I live approximately 500 m from my local swimming pool, so I try to go two or three times a week. Usually in the morning, because experience tells me that swimming after spending the day at the office sounds appetizing in the morning (yay! procrastinating exercise!) but won’t sound so appealing at 5 PM, either because I’m still working on something but now have to stop halfway through to catch the train to go exercise, or because I’m tired and just want to go have dinner and read a book on the couch. I know, first world problems.
I used to swim in Nijmegen, too, until I graduated and became unemployed and just couldn’t afford the 4,70 euros it cost to go per swim. But we had a nice pool there, and I used to go with a friend, so that was fun. It wasn’t usually very busy, just busy enough. And I occasionally had the pool all to myself there, which was really nice too. (It probably helped that I braved the outdoor pool before anyone else would.)
I also swam in Berkeley. I think I lived 500m from the pool there too, and it was especially nice because it was on the roof of the gym, and it was in California, which meant you could swim outdoors pretty much year-round (eliminating the heavy chlorine smell), and if you timed it right, you could watch the sun set while doing laps. Heavenly. Also, they provided you with towels, which is a nice gesture and made it easier to go swim in between classes. (The smell of moldy wet towels that you’ve carried around all day? Not good.) So the Berkeley pool was my hands-down favorite, even if it did sometimes feel like a race to keep up with the person in front of you (and more importantly, with the person in back of you, so you wouldn’t be run over).
And now I swim in Dortmund. You know, when I first came here, I expected Germans to be all neat and orderly and efficient. (I think this stereotype comes from reading too many Agatha Christie novels – the criminal masterminds are usually very organized Germans.) My department at the university certainly isn’t like that, and neither is my pool. Some people swim in lanes, like they’re supposed to, some go back and forth, using the same bit of pool for both laps, and some crisscross. This makes swimming a bit of an obstacle course – you need to avoid the men coming up behind you with big, powerful strokes (the men usually don’t look where they’re going, making it your responsibility to get out of their way or suffer the consequences) while not accidentally kicking some old lady who is going really slow.
So while swimming isn’t quite the tranquil exercise it used to be, at least I’m making more meters these days, with all the zigzagging I have to do to avoid everyone else. So that’s good.