What I learned from Cool Runnings

Knowing that we were moving to a house just down the road from a swimming pool, Alastair and myself decided when we were still touring Australia that it would be a fantastic idea if we started a fitness regime of regular visits to the pool, in order to make us healthier, fitter, better-looking people. Nobody believed we’d ever really do it of course – but then, nobody thought we’d really have a projector and watch films on the big screen in our living room, and we’ve proved them wrong on that count as well.

So yes, I’ve been swimming a lot. In fact, since starting I’ve maintained a very healthy five visits a week. When I first went I was appalled to discover how unfit I was, with a couple of lengths finding me grasping for the side of the pool and spluttering for breath, fighting the growing nausea and pain shooting through all of my muscles.

I’ve kind of got over that phase. On Thursday I felt a particular breakthrough when I realised that I was still ready for another twenty lengths after my usual routine. (Alastair’s routine, incidentally, seems to have settled into a routine of drinking until two in the morning, getting up four hours later to prepare for supervisions and possibly fitting in a quick guilt-inspired trip to the swimming pool and observing that he’s not enjoying it any more.)

I put my progress down partly to the yellow T-shirted attendants who stand around the pool watching the activity with a sardonic air, and who I can feel staring at me every time I stop for a breather, as if they’re thinking “why’ve you stopped? Is it to perve at all the glistening naked bodies?” They are not aware that my eyesight makes it impossible to perve at anyone, so I have to maintain continuous swimming to persuade them that I’m just a decent member of society trying to get fit.

Today saw another exciting development. Because, being a saturday, the flumes were open. I haven’t been on a flume for over ten years and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to have a go today, awkward though it felt when everybody else taking advantage of the flume fun was half my age or younger. Still, I ascended the stairs (under the scornful gaze of every serious swimmer in the pool, plus the disapproving looks of the yellow T-shirts), feeling a growing goose-pimply excitement – though that might have been partly to do with being wet and cold.

At the top I was politely told that I needed “an inflatable” to use the flume, which would be found back at the bottom. So I had to go through the embarrassing descent (under the same disapproving inspection, real or imagined) and nearly gave up on the idea altogether. But I found myself a doughnut-shaped inflatable blue thing and ascended again (presumably by now the serious swimmers were having a good laugh at my expense and the yellow T-shirts were on the phone to the police).

All the safety notices explicitly said I had to go down feet first, so that is how I finally set off on my blue doughnut. My journey at first was rather pedestrian – but then remembered how it works and started using the corners to accelerate, swinging my blue doughnut up them like a bobsleigh.

Unfortunately, I had failed to anticipate the affect this would have on a doughnut-shaped inflatable, and as I rounded the second corner with increasing speed I spun round and found that I was hurtling down the flume backwards, just like it said not to in the safety notices. I tried correcting my position with my feet but I was going too fast by that stage and with every corner I spun further out of control. This, by the way, is why bobsleighs are not circular.

I finally corrected my position on the final bend, thus avoiding possible death and a certain telling off from one of the yellow T-shirts.

I went back to swimming lengths.

By the way, the answer to the question which is no doubt on the lips of the ladies (and some of the men) reading this is: yes, I now have a swimmer’s physique, with muscles rippling through my taut, firm body. Thank you for taking an interest.

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