London, June 13, 2015
Usually, running is easy when you’re traveling; bicycling or swimming are more complicated. Though I know several athletes who travel with their bike—they tune out the constant comments in airports and hotels, and get to enjoy new landscapes away from their everyday life.
Swimming is another thing, though, especially in Mexico. If you’re not a member of a club like Sport City, you hardly have access to public pools. There aren’t many, for starter, and entrance is a painful ordeal of unnecessary paperwork that usually just keeps bureaucrats working and does not add any value.
My visit to Paris proved, once again, how far we have to go in developing a culture of physical activity in Mexico.
The invitation from my wife Lucía came as a surprise. A change of direction in my professional life gave me the chance to accompany her for a week in Paris. My first concern was finding a place to train, since the attempt at crossing the Strait of Gibraltar was in less than three weeks.
My first move was to seek the advice of Ivar Sisniega. We have the same obsession with daily physical activity, and he spends much of his time traveling the world. He gave me two pages as reference: http://www.swimmersguide.com/FindFacilityonMapinCity.aspx andhttp://www.paris.fr/piscines
My anxiety was significantly reduced when I realized that there were enough pools to meet my needs. During my stay I used four different facilities, all public, clean, well managed, and reflecting the styles of different eras. And all reasonably priced.
Times are varied: you can go in the morning, at noon and in the afternoon/evening. I came to the conclusion that the best time to swim is from 7:00 to 8:30, as there are fewer people in the pool.
As many women were swimming as men, and although most swimmers were between 40 and 50 years, there were really people of all ages.
Nobody notices the speed at which you swim, nor the style you use. People are completely oblivous of fast swimmers. You can do repetitions or continuous swimming… anyway, they do not care. They stop at the middle of the lane and exit the pool while you’re doing the somersault.
However, among the positive aspects is the fact that there’s a culture of passing—lane width permitting—and nobody complains about the small touches or strokes. It’s all part of the routine.
Sunday was special. I got to the pool and discovered that it was closed. At first I was bothered because I was set on swimming 100 x 100 meters and I was in no mood to look elsewhere. My anger subsided when I realized that the schedule change was due to a children’s competition. Everyone seemed to be under 10 years old, sharing nerves and anxiety with their parents. A scene you would find everywhere.
Fortunately, I found another pool in the Bois de Boulogne, about two kilometers away. It was not as new as the other one, but they had a room for babies and young children. My second surprise of the day: many mothers and fathers were teaching their children to swim.
Everywhere there were automatic boxes. To keep your belongings safe, all you had to do was to note the mailbox number and enter four digits. No locks or lockers!
Finally, after every swim I wondered anew what we would do in Mexico if, even if they were wearing swimwear, men and women had to share the showers, as here. I couldn’t help but laugh at what my friends from the Morelos Unit would say.