So I just accomplished one thing I wanted to do while here: I swam laps in the North Sydney Olympic Swimming Pool. I was so excited when I discovered that the closest swimming pool to our apartment was actually Sydney’s most iconic pool:
I’ll be honest: initially (at home) I thought to myself, “Wow! This pool is only a 5 minute walk from my house! I haven’t been able to swim laps in over a year because it just takes too long to get there and come home. But I can easily get here! I’ll do this during Naomi’s nap time! Two or three days a week! Yeah!”
But once I was here, culture shocked and also realizing how out of shape I am in terms of swimming, I hoped Daniel would forget I’d even mentioned it, so I could just let the opportunity to swim in it slip by without notice. If you didn’t know, Australian swimmers pretty much kill all other nations in the Olympics and otherwise. They’re amazing. And this particular pool is actually famous for being the site of more swimming records than any other pool.
Today I was feeling a little down. Daniel said I should go swim at the pool. I told Daniel it would surely be crowded (I’d heard it can be crowded at lunchtime). I told Daniel everyone there would probably be super fast and I’d feel so embarrassed. I told him I had eaten not long ago. I told him I haven’t swum in a year. But in the end, I decided to go anyway.
I walked down around 1:30. I paid the ridiculous price of $6.70 to get in. After walking through the gate, I was looking almost straight down probably 3 or 4 stories, on to the pool. Kinda scary. I was actually at the top of a very steep concrete grand stand right beside the pool, but it was so steep you felt like you were looking almost right down onto the pool. I cautiously made my way down (I’m not kidding – those steps were steep!) and sat on a bench to take things in before going in the water.
I was surprised to realize that most people there were not swimming that fast. In fact a lot of them looked like normal people like me, not rippling muscles or 1% body fat. In fact… most of them looked like they could be my grandparents. Not that intimidating!
Each lane was marked. Right beside me was the lane marked “Recreational Swim.” The people in this lane were walking and doing things beside swimming. The next lane was marked “Slow Lane – No Freestyle.” There was one person in this lane. The next lane was marked “Slow Lane – Only Freestyle.” This lane had about 5 or 6 people in it. Then there was a Medium Lane, a Fast Lane, and another Medium and another Slow Freestyle Only. Each of these lanes had a lot of people in them.
I decided I could start out with breaststroke or backstroke and get in the least populated lane, and lo and behold, just as I finally got in, that person got out! I got a whole lane to myself! Nice.
The water was surprisingly cold for a heated pool, but I remembered that’s always better, because you heat up while you swim so you don’t want the water too warm. The man getting out commented on it too, which made me feel a little more relaxed also. Maybe everyone here wasn’t so hard core.
So I took the plunge, dipped under and started my swim. It felt nice to stretch my body out in the water again. Pretty soon I found myself wondering when the end of the lane was ever going to come. Doing breaststroke meant I would certainly see the wall before hitting it, but…. I’d counted over 40 strokes by now, and usually 25 or so will get me to the end of the pool. I knew this was a meter pool, not yard, so I knew it would be longer, but when I’ve swum meters before, I’ve found it only about 10% longer than a yard pool. I stopped and treaded water for a second. I was only about halfway across the pool! I put my face in again and finally got to the end. 70 strokes?! Either this pool was crazy long, or I was crazy out of shape!
The other thing I couldn’t ignore about this pool was how incredibly salty the water was! It was at least as salty as ocean water, and I don’t personally really like swimming for exercise in ocean water – partly because I’m a bit leery of shark attacks, partly because the salt just fills your mouth and it’s so nasty. That happened to me again today – I sipped from my water bottle at the end of every lap, just to wash my mouth out a bit, and now (about 2 hours later) my tongue still feels kind of “burned” by the salt that kept washing past it as I blew bubbles out of my mouth.
After a few laps of breast and back, I looked at the other lanes to pick a lane to move into, in order to swim freestyle. I noticed that someone was swimming freestyle in the recreational lane, so I figured maybe the rules weren’t so tight about who swims what in which lane at this time of day. And no one else was in my lane anyway. I know from experience that trying to share a lane with someone doing breaststroke is really annoying since it’s such a wide stroke. So maybe this lane was a place for wide strokes, and if you want to swim other things in there you’re taking responsibility for getting smacked. So I gave it a shot.
One length of freestyle in the non-freestyle lane and at the end of the lane, a lifeguard was waiting. He kindly informed me that this lane was NOT for freestyle and explained about the other lanes, and what they were each for. I apologized and went back to breast, dipping into the next lane for free when I wanted to add that in.
After only 5 laps, I glanced at my watch. Fifteen minutes had passed! Whoa! On the positive side, this meant I only had to repeat what I’d just done to make it a half hour workout. I realized at this point that I was really not enjoying the salt water much.
So I did finish the workout (with a measly 5 laps more), and decided to take a dip in the other pool as well. The outdoor pool is the most famous one, as it offers the incredible view of the bridge (although honestly you’re swimming laps! The only thing you ever see swimming laps is the black line at the bottom of the pool, and I can assure you that this black line was no different than in any other pool.) The indoor pool was up at the top of the grandstand, and was supposedly an infinity pool whose edge looks out over a view of the Sydney skyline.
I climbed back up those steep steep steps, and went in to the infinity pool. This was a 50 yard or meter pool – whatever it was it looked much more normal to me. It also only had about 5 lanes, as opposed to the other pool, which had about 7 lanes. I got in the slow lane and swam one freestyle lap. The water was not salty! It was quite warm, but it was very refreshing to swim in clean water. I only did the one lap since I didn’t want to overdo (having not swum in over a year), but if I go back I think I will almost certainly go in this pool instead. It may be warm but I just don’t like how salty the outdoor pool was. Plus I’m more used to a shorter pool. I know that makes me a bit of a wuss in swimmers’ circles, but that’s ok. :)
After that, I noticed a jacuzzi in the corner, and a long shallow pool stretching along the length of the inside wall of the room that the pool was in, opposite the wall with windows that looked out over Sydney Harbour. I saw a man sitting in this long pool, amongst a lot of bubbles. It was a really long jacuzzi! Perfect for sitting in and looking out over Sydney. I got in, and although it was quite cool, it was really pleasant. I rested and stretched a bit, and then got out and headed for home.
Strangely enough, the most sore part of my body is my hands (from stroking). I don’t know what that means, but oh well. I think I’ll probably go back at least one more time to get an actual workout done in the indoor pool, but I’m kind of doubtful it will turn into my daily nap time ritual. But I’m still glad I swam in the iconic outdoor pool at least once!