10 Reasons to Love/Hate Outdoor Swimming

10 Reasons to Love/Hate Outdoor Swimming

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It’s May, otherwise known as the beginning of “outdoor swimming season.” Many pools around the country open after Memorial Day at the end of May. Swim teams who reside in cold-weather climates begin scheduling outdoor practices, a seemingly wonderful vacation away from the chlorinated confines of indoor swimming.

Outdoor swimming can be wonderful: Sunshine! Fresh air! Turkey vultures circling the sky thinking you might be lunch! At the same time, outdoor swimming can be perilous: Sunshine! Questionable things floating in the pool! Turkey vultures circling the sky!

While I love outdoor swimming, at times, I’ve despised aspects of it. No matter when I swam in an outdoor pool — as an age grouper, or later, as a lap swimmer — I’ve always had something interesting happen in an outdoor pool. Here are 10 reasons to love/hate outdoor swimming:

  1. LOVE: The SwimTan.

Growing up, there was nothing worse than swimming inside for eight months then subsequently looking like green-haired version of Edward Scissor hands. Swimming outside helps indoor swimmers look a little more like humans: Tanner, healthier, less starved for Vitamin D.


2. HATE: The SwimBurn.

With sunshine comes sunburn. No one burns quicker than indoor swimmers suddenly swimming outside. Suddenly thrilled with the concept of “seeing sunshine,” we foolishly forget to apply sunscreen on our backs and legs, only to discover two hours later the perilous dangers our sun sometimes provides.


3. LOVE: The more natural swimming environment.

I’m not sure humans were originally intended to swim inside. What bodies of water were inside centuries ago? Caves, that’s what. Sulfuric, questionable cave pools. Humans who swam in these pools sometimes didn’t make it out. Swimming outside, I believe, harnesses our ancestral appreciation of swimming in natural bodies of water. Fresh air. Open space. Floating on one’s back and seeing the clouds pass by.


4. HATE: Everything that comes with “the more natural swimming environment.”

Besides climate control, there’s a reason why some prefer swimming indoors. I remember several early mornings, transitioning to the outdoor pool my swim team lapped in, and seeing dead mice in the gutters.


5. LOVE: The unpredictability of outdoor swimming.

After swimming inside all winter, swimmers begin to crave any kind of change. Indoor swimming is so controlled, so consistent, that it’s like living in LA: Every day is the same weather. Swimming outside, though, is a wonderful new change. Sunrises and sunsets. Clouds streaking across the horizon. The occasional light, friendly warm rain shower. Every day it something new, something different.


6. HATE: The unpredictability of outdoor swimming.

Sometimes those “friendly warm rain showers” morph into terrifying tornadoes of lightning and hail. You have to leap out of the water and head to shelter ASAP. Other times, those wonderful birds flying overhead will occasional send a little reminder down below that yes, you are swimming outside. Unpredictability can be fun. It is also unpredictable.


7. LOVE: The wonderful fresh air.

Sorry, but outdoor swimming has far superior air quality. I used to cough and cough inside over-chlorinated indoor pools. Outdoor swimming, and those lovely breezes that float by, make breathing during hard butterfly sets that much more enjoyable.


8. HATE: The freezing cold morning air.

If you live in northern climates, sometimes the morning air is so cold, so freezing, you just dream of the day you can swim back inside that warm, 80-degree building.


9. LOVE: That moment you stand on the blocks and see the sunset and fall in love with swimming all over again.

It’s all about perspective.


10. HATE: That moment you stand on the blocks and see the hail storm coming and the wind knocks you off your balance as you fall into a dead rat floating on the water.

It’s all about perspective.


Follow Mike on Twitter @MicGustafson. 



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