It’s either sink, swim or get really cheesed off…
By Katie Garner
Swimming really is a lovely sport. Not only is it instantly refreshing in the muggy warmer months, but it is a great body booster as well; working every muscle group succinctly and efficiently, whilst also aiding breathing and lung capacity. Research has also proven swimming to be ideal for those suffering from depression or mental anxiety, and it is also a useful activity for anyone sporting an injury as the water kindly buoys your body weight, so you can still exercise without cramping additional pressure on your joints. And, a big plus point here, it is probably one of the only sports where you can work yourself ragged and still not appear to sweat – it’s magic. Yes, swimming really is lovely.
I’ve always been a bit of a water baby, encouraged to swim at an early age by my athletic dad. My sister and I then went on to have a private swimming teacher who then became more of a trainer once we hit our teens. Front crawl was a sprint to the end, butterfly created powerful waves across the pool; backstroke saw hesitant slashes to the deep end while quite frankly developing breast stroke just fixed my wonky frog leg. What all this amounts to however, is that I am a good swimmer. Not blowing my own trumpet or anything, but I have been taught how to swim well, which is of crucial importance when bobbing about in the sea on holiday. No current is taking me under that’s for sure.
What this also equates to, is an insurmountable frustration and an absolute volcanic level of intense pool rage. For those not familiar with the term, it’s pretty much the same as road rage but instead of annoyed disbelief at the moves of some drivers on the roads, I instead have the same problem with some swimmers in the continuous swimming lane in our local pool. However I have no car horn to hoot, my arms are engaged in swimming so therefore cannot complete any gesture I may feel necessary and unless I want a mouthful of water, exclamations have to be left unsaid. So pool rage is even worse than road rage, because it boils and builds up until you get out of the pool, where you feel like throwing a full on toddler hissy fit complete with foot stomping and goggle throwing, but you instead have to attempt the dignified ‘you couldn’t paddle yourself out of a puddle’ walk back to the changing rooms, trying calmly to maintain the upper hand.
The worst thing? These people probably don’t even know what they are doing. I understand that the lane is for anyone who wants to exercise instead of fool around, and is for continuous swimming only, as well as for adults only, but some people sure interpret this in interesting fashions. For example the lady swimming a mediocre breast stroke whilst chatting to her friend OUTSIDE OF THE LANE! So not only was she nattering away, which is not the purpose of the lane, but her friend wasn’t even swimming in the lane. Although I have also encountered breast strokers who swim next to each other in the lane talking, their two person width too wide to overtake down the centre, and since I swim front crawl, which is a naturally faster stroke, I end up huffing trying not to hit their feet and resorting to my slower breast stroke – that was still faster than them.
I have also had the baffling situation of swimmers failing to use simple common sense. I once came across a father and teenage son combo, the son seemingly joined to the dad, his hands almost grasping onto his father’s feet in front. I was faster so overtook, reaching the end just before them. Instead of waiting the one millisecond to let me go in front, the dad pushed off, and the son, desperate not to be left behind pushed in front of me to go too. So now, I overtake them again. Surely it would be easier to let me get out of the way first since I was faster? Basic etiquette seems to have flown out the window. There was also the man who didn’t understand you had to go up one side and then down the other, turning at the deep end and nearly head butting me.
Then there are the people who are improving their strokes – a necessary evil. The more they practice, the better they will get, however when I only have 40 minutes to knock out as many lengths as possible, the splashy spider stroke in the middle of the lane is really not appreciated. Then there are those who cluster across every spare inch of wall at the shallow end, leaving not even a grain of space to touch and turn around on. One time, the wall was full so I had to stop short. I walked to turn around and then had four people push off and come round me so I couldn’t even go, despite standing blatantly in the way, ready to go. Again common sense, shouldn’t they let the random girl standing in the shallow end get out of the way before pushing off? One time, I felt so hindered by chatting breast strokers and even a man swimming the wrong way round the lane I actually had to go in to the main section and play dodgem with width swimming youngsters who had no concept that people could also swim lengths too.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that swimmers of all abilities and speeds have the right to swim in the lane and I wouldn’t have it otherwise, however engaging simple common sense and correct lane etiquette is not difficult, and as a faster swimmer, I find myself constantly annoyed by people getting in my way. Sometimes I can overtake four people to reach the deep end at the same time as the first swimmer, yet that person still won’t let me go in front. So I overtake them with extra venom on the kick – makes it splashier, a favoured move of mine for those who don’t put their heads underwater when they have bugged me. They can eat my bubbles. I hear fantasy like tales of pools that have more than one lane which caters for different speeds and I wonder in amazement whether this will happen in little old Hornchurch. The great thing about the lane is when you get a couple of faster swimmers; then we tend to race each other ever so slightly and it makes your workout more intense and adds some va va voom. I just don’t see why I should compromise my workout, but I also understand that every swimmer will be thinking that.
I honestly think the solution is more than one lane, but with my small local pool, I really don’t know if they would even consider this as a possibility. All I can advise is that if you see a speedy front crawler wearing a speedo swimming costume and blue goggles, then I strongly suggest you remove yourself from the firing line.