How Not To Have A Nervous Breakdown Whilst Swimming in China.

26 Sep

After a couple of very decadent months in Europe part of our post-summer plan is to exercise more and diet a little bit. All that drinking and eating has taken its toll! So we’re going to the pool 6x a week for an hour’s swim and then about 3-4x a week we try to squeeze in an hour of tennis or a run in the afternoon. Dave’s also training with his footie team and has also started touch rugby. He’s especially determined as he’s constantly getting told by local shopkeepers as well as the lifeguard at the pool that “oh, very fat this year” – it might be meant as a compliment given that Chinese people admire a nice round potbelly (like those happy Buddha figurines) but Dave obviously isn’t flattered.

They haven’t commented on me yet, thank god! I think I would cry.

So off to the pool we go every morning and I endure an hour of mind-numbing lane swimming. If you took away all the rubber rings from this picture and strung up lane lines it would be a rather good representation of how busy our local pool can get in the evenings:

In other words: complete chaos.

  1. Lanes mean nothing in China. The ropes might be strung across the pool but be aware that people will be swimming across them or doggy-paddling across them or will stop in the middle of a lane to rest or have a chat. They will do this even though they see you coming but like in Chinese traffic or Chinese queuing, it’s first come, first serve. Deal with it.
  2. The end of each lane (at the wall where you would normally push off) will have, no doubt, a string of people leaning against it, eyeing you up as you swim towards them. You have no choice but to stop your swim 2mbefore the wall, awkwardly turn around and not push off. This completely throws me off my “work-out flow” but again, deal with it.
  3. There’s a massive sign that informs swimmers to swim counter-clockwise within the lanes but there’ll constantly be some person swimming counter-flow. This I just don’t understand. It’s like ghost driving… how is it not annoying for the ghost driver him- or herself to plough through all the oncoming traffic? And then on top of that you’ve also got the people who decided they want to swim across the lanes.

(Some of the above might sound like I’m a swim-snob, but the way I see it, if I’ve actually managed to drag myself down to the pool and committed myself to swimming for 60 boring minutes at 8 in the freaking morning I would appreciate being able to just get on with it. Everytime I have to stop because someone’s decided to swim accross the lane infront of me it not only disrupts me physically but mentally as well. It reminds me how boring swimming laps is and how I’d much rather be in bed eating pancakes.)

Hence, our first swim at our local pool, which is by the way, a really nice 50m, 15 lane pool, was basically an hour of stop-start, stopping again, crashes and frequent bobbing underwater to scream off your frustration (it helps, try it!). But that was a couple of weeks ago and we’ve since learned how to go about swimming in China without having a nervous breakdown or underwater screaming fits:

  1. Pick an appropriate time. The Chinese love swimming and everyone from kids and their parents, boisterous teenagers, canoodling young lovers to granny and grandpa keeping the joints oiled like to head down to the pool after work/school or on the weekends. So stay away at these times. And don’t even bother during the summer holidays. Very early mornings can be quite busy as well as a lot of professionals go for a pre-work swim. So the best time to go is between 8am and 3pm.
  2. Bring Props. I’ve found that other swimmers are less likely to join our lane when we’ve got bottles of water and hand paddles lying at the end of the lane. The hand paddles may arouse curiosity (they’re very hard to purchase here) but the bottles of water signify that you’re here to do some serious swimming. (Even if you’re just trundling along)
  3. Swim butterfly. People will actually stop in their tracks and I’m pretty sure this makes you look like you’re part of the Olympic team. I personally can’t swim butterfly (I’m more of a trundle-along-kinda-gal) but Dave does and I’m sure it helps keep our lane doggy-paddle free.

And that’s it. If you ever find yourself with a Buddha potbelly in China and want to swim a few laps in a public pool, keep these three tips in mind. Oh, and bring a swim cap. They don’t let you into the pool without one.


7 Responses to “How Not To Have A Nervous Breakdown Whilst Swimming in China.”

  1. Merle September 27, 2011 at 12:24 am #

    I don’t think I could handle that water park!

    • miravakily September 27, 2011 at 2:06 am #

      can you imagine working there as a lifeguard?

      • Merle October 3, 2011 at 7:34 am #

        I think lots of people would drown on my watch as I would have to go into some sort of trance to cope with the extreme sensory overload – imagine the noise!

        Btw your new swimming regime has inspired me to do likewise – though at my local pool Canadians are quite the opposite and follow pool rules to the letter. They are so polite they even move lanes if they realize you are faster.


  2. thalienc September 27, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    oh…my…god.. I would be be underwater screaming off of my frustration too. I hate swimming pools anyhow. But I like reading you day to day whereabouts you make me smile 🙂

    • miravakily September 27, 2011 at 11:43 am #

      haha, thanks! and congrats on your new canine baby!

  3. Ellen Schuett September 27, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    Ich hoffe wirklich dass Ihr das durchhält … mamamia, ist es denn wirklich immer SOOO voll im Pool? Ich bin seit gestern bei Ellen und Heinz in Kiel … wie immer ist es sehr schön hier und sie verwöhnen mich! Sie lassen dich schön grüßen! Keep it up! Liebe dich!

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