impossibility with another (younger) kid in the mix), and I've managed to read a few pages of a book every now and then. Or school through Instagram, or send a few long-overdue emails, but mostly, I just sit on the humid bench hating everything. (Mostly, I just want to trade places. He can sit on the deck, and I can swim. Wouldn't that be amazing? Half the pool for lessons, half for the parents to go for a dip themselves?)

My oldest is not (yet) a fan of the water. It's definitely gotten better. Tuesdays last fall would start at 7am with swim-dread and it would build and build until the 5:30 time slot and it would make the day unbearable. So far, that's subsided, which is a huge relief.

The thing is, I remember HATING swimming lessons. I loved swimming, I loved the water. At my grandparent's cottage, I'd be in the lake minutes after breakfast and would stay in until it was time to roast marshmallows at night, but I HATED swimming lessons back in the city. I'd always fail. I could never tread water. The other side of the pool was always so impossibly far away. Instructors were either too harsh or too chipper and no matter what I always wanted to impress them and always disappointed them.

It's such an intense situation—a tiny window, one-on-one, once a week, charged with expectations. It's such a lose-lose situation, really.

So I get it. Jack, I totally get it. But, as a wise dad friend of mine says, there are two things that are non-negotiable: swimming lessons and school. And so, we eat "bravery unicorns" on the way there, and celebrate with hotdogs afterwards (Side note: I distinctly remember getting McDLTs after my lessons at Norseman Pool!)

Mid-way through the term, my brilliant fella realized that "dunks" were the biggest point of fear, so he re-branded them, "SUPERHERO SPLASHES" and I can't even tell you what a difference that made. It was incredible. Thank god for marketing backgrounds...

Jack finished up last week and got a mama-made badge celebrating his superhero splashes, and my very brave, still-very-scared-of-the-water kiddo tried every week. Really, what more can you ask for?

AND my fella made him the most incredible book—photos of superheroes swimming, alongside photos of Jack in the pool. He just about burst when he saw himself next to a photo of Spidey and it's now fully in the bedtime reading rotation. I'm hoping this softens his memory of the pool, reshapes them even, so that instead of the fear, he remembers his bravery, his courage and the rush of pride in his accomplishments.

Here's to hoping. And to a summer of swimming joy...(it'll be warm enough one of these days, right?!) My goal is to make this summer all about having fun in the water. I want it all to feel lighter, and more playful. I want the pressure to be off. I'm so hoping we can find that, my kiddo and me.

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, June 3, 2019

700 swims later...

I pulled my suit on the other morning at the pool, only to find the top band had entirely unattached from the rest of the suit. The stitching had totally disintegrated. I was so frustrated—this suit was pretty much brand new, I fumed.

Except, then I realized it wasn't. It wasn't brand-new at all. I got it right after my son was born, which makes it over 4 years old now. My pregnancy had stretched out my former suit so badly, all the seams had ripped open (ALLLL of the seams, ahem) and this bathing suit was my post-pregnancy treat to myself. Except getting it meant:
a) going to a mall
b) going to a mall with a baby
c) trying on bathing suits a few weeks post-partum (in a mall, with a baby)

So, not awesome. I remember grabbing a handful of Speedos (my suit of choice...not sponsored, though I'll take a bathing suit sponsorship any day! Holy smokes, they're pricey) in a handful of sizes because post-partum body and the sizing on my last suit had been bleached right off of the tag. It was March, or maybe early April, so the selection was terrible and I bought the first suit I managed to wriggle into. It wasn't pretty. It was blue and green in some strange zig-zaggy pattern, but it was a flattering cut that wouldn't slip off my shoulders, or ride up my butt.

And then I wore this not-so-pretty-but-very-servicable suit 3-4 times a week (at minimum!) for four years (minus the few months I wore my patched up old suit when I was pregnant the second time). That's over 700 swims. And so, I forgave the stitching that had disintegrated and thanked this workhorse of a suit for its years (!) of service.

(A friend has a 45 Wears project on Instagram, a project that promotes wearing clothes longer and celebrating clothes that last. I think I should submit this suit - it deserves a mention 15 times over!)

And so, I'm back to bathing suit shopping, which is still dreadful. Is a plain, solid colour suit so much to ask for? Yes. Yes it is, apparently. I have two issues (three if you count the awful change room lighting): 1). people swim-swim year-round. I get that fancy bikinis are more of a summer thing, but racing/swim-swimming suits aren't just a summer thing, and yet no stores carry them "out of season" and 2). WHAT IS UP WITH ALL THE SWIM-SWIMMING (as opposed to lounging) SUITS HAVING BOOB PADDING? Are people really so horrified by the potential of the outline of a nipple? The last thing I want is a pair of wet sponges dragging me down. Bah.

And so, I'm going to pull out my sewing machine and zip-zag stitch the top of my suit back together until I can find a workhorse for the next 700 swims.

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, May 10, 2019

A weekend of floating

Every minute of my days (and evenings) is accounted for—the overwhelming juggle of writing, swimming, taking care of my children, laundry, work-work, Love Lettering Project work, etc. etc. Every tiny window is spoken for, filled up. It’s why I love swimming. When I’m swimming, swimming is the only thing I can do. No getting distracted by an email, or a kid who wants socks on her hands, or a to-do list that has grown onto two pages. It is a 45-minute window painstakingly carved out in a day. My window. I love that window.

But one weekend earlier this year, I was gifted a swim retreat weekend. A whole weekend to just swim. And sleep. And write. And read. And swim some more.

I’d had one before – a swim weekend – a couple years ago when I was 4-ish months pregnant (maybe 5?). Back then I was so nauseous I could barely stand up without the world spinning. (I kept waiting for the nausea to ebb, but there it was, my constant, unwelcome companion for 7 straight months). The only time I wasn’t nauseous was when I was swimming, but I rarely made it to the 12-1pm lane swim window. I was usually dry heaving in front of the fridge, trying to figure out what I could eat without vomiting, or napping literally anywhere thanks to the anti-nausea pills that induced a Benadryl-like coma. That swim weekend, where I could sleep and swim and didn’t have to do anything but, was so glorious, even with the ever-present nausea.

BUT this time around, I was not pregnant or nauseous. I also swim regularly at a nearby pool that is open from 5am-11pm and usually have a lane it to myself. Even with these overall day-to-day life improvements,  my weekend away in my “swimming hotel” was still totally magical.

It was strange and wonderful not to have a single obligation for 36 hours. No dinner plans. No bruch plans. Literally nothing. I was floating through this huge expanse of time, swimming, writing, reading, sleeping, buying new lipstick (RED!), walking, happy hour-ing, sauna-ing, Netflix-ing, knitting. I didn’t even know how long I did things for. I did them until I didn’t. Time didn’t matter. There were no windows to fill, I just floated.

I only swam three times. Once a day. It didn’t have the manic must-swim-all-the-time energy of the last swim retreat I had, but I got to float for 36 hours straight and it was positively glorious.
And I wasn’t nauseous.

  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, March 13, 2019

On blogging and swimming and watching the moon set

I think about writing about swimming all the time. Every time I swim, I do length after length, telling stories and crafting sentences, but then in the time it takes to run to the shower, shower, dry off, moisturize (winter and chlorine are a punishing combination), get dressed and get home, the words have evaporated, as has the impulse to write anything down. And then I tell myself it doesn’t matter anyways, that my swims these days are routine and ordinary. It’s not like the summer where I find new, exciting places to dip. It’s the same pool, at the same times every week with the same losing-its-structural-integrity bathing suit.

But I read Kerry’s “back to the blog movement” post, the imperative of blogging, of writing in that meandering way that maybe leads to answers, or maybe to questions, or maybe nothing at all:

“…write your way toward any answers you’re seeking. So a random post about a missing hat, or another about how I was looking for a babysitter. These were posts I wrote because it felt good to be writing and employing the first-person perspective again, though I wasn’t sure what they all added up to. In some ways, it felt like I was learning to be a blogger all over, learning to be uncomfortable. Questioning what this space was for, what stories I was telling, and what my voice was. So what’s the point? There usually wasn’t one.”

And then I read the thoughtful response pieces by Julia and Melanie and decided mid-swim this morning that it didn’t matter that my swims were routine and predictable. Writing and swimming are my two very favourite things and being able to write about swimming, (and think about writing while swimming) is my happy place.

And then I realized that my ordinary, routine, predictable swims are also exceptional and revelatory. Two weeks ago, I was kicking with a flutter board and  three-quarters of the way to the deep end (that actually isn’t deep at all), I had a flash of my next novel project. The character, the plot, all of it arrived in a fully formed package. Just like that. I’m in the final stages of my novel about Amelia Earhart and was mostly convinced that I’d never had another novel in me again, but as soon as I was back in the water, letting my mind do that wandering thing I love so very much, this novel idea arrived. It’s only been two weeks, but I am positively smitten and spend every waking minute jotting down notes and writing scenes and figuring out who all these characters are…

And then, just this morning, I stepped out of the house in the -35 chill with a huge almost-full moon hanging low over the houses on the other side of the street. And then I watched this moon from the middle lane of the pool, hanging huge and round behind a hydro tower as the sky turned a deep purple, then a lighter purple, and finally a glowing mauve. I haven’t watched the moon set, especially while swimming in well, ever.

And so, blogging and swimming and swimming and blogging…here we are, with moons and new characters and the same routine over and over again.
  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, January 22, 2019

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