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by Linda Shoenberger

May 1, 2008

Ali Hall, a 46-year-old swimmer from San Francisco and Baltimore, emailed me a few weeks ago saying she was working in Hawaii that week.  It isn’t unusual for Ali to spend 20 to 25 days a month away from home working, usually in new places.  

I emailed back and asked her where she did her swim workouts when she was out of town.  Here’s her answer. 

“Ahead of time, I go to the USMS website and look at Places to Swim.  Then I click on swim/local programs and contact the coaches/teams listed in the area to which I’ll be traveling.  I like to take time enough to email back and forth about local customs and logistics to make sure it seems like a friendly place.  Definitely when you’re showing up for an early morning workout or making an effort to include an unfamiliar workout or location in with your work and travel, you want to know where you’re going, that people will be there, which gate to enter, whether to pay the coach on deck and all of that. 

Also, I do a search of the area where I’m traveling.  Not every swim program is listed on the USMS website and sometimes you’ll find a good lap swimming situation that’s convenient or perhaps is the only option in the area.  Anyway, I do the extra search because I want to know I’m not missing any choices.  Sometimes the local zone site has additional helpful information and listings of meets.  It’s always fun to go to a meet out of your usual path.  I belong to the Pacific Masters zone (swimming for Tamalpais Aquatic Masters) but I have found the Colonies, New England, Potomac and Southern Pacific zones to be really fun places to attend meets and even go out of my way to stay an extra day or travel to one of their meets.  

And did I mention that swimming at home is pretty wonderful too!  When in the SF Bay Area, I love to swim with the great people at Burlingame Masters and the South End Rowing Club.  When in Baltimore, I love the Arundel Breakfast Club and Severna Park Y group.   When I’m traveling I always check the area listings for YMCAs that have swim programs. 

Every place has character.  Each is different.  Even in one area, a couple of blocks apart, one program might be geared to triathletes with the coach calling the workout from the water while another program has a very structured coached workout with an active coach on deck.  Santa Fe is like that.  One coach, knowing I’d be working from a hotel and had no rental car, even offered to pick me up and drop me off!  Some coaches and area swimmers will help a visitor adjust to the altitude or other challenges of the situation.  And everywhere you go, you meet someone who knows someone else you know. 

Another great way to find swimming places and swimming buddies is to join some egroup such as the channel swimmers.  You can learn lots just by reading the training chat.  Once you’re in a group like that you’ll be able to connect with people everywhere and arrange swims with them.  That’s how I found out about the La Jolla Cove swimmers who train for the English Channel and other premier swims.  Some programs or areas have open water plus pool options (Waikiki/University of Hawaii Masters, Boulder and La Jolla come to mind). 

Some programs have very informative sites with workouts suggested or posted that you can use on your own for lap swimming.  I have even enjoyed some swim programs so much that I actively pursue work contracts near the area in order to swim with them!!  Imagine working to swim!!  The ones I particularly enjoy are Rose Bowl with Coaches Chad and Alice, Boulder Aquatics Masters with Coaches Jane, Gretchen and Tiffany, La Jolla with Coach Tudor and Nova at Irvine with Coach Ahelee.  There’s so much good information out there and so many great coaches and swimmers!” 

Thanks Ali!  I’m ready to plan a swim trip!