Swimming in San Francisco

April 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

A few days ago I traveled to a physicians’ conference in San Francisco. The meeting took place at the Moscone Center in the SoMa. It’s possibly the most pleasant, non-overwhelming convention hall I’ve attended. As usual, I chose my hotel for its pool. The Marriott Marquis is just two blocks from the Moscone Center, near the new SF Jewish Museum, right by SFMoMA and the Yerba Buena park. Seemingly ideal -

The hotel’s pool is on the 5th floor. You can get towels at the health club desk on the floor below, just steps away. The pool is 15 meters long and perhaps 2/3 as wide  - large enough to fit 5-6 lap swimmers. The temperature was warm but not hot, just right for exercise. The deck was clean and well-appointed. All good.

The main limitation is the shallowness at one end of the pool, where it’s just 2 feet deep. If you’re tall or have long arms, that  precludes a vigorous stroke. You couldn’t possibly flip to avoid stopping between laps. For me, whose routine is to pause and turn with each lap, the pool was fine. Twice, when I swam before 7AM, I had it to myself. Twice, besides some swimmers, there was a woman doing deep-water walking in a single, separated lane.

I’d consider going back, the next time I’m in San Francisco.  The city is lively and lovely. The Marriott’s pool is clean, functional and convenient.

Water Exercise in Saint Paul

January 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

Over the weekend I had occasion to visit St. Paul, MN. It was my first time in that state. Outside, the temperature ranged between 7 and 16 degrees Fahrenheit, with a few, mild flurries – not the kind of weather that drives people to go for a dip.

I wasn’t sure if swimming would be feasible in the St. Paul Downtown DoubleTree. It can be hard to gauge a pool by the pictures. This hotel’s pool is located on the 3rd floor, adjacent to a small fitness center. As it turned out, there was room and depth for vigorous water exercises. The almost-circular, ovoid pool ranges from 3 to 5 feet in depth. As usual, I didn’t have a long tape measure with me, nor was the staff knowledgeable about the pool. I’d estimate the longest dimension as 23 feet, or so.

The pool was clean and, despite the glass windows on one end, warm enough for comfortable entry. Laps would be difficult here for a serious or tall swimmer, but you could do circles of the side stroke or, if you’re very short or a child, go back and forth.

In the early morning, I had the place to myself. I did 40 minutes of water aerobics. It was invigorating. I’d go back.

DoubleTree Pool, Near Cambridge

October 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

The hotel, now a DoubleTree, stands by and just across the Charles River from Cambridge, not far from Central Square. A cab driver told me the old Allston building was a Coca Cola factory many years ago. I’ve heard this before, but don’t know if it’s true.

Early on a weekend morning I had the first-floor, seemingly clean, salty pool all to myself.  It looks to be around 35 feet long and maybe 15 feet wide. Part of the width is useless to a lap swimmer, though, because an un-steep set of steps leads into the shallow, 3-foot end. The deeper part is marked as 5 feet, but by my ability to stand firmly and breathe at that end, I’d give it 4’6”.

The pool’s cold, by hotel standards, but OK for exercising. If you or perhaps one other are swimming, and you’re neither tall nor a force-full swimmer, you can swim short but unsatisfying laps here, as I did.

The atmosphere is a bit depressing. There’s a narrow, grayish perimeter of deck with commercial-grade chairs surrounding the standard blue tile-edged, well-delineated pool.  The hotel’s outdoor shrubbery and oddly-patterned, pool-side tall windows obscure what otherwise might offer a terrific view of the Charles, just across the roadway.

Laps at MySportsClub in DC

September 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Twice lately I’ve been to the MySportsClub Columbia Heights health club to swim laps.

The pool itself is not bad. It’s a full 25 meters, with 3 or 4 wide lanes depending on how you count. The water’s got some salt in it, besides a lot of chlorine (good). The main limitation is its shallowness, just over 3 and a half feet at its deepest point. Hard to swim underwater.

There are tall windows which make the place feel less dreary than other indoor pools I’ve swum, including hotels. In my limited experience – once in late August on a weekend, and once on a hot weekday evening in September – there was plenty of space and cooperation among those in the pool.

The locker room is hardly up-scale, but the water’s hot. You can put you stuff in a reasonably capacious and clean slot if you bring your own lock. They give as many apparently clean white towels as you want, but they’re thready and small.

The gym, overall, seems like a fitness factory. It’s huge, with so many treadmills I lost count, and might have gotten lost in exploring the machinery.

You can get to this health club by taking the Yellow or Green line on the Metro. The gym is steps away from the station, in a mall.

Laps at the 92nd Street Y

September 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

This morning I swam laps in the 25 yard pool at the 92nd Street Y. I’ve been here before, a few times in most years. It’s always pleasant if imperfect, mainly because the pool’s not quite large enough for a hard swim. The place always feels old, in a constant way – it seems just as it did when 20 years ago. 

The water’s a bit warm for some serious swimmers, but not so hot as to discourage vigorous exercise. There’s a slightly strange, slippery feel to the water which appears clear. The depth ranges from a paltry 3.5 feet to almost 8. The pool’s cleaning system involves a combination of required chlorine and an “ozone filtering method” that I can’t pretend to know about or understand, although I’ve asked.

What I like about the Y’s pool are the surrounding mosaics, which remind me of some pools where I’ve swum in Europe and a few older hotels elsewhere. There’s some natural lighting, although nothing like a skylight. Another plus is that most swimmers are mellow and non-competitive, even cooperative in the limited lanes.  

The locker room is very good by Manhattan pool standards. You can bring or buy a lock, which allows you to store your stuff in a sufficiently tall locker that you can store an outfit and purse and other stuff without wrinkling them or ruining them on a rainy day. The staff are generous with towels. There are small, Clorox-white and clean. 

You can rent a locker if you’re a member, which I’m not. The showers offer a reasonable amount of privacy, and there’s a non-slippery stone floor surface. A small concession outside the locker room sells bathing caps, locks, goggles and other stuff you might need, for reasonable although not-cheap prices. 

Today I swam for 35 minutes and shared a lane with only one other swimmer for 30 of those. It was enjoyable.

Outdoor Laps at the John Jay Park Pool

September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yesterday evening I swam laps at John Jay Park, a local public park along the East River, near 78th Street. I’ve swum there before, but only in the morning.

The pool was spectacular, cool but uncrowded. While I swam the backstroke, unhurried, I could see a few stars, and maybe a planet, in the darkening sky.

John Jay park opens for organized lap swimming in the summers, starting sometime in June and ending by Labor Day, on Monday through Friday mornings from 7 – 8:30 AM, and in evenings from 7-8:30 PM. There is no cost; you just fill out a form and get a pass for the season.

Besides the view of the East River as you swim, a delight in the early morning, a perk is the attitude of other swimmers. In my experiences there so far, the attitude is strictly cooperative. “You’re faster, why don’t you go ahead” is the kind of remark I’d like to hear more often at other swimming places.

Swimmers self-distribute among three cordoned areas: Fast, medium and slow. The pool is 145 feet long.

The locker room is gross: a bad example of a high-school style place that needs repair and hasn’t been sufficiently cleaned in years. The showers are open, sometimes hot, and required. You can bring a lock and put your stuff in a locker while you swim. Depending on the crowd, you might just leave your bag without valuables and a towel on a ledge or lounge by the pool’s side, outdoors.

If it weren’t September 1, I’m not sure if I’d spread the word on this free swimming spot in NYC. It’s a treat.

Welcome to My Swim Blog

September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Each year, the pool where I usually swim closes for a few weeks in late summer, typically from mid-late August until the day after Labor Day. This gives me the opportunity, or necessity – if I don’t want my back to ache, to find other places for swimming.

When I travel, I’m always looking for a good pool. For some time I’ve thought I should take notes. Here goes -


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