Let me start by saying that it was not like the picture above or anything I had anticipated…but it was GREAT!  As of Friday, July 10 at 6am, four city pools – Bob Bahan Aquatic Centre, Canyon Meadows Aquatic Centre, Glenmore Aquatic Centre and Killarney Aquatic Centre – re-opened. In our COVID-19 environment, going for a swim in a city run pool is a bit different than before.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Access to these four city pools is “by appointment only”.  You need to go online (pool links above), check availability, create an account and book yourself in. You get an hour slot – you can swim the entire time or any portion of.
  2. On the day of your appointment, arrive no more than 15 minutes before your booking, answer screening questions at the door, pay your drop in fee, sign some tracing paperwork (optional), take a soapy shower and head to the pool deck.
  3. No personal items can be stored in lockers. It is all brought out on the pool deck and put into baskets. At the Glenmore Pool, the baskets look like this:

4. When your session is over, you have 15 minutes in the locker room before the disinfecting commences. The time slot “turnover” procedure seems to be a very efficient and structured process.

5. You can use the showers although there aren’t any curtains. I didn’t see any rules against using a hair dryer.

Glenmore pool set-up:

Although I actually swam in the pool pictured above, there aren’t lanes like there are in that picture. There is a single lane rope dividing the pool into two. One side is marked slow-med. and the other side med-fast. Each side of the pool is three lanes wide and swimmers are to swim the perimeter of their rectangle. Effectively this is open water swimming in an indoor pool. Surprise!

When you want to pass someone, you pass by swimming down the middle of your rectangle. At the end you touch the wall and then carry on with your perimeter. The lifeguards encourage you to hop out of the pool when you want to rest rather than resting on the wall in the water. Quick, on the spot, equipment changes are permitted. Overall, I didn’t mind this set up and it does seem like a good way to optimize the number of swimmers in the water while maintaining social distancing. However, it was not what I had planned for!

I had imagined that I would have my own lane and would swim as if I had not taken a 17 week hiatus. I had planned a “back to the pool” session for myself and within five minutes of swimming I literally laughed at myself for thinking I would be able to do it!  Just for fun, here is the workout I had planned:

“Fish out of water” feedback:

In reality, I basically stuck with the very first line of this session: the  “JUST SWIM” part.  I could feel every single muscle in my upper body including my lats., triceps, deltoids, pecs. and lower back. I have been doing weights and stretch cord work over the last 4 months, but it is NOT the same as swimming. In addition, an excessive amount of water got trapped in my ears. Had to get out of the water to give my head a good shake to relieve the pressure. I think the workout above is a great one but it will work better in a pool with lanes instead of an  “open water format” like at the Glenmore Pool. I will revisit it in a few weeks. If we are still swimming in rectangles I’ll re-jig it to work for “70m rectangles”.

Back at it tips:

  • Do not put any pressure on yourself during your first few weeks back at the pool. Just enjoy the opportunity to swim. 😊
  • Figure out your pool’s set-up and process details.  If it doesn’t work for you, try another pool.
  • As you get used to swimming again, take it slowly, focus on your breathing and technique.
  • Get creative and have fun with it. I gamified my swim a little bit. When I was pulling, I would pull (swim with pull buoy in) until I caught up to someone. Then I would switch to sculling until we spread out a bit and then go back to pulling. I did this for six rectangles.
  • Another way to mix up the session, is to use a “middle of the pool pass” as a 25m Fartlek pick-up. Easy swimming except when you need to pass in the middle. Once you pass, see how quickly you can get your breathing back in check again.
  • Swimming in a rectangle provides great opportunity to practice a few open water skills. You can practice doing 90° turns around a pretend buoy. When you are ready to make a right angle turn, roll onto your back, take a backstroke stroke or two, flip back onto your stomach and carry on.  You can practice the arm movements on land first. Be sure to wait until you have plenty of room in the pool when first trying this skill. In the water, this 90° turn looks like this:

  First, let your lead arm pass the buoy

   Next, flip on to your back

  Then, take 1 or 2 strokes on your back

  Finally, flip back onto your stomach

  Resume swimming

  • When crossing the “short end” of the pool, if shallow, you can hop off the bottom and practice a dolphin dive.  Just make sure you have enough room as you will cover a lot of ground this way!

Final thoughts:

“Old normal” is gone and “new normal” is constantly changing but pools are slowly re-opening. Go with the flow and simply enjoy swimming now that we can. 😊