Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Getting in the water

All the wet, white bodies moving in various modes through the water-therapy warm pool. The noon Adult Swim crowd is significantly geriatric, some approaching the water with walkers, canes, protective footwear. Oddly very few women are wearing anything to protect their hair, but many of the men favor the skin tight racing swim caps to keep their wispy hair intact. One man’s wasting body is almost painful to look at – his scapula bones wrenching away from his torso when he strokes slowly in the water creating sharp wings above his back. But he strokes on, on his belly and then his back, covering about twenty yards, stopping to stand, and turning to reverse direction, never touching the wall, never apparently walking on the pool floor. Other men and women are swimming in the lap lanes, powerfully or weakly, racking up point for stamina and exercise. Many women are walking or doing calisthenics at the edge of the pool, squatting out reps of ten – rest – ten, standing push-ups against the wall, intermittently walking laps forward and backward on the lane lines. The men who are exercising in the water keep their distance, avoiding the women walkers who sometimes pair off to visit while they walk, wearing their glasses and earrings, making social time out of the process. Many of the flaccid white bodies strolling in and out of the locker rooms are almost sexless, with drooping breasts, flattened buttocks, hanging upper arms that tell of too much weight (current or former), or muscles long gone, or the atrophying lack of use that arthritis brings. But they are all here, basking in the soothing water, fighting the effects of gravity, relaxing tensions that are so much a part of everyday that they go unnoticed until they are gone.

AT 1:01 on Mondays and Wednesdays in the summer the swim camp arrives, signaled by the first energetic eight year old boys to spill out of the locker room, boys who wore their suits so they wouldn’t have to waste time changing in the locker room, boys who wanted to get every minute out of the pool that they are allotted.. They don’t bother to walk in from the zero entry area that the seniors and young children favor – they jump in or, if they are tentative, walk down the steps into the “deep” end of the lap pool. Pretty soon the pool is teeming with six to twelve year olds, with goggles and wet pony tails, tagging each other, sneaking in a “cannon ball” behind the guards’ backs, making no pretense of actually swimming, but clearly able to swim if required. No more need for lane markers except to protect the area where the area where squealing wet bodies are shooting off the slide. Open Swim is just that – open to all comers and energizing in it’s craziness.

Weekend Adult Swim hours still have the complement of water walkers and aqua exercising people of a certain age, but with the added attraction of real lap swimmers, young adults in tank suits and Speedos, and thirty-somethings knocking out ten laps as part of the workout regimen before soaking in the hot tub. There is always a sprinkling of fifty-somethings who are rehabbing a new knee or hip joint, winding up physical therapy for a surgical repair, or just acknowledging that the exercise in the water is the exercise that doesn’t hurt the next day – the secret that the seniors have been keeping during the weekday hours.

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