Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Greatest Swimming Advice Ever

What I'm about to tell you has never before been put in print by a swimmer or a triathlete. It is a secret that has been handed down from generation to generation of swimmers. The only people who know this sacred bit of wisdom are swimmers or former-swimmers. Coaches will pull only the lucky few aside and share this with only the best of the best. The elite get eliter and the others get brushed by the wayside.

"Well then," you ask, "how is it that the Banter knows?" Whereas it's true that I was a former swimmer and have had many a coach over the years, it's also quite well known that I was not considered great. Elite was definitely not an adjective used to describe me. I may have been good. Fortunately, the word 'good' encompasses a spectrum of possibilities in which I might have snuck in at the end. I would accept that, at one point in my life, for a short period of time, I was something close to good.

Anyway, how do I know? It just so happened that one day, back in my days as a swimmer, as opposed to my former-swimmer present self, I had a coach who was privy to the secret knowledge. Or, at least I think he was. How he got it I was unsure. He had something and he was willing to share. Just not with me. Awkward on multiple levels. There was also a guy on the team who fit the description of the inner circle (translation, he was good, not marginally good). Truth be told, I had beaten that guy in a set on more than one occasion. And, since I'm writing truthfully, he was doing sculling drills and I was in a sprint set. But, a win is a win and I had won. So I got that snippet of bragging rights over this guy.

Well, one day I happened to be walking past coach's office on my way to class. This was in college and even though I was a Division I, NCAA Student Athlete, general education requirements forced me to take a physical education class. Our school offered the most ridiculous PE options, such as weight lifting and theory of sport. Seriously? How do those classes have practical world applications? But, requirements are just that, required. It was obvious at that stage of my life that a career as a professional swimmer was likely out of the question. I did not even bother retaining an agent nor entering my name independently into the Pro Swimmer's Draft, a decision that I regret to this day. You never know. Regardless, I was requisitioned to a PE class.

As I was heading towards the weight room (I opted not to take theory), I noticed that Coach's door was slightly ajar. I had full intention on wasting time before class by talking theory with Coach (I know, the irony). I could hear Coach talking in hushed tones. Now, if ever you want someone to listen, you should drop your voice and whisper. People will think it's important and strain extra hard to hear what you are saying (that was a free tip and not the intention of this message). Through the crack in the door, I could see that he was talking to one of the guys on my team. I was waiting for the right moment to knock and announce my presence. I am ashamed to admit that I was satisfied in my eavesdropping at the time.

"Here's what all the great swimmers know. All of them. Mark Spitz, Pablo Morales, Jenny Thompson. Hell, even Natalie Coughlin and Michael Phelps know this." Coach said.

I could plainly see that Coach had my teammate's attention as well as mine. I was even more surprised at the naming of Phelps and Coughlin. Not because of their swimming status but because this was the early 90's, Michael was only about 5 years old and Natalie was 8. Sure, they could still have beaten me in the water but that's getting a little off topic.

"There is a life of swimming after swimming," Coach continued. Then he launched into a tale of epic proportions. I am not a detail-oriented guy and some of the exact words are lost in the jungle of brain rot I have swishing in my cranium. I am, to the best of my knowledge, a good paraphraser and generally get the gist of the message even when the specifics are blurred.

Coach's story told of adults that joined adult teams at non-competitive pools. They had community pools and these things called "YMCAs". (Aside: I had to look up the latter only to realize that the YMCA was synonymous with the Y. Apparently, the national governing body had decided that YMCA was too long to write and to pronounce resulting in a name change to just one letter. End aside.) There's also a good chance that this pool is not within walking distance from campus (although, he may have said house). You have to drive. And, there's a good chance that you'll be swimming in the morning because the afternoon times are controlled by screaming children. And, there is also a good chance that your suit will be semi-wet upon changing. Finally, there's a chance that you don't like donning a cold, wet suit. Coach was taking a lot of chances here, which turned out to be true on all accounts.

Here's the Ancient Swimming Advice:
Place your suit on the dashboard of your car while commuting to the pool. Turn on the heat to defrost. By the time you arrive at the pool, the suit will have absorbed and stored some of the heat making it wonderfully pleasant to your boys or lady spot.

Up until that point, I had been putting on a cold, wet suit which was not fun for my boys. I can't imagine it would be good for your lady spot (assuming any ladies actually read my blog, swim, and have sensitive lady spots). So now, I faithfully drive to the Y, happily dropping 3 letters from my vocabulary, place the suit on the dash, and defrost set to full heat and high. Upon arrival, I look forward to pulling on that warm, fresh-out-of-the-dryer lycra jammer. My lady spot boys have never complained since.

Now, if only I could remember what Coach said about staring at the water for 10 minutes before jumping in, out of fear that the water may be cold, especially when you know that the water temps are super high. That would be a good story to tell too.


  1. Never store your suit on the dashboard in Oklahoma. It melts in the sun. The back of the passenger seat however is a fine drying rack if you crack the windows. I sore my suit in the trunk.

  2. That's a good tip for all of the OK readers. Here, a suit stored in the trunk yields icicles, making the dash-defrost thing invaluable.