We are going soft as a nation … of swimmers.
I remember the time when you’d visit the local swimming pool on a boiling summer’s day. You’d be aching for the plunge in to the crystal, clear water. That first dive was a shock to the system.
Boy, oh boy, how it would wake you up from the lethargy of sitting around in front of a fan spewing hot air.
Fast forward some 20 odd years or so. I’m still sitting around a fan. Time for another swim. I’m a regular (have been for more than 40 years).
Unfortunately, these days I don’t look forward to the plunge. All the pools are heated – even in summer. Last week, when we wilted in Perth’s hottest-ever December Day (44C) the temperature in the pool was 30. Most of the time, my local sets it at 27.
By the time I’ve done four laps I’m starting to sweat. But for the water surrounding me, I could be in a sauna.
I’m all for heated pools in winter. But honestly, why the need for heating in summer? The aim is either to cool off, or (if you’re energetic) not emerge after a training session looking like a prune.
I can recall that the temperature could vary from 20-28 without heating. It sometimes dropped even more in Sydney (where I grew up) when we got a few cloudy days and some rain. But heck, it gave you character. And nothing could have been colder than training under Terry Gathercole at an unheated Victoria Park pool in September-October. Gathercole was a hard task master. We were just skinny rakes, shivering our way through 90 minutes of torture. But he always said: “if you get out now, don’t bother coming back”. Even Bondi Baths, where Harry Nightingale taught me to swim as an eight-year-old, was relatively pleasant.
These days I often hear people say, as they dip their toes in before swimming, how cold the (heated) water is. Fair dinkum, wimps, that’s what.
Yes, yes, I can always swim in the ocean, and I do … a lot. But often it’s filled with stingers. And if you’re training, you need the option of a set distance and a large clock to monitor your interval sets.
There’s another good reason for unheated pools. By turning off the gas, electricity or coal, local councils could do the environment a favour.
Now, of course, if you live somewhere north of Bundaberg or Carnarvon, everything I’ve written is irrelevant. Your pools will always be that tepid temperature, often with a milky tinge.
However, you could always pretend you’re in Rotorua … or maybe even take along a bar of soap.