Thursday, 4 July 2013

Moana Pool ~ swim away those winter blues ~ get in and get going!

That swimming could be fun in the depths of winter came as a complete surprise to me.  I hadn't swum in an indoor pool for years.  There was a time when I did so fairly often but that was long ago and it was only by chance that I ended up taking the plunge once more.

It came about when my blind friend Richard was gifted ten swimming lessons at Dunedin's Moana Pool.  I was delighted for him as I knew he had long wanted to learn, but when he asked me to accompany him as a helper I was less than enthusiastic, my response being one of lagging agreement rather than leaping at the opportunity.  I'm so glad I did!  

Even so, I had no intention of getting into the water - that was for the coach to do, or so I thought, but after having looked on from the side of the pool for that first half hour I felt just a little bit left out.  Here is coach Jeffery Calder, in the water with Richard helping him work things out:

The atmosphere inside the pool complex is light, airy and lively, and the water always looks inviting; lots of other people were in the water and active.  In the above image I captured a moment all the other swimmers was elsewhere, but there were plenty of people about, both in this pool and the other ones:  

Privately I had considered how self-conscious I might feel parading about in a close equivalent to underwear - I've got a bit heavier over the years, but looking around I decided that if other people could assume nonchalance, I could too.  Anyway it's not a fashion contest, and to hang back would have been to miss an important opportunity.

Much more importantly I could see that if Richard was to get the maximum out of his lessons he would need to put in some practice in between them, and on those occasions he would need someone in the water to provide a modicum of assistance.  (Me?!).  His coach readily agreed, and I was pleased to learn that as Richard's helper I would get in for free, an unexpected plus.  

Back home I rummaged through drawers to find ancient togs!  Once found they seemed okay.  Miraculously I was still able to get into them.  My decision to risk it gained conviction!

Next time we went to the pool I felt pleasant anticipation, which, still being wary, I carefully concealed.  

I needn't have worried: climbing down into the comfortably warm pool, pushing off from the side, and feeling the buoyancy of the water felt good as ever.  It all came back.  I swam back and forth from one end to the other ahead of, or sometimes behind Richard, plowing along with more or less competent strokes - and enjoyed myself.   

Richard's coach Jeffery Calder, has been great!  Each time we go we get more out of it.  Richard has responded well to the coach's skilful and patient direction and improves with each lesson, and I am getting in plenty of practice - bravo, and ever so many thanks!

The dreary wet winter weather of recent months has been decidedly depressing, and I know others who have felt the same.  Getting out has seemed difficult and often not that enjoyable, and my usual interests have palled.  Having made a commitment to go swimming twice a week has certainly lifted my spirits.

I do encourage others to give it a go.  Swimming seems to be a lot like dancing: there is no age limit and everyone can choose their own level: those that can't swim at all can still enjoy the smaller shallower pools, or have fun on the water slides, and those who want to swim lengths can do so in lanes set aside for this purpose. There is also a gym as well as a spa pool.  A range of fees apply depending on usage.

Swimming can provide a good outlet for those with disabilities.  Being acquainted with a range of people who are disabled in one way or another I know that it can often be difficult to get suitable exercise.  At the complex there are plenty of pool attendants to ensure that swimmers are safe, and a chair hoist is available for those who are unable to manage the usual steps into the pools.

On the occasion of my first visit I saw this hoist being used to help a severely disabled person into the pool.  It took the combined efforts of the person's carer as well as a pool attendant some time to do so.  It wasn't easy but it worked.  A floatation device was then used to support the disabled person in the water.  I was full of admiration - what pluck and determination!   I imagined what a freeing sensation being in the water must have been for that man!  I award a bouquet to the pool people for providing that facility, and an even bigger bouquet to the carer, whose efforts were inspiring.

Be aware that carers of disabled people get in free if their assistance is needed.  This is great, as it makes it that much easier for disabled people to ask a carer to accompany them.   

Another good accommodation provided is the changing room set aside for the use of disabled people - it's part of the group of family changing rooms.  It is fairly spacious and sensibly includes a toilet.  You'll need to ask for the key.  Belongings can't be left in the changing rooms though, so be prepared to shell out for a locker for valuables.  However, cubby holes within sight of the pools are also provided and these are free of charge. 

There is no need to fear that you might get cold: the water temperature is set at 28 degrees Celsius.  Richard and I compared notes and agreed that it felt more like 18 degrees which may indicate that we sense the temperature of water differently to that of air, but were none the less quite comfortable.  The air temperature is also very mild.  
Moana Pool is operated by the Dunedin City Council.  Within the complex there are a number of pools to choose from, from paddling and swirl pools for the youngsters to water slides as well as the big Olympic sized pool which is at present divided into two by a movable bulkhead.

The cost is modest as can be see on these schedules:
The location is a big chunky building on Littlebourne Road where it intersects with Stuart Street on the north western corner.  Free parking can be found around the corner off Littlebourne Road.

International swimming champion Danyon Loader has had a lengthy association with the pool, and is honoured by one of the big pools being named after him, I'm not sure which one.  I remember how media-shy he was as a young man and what a surprise it was to see him participating in the television show 'Dancing with the Stars'  I remember being captivated by the distinctive fluidity of his dancing, which I didn't see in any of the other dancers, no matter how accomplished they were.  He was so graceful, no doubt a result of how his muscles had become conditioned to moving through water. 

This remarkable video of 'The Presets' song "Ghosts" features a number of divers who show comparable gracefulness.  To me they look like birds!  And I do like the song!

And lastly, from the sublime back to the mundane: a little show-and-tell about my togs bag:  regular readers will be familiar with my earlier articles about giving up the use of plastic bags, the links to which can be found in this article:
I have more to write about this important topic but in the meantime here are two photos of the bag I made for the purpose of carrying wet gear.  

I purchased the material for it at 'Spotlight'.  It is called 'parker nylon' and cost $10 a metre.  One metre was enough to make three bags across the width.  I chose this bright yellow so I can easily find the bag in the back of the cupboard.  

Tip: an easy way to check the degree of waterproofing is to place the material against your lips and see if you can blow through it.  If you can't blow through it at all, it's likely to be waterproof.

The construction couldn't be simpler: 
  • It's cut from a single piece with the handles cut on the fold so these have no joins.
  • Construction is created by a single seam: down one side, along the bottom and up the other side
  • All the edges are neatened with a simple zigzag stitch. 
  • Note: it's easier if you zigzag the edges around the top and the handles before you do the side seams.  
If this works for you, remember that you read about it here first, because yes, the design is original.


Footnote: information on the Moana Pool website is good on the whole but there are areas which could be improved: 
  • There is no address given
  • Old job advertisements for swimming coaches from the beginning of the year are surely well out of date.  
  • I do think too, that a few photographs of the pools and environs would do much to encourage prospective swimmers.  


Penelope said...

Hooray for water, swimming togs, pools, flotation, swimming coaches and yellow bags!

Leigh Christina Russell said...

Hello Penelope, nice to find you here! You are very likely as surprised as I have been at me getting back into swimming! :-)