How to Talk like a Swimmer: Pool Temperature Edition

Friday I went back to swim at Westside Aquatic Center. I hadn’t swum there since my regular pool reopened at the beginning of January. I needed to go to Westside because I was busy Friday evening and most of Saturday and Sunday doing work-related things, and there was no way to get a long enough stretch of time at my university pool on a weekday to swim my weekly long swim. If I was going to get that long swim in, it had to be Friday at Westside. I managed to clear enough time in the day, and I went out there and paid them seven dollars. It was a fantastic deal. The more I swim, the better the deal is: seven dollars for 10,000 yards works out to seven cents per 100 yards, or 1.75 cents per 25 yard length. A bargain at twice the price!

I was happy to be back at Westside; I saw some friends whom I hadn’t seen since I was swimming there in December, and we all caught up. But I was especially happy to be back at Westside because the water temperature there is perfect for lap swimming, and my home pool has been very warm this week.

As I’ve said before, a warm pool is terrific for hanging around, getting in and out, floating, and drinking fruity drinks. It’s not so good for sustained swimming, especially if you’re doing it for a couple hours.

Good for drinking in warm pools. Get a plastic glass though.
Good for drinking in warm pools. Image from Modern Design Ideas.

But one positive thing about the warm pool is that I got to have the traditional swimmers’ conversation about how the pool is too hot a couple times this week. It’s one of my favorite conversations. It’s a shibboleth. It marks the participants as members of the group: we are swimmers; we complain that the pool is too hot.

You can’t complain about the pool temperature with non-swimmers, because they are delighted when the pool is warm. And people who aren’t swimmers want to have other conversations, like this one, which happened Thursday:

Me, standing in pool, removing fins, looking at pace clock

Woman, coming into pool area: I’m here for class. I guess I’m early.

Me, adjusting goggles

Woman: What class are you in?

Me, watching pace clock: I’m not in a class. I’m swimming.

Woman: Oh, they let you swim? I used to swi–

Me, pushes off wall

I assume this was another one of those awkward pace clock conversations; she saw me looking up in her general direction and thought I was looking at her. But I was looking at the pace clock behind her on the wall, and I don’t know anything about classes or whatever else she was talking about. I was swimming. They do let me swim. That’s why they fill the pool with water: for people to swim in it.

If you want to establish your cred as a swimmer and the water temperature is 82° F (28° C) or higher, make a comment about how hot the pool is to the lap swimmer in the next lane, and you will have it made. I had the water-is-too-hot conversation with two different guys on two different days this week. We talked about how warm it was. We talked about how slowly we were swimming. We talked about how the water was sapping our strength. All the while, we were talking like swimmers.

On Tuesday night I met a group of students for the first time. They were doing a swim test for a course I am teaching this May. These are undergraduates, by the way–young adults, not children. Some of them got in and hopped around with their elbows up in the universal water-is-cold dance. But two women, obviously friends, got in the water at the same time, and one said to the other, “It’s so warm!” Her friend nodded vigorously. Only a swimmer gets into an 82-degree pool and says, “It’s so warm!” I didn’t have to see them take a stroke; I thought, “These two are swimmers.”

2 thoughts on “How to Talk like a Swimmer: Pool Temperature Edition

  1. Oh, so true! Temperature is one of the reasons why I love swimming in a 50m pool – it’s always at the right temperature for swimmers. And your recap of the conversation with a non-swimmer made me chuckle 🙂 Hope the training’s gong well!

    1. Thank you! The training is going well. I am a bit jealous of your pool. But Westside Aquatic is switching over to 50m on April 5; I may have to go there just for the joy of swimming long course in a cool pool.

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