I was having a conversation about swimming with my father when he asked me how I felt about doing laps in a salt-water pool.

“Doesn’t the salt burn your mouth?”

“Why would the salt burn my mouth?”

“Doesn’t it taste salty?”

“Why would it taste salty?”

“When you get water in your mouth, isn’t it salty?”

“I don’t get water in my mouth.”


“Do you get water in your mouth?”

He made a sheepish grin and there was a slight shrug in his shoulders.

My guess is my father gets water in his mouth when he swims.

“I once had a lifeguard tell me I had the worst form of any person he’d ever seen in that pool,” he said.

My father’s been swimming laps for an hour several days a week for decades. And his form is fine. Ok he looks like he isn’t moving, but the point is, he is. And when he’s not swimming, he’s out for walk. He’s 91.

He told me his original reason for exercising during his lunchtime at work when I was a kid was to be social and join a colleague for a run.

They worked near the tip of Long Island at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which has a campus atmosphere with a track and an Olympic-size pool. As soon as his knees started to bother him, he decided to try the pool.

The lifeguard told my father he couldn’t understand why he would go through all the trouble to get to the pool, change out of his suit and tie and into swim trunks, shower, and then dress for work when he was only going to swim a single length.

“I think he had it out for me.”

“How long did it take you to get up to any distance at all?”

“A year.”

I thought about this on Sunday when I was in the middle of a long swim at the pool. I usually run on Sundays with a running partner but both of us were out late on Saturday. From experience we knew we could have pushed through and felt great after, but it was raw and cold outside, and she was craving her treadmill at home while I was thinking about the peacefulness of the pool.

There were two of us sharing a lane when a woman I see often tapped me on the shoulder and asked if she could join us in the lane.

“I’m only doing two lengths,” she promised, holding up her two fingers and her kick board and wearing a floral swim cap.

I slipped off my goggles, pulled out my waterproof earphones, and said hello. Full disclosure I wear a Have a Nice Day swim cap so it would never make sense for me to be unpleasant or aloof at the pool.

Wanna have a nice day? Go for a swim. Or a run. Or even a walk. It helps.

Then I told her, sure, of course, she should take her time and do as many lengths as she wanted to. But I also knew that doing two lengths was one more than she usually does.

We’ve had that conversation before.

Sometimes I see her in the locker room as early as 6 am. She said she drives all the way to the gym nearly every morning to get in the pool with a kick board and swim from one end of the pool to the other. Once.

“It just makes me feel so good,” she said.

“It just does.”

Adapted from my blog at Be the Dog.

Originally published at medium.com