Buck up….or not!

Natatorium - Huntsville

Natatorium – Huntsville

I know that I keep complaining about living in “middle earth” so why should this week be any different?  Deep sigh.  The whole point of this blog spot was to recognize moments of bliss each day even while living in middle earth (or, in spite of it all).  How’s that going you might ask?  Well, definitely not as well as expected.  Since leaving Southern California nearly everything about my life has changed.  I am no longer the person I was just eight months ago; in fact, I’m not really sure who I am.  I reckon that some of this loss of identity was bound to happen anyway; since my third knee surgery two years ago, what defined many of my days for twenty-five years –lovely long runs in every kind of weather–has been on the downhill slide and, save for a five-mile trail run around my old stomping grounds in Northern Virginia late last year, those days have come to a screeching halt.   Couple that with cycle rides that I can count on one hand with fingers left over and a physical body that looks nothing like it did just eight months ago…..

Sigh….I could go on…..

I’m trying to get back a semblance of my former, active, life and it’s proving to be more challenging than I thought.  Case in point…let’s get back into the swimming pool shall we!  I’d made a stab at it back in October when I joined a gym (University Fitness in Huntsville) that had a pool.  I can’t say that I managed to feel excited about this gym.  Nothing in middle earth is remotely like the terrific gyms that I belonged to when living in Northern Virginia or Southern California.  But I was determined to be as positive as possible about it;  Alas, two lap swims in the pool were enough to turn me off to their pool and eventually that gym.    The atmosphere of the pool itself was OK (although this one didn’t even have backstroke/overhead flags to mark the walls); it was the water temperature that was the problem.  Athletes prefer water temps for lap swimming to be between 76-78 degrees;  swimming laps in 82-85 degree temps is thoroughly uncomfortable!  I felt like I was swimming through lava in the middle of a volcano after just two lengths of the pool.  I asked the pool director if the water was always kept this warm and she replied to the affirmative.  “The senior citizens don’t like the cooler temps like athletes do” was the explanation.  Wonderful.  Well, this gym was too far to travel to anyway I reasoned so once again I went off in search of another place to workout.

My current gym is much closer to home (nine miles one way instead of 14 ).  It’s small but clean and open 24/7 (not that I would want to workout at midnight but, it’s nice to know that I could if I so desired!).  The downside?  No pool.

So folks here have been telling me to try out the public pool interestingly called “The Natatorium.”  I confess I had never heard this term used for a pool before (and I even took Latin in the ninth grade.)  I really did get a chuckle out of the Latin name used here in “Hicks-ville” middle-earth.  Yes, I acknowledge my negativity is not getting any better.  Come on Missy….another deep breath.


I vowed a trip to the pool to get back into at least a once-a-week swim regime (more than two wreaks havoc on my hair and skin).    So off I went on this morning when hubby was again out of town…leaving poodle to slumber despite the construction noise down the street.

The outside of the Natatorium looked pleasant enough; there’s even a lake and park benches nearby.  I thought this a very good sign.  Once inside….ah….a different story.  The locker room was just short of awful.  Really, it was just a slight upgrade to the small community pool where my kids swam during their summers when living in Virginia.   The lockers were so tiny–not much larger than a shoe box– I couldn’t get my backpack into it and I wasn’t able to use my padlock to secure it (I found out later you have to pay to use the lockers!).  Are we supposed to go in with only our swimsuits on?  There were no counters anywhere and only two small sinks. Don’t get me started on the toilets or shower stalls.  Hmm…the Huntsville Hospital Wellness Center pool with the emergency pull cords in the shower stalls are starting to look good about now. Ay, That was a depressing thought…I had already dismissed that thoroughly depressing facility after only one visit months ago.    I’m in trouble!

The pool area itself wasn’t terribly bad but its apparent that the facility is old and in need of a serious upgrade.  On the plus side (see…it is possible for me to come up with something positive) the water temp was just about right (78 degrees).  My swim was difficult given that I hadn’t been in a pool since October; lots of stopping between laps but I managed to stay in the water for 45 minutes.  As I swam I noted the pool’s floor also needs an upgrade…was it my imagination that there was a tinge of green to everything.  Yuck.  Such a disappointment after eight years of swimming at The Spectrum gym in California and that gym wasn’t even the creme-De-la-creme in the area!

I am struggling.  I really tried to be upbeat about the pool but the more I was there, the more I knew it wouldn’t work.   As I went about the task of trying to shower and change in the abysmal locker room I kept muttering to myself, “…not coming back….not coming back.”  At least my feelings were validated by a quick online search once home; several sites had negative comments much like my own.

The next day I happened to be sharing my Natatorium experience with a couple of much younger gals.  I ended my petite diatribe with “…and I’m not going back.”  “Well, if you want to stay fit and get to know other swimmers (athletes) you’ll have to ‘buck up’ and just go with the flow. It’s not that bad,” said one of the gals.  I wanted to retort  “Really…is that how its done? I had no idea.”  Or, something more colorful.  Instead, I opted for a zipped lip.

I sort of stewed on that comment for the rest of the day.  I wasn’t quite sure why it bothered me until I was out walking my poodle buddy.  It dawned on me in the quiet of my afternoon walk that I’ve reached a certain age…the “Golden Age” one could say….I’ve done my time living in substandard Army quarters and on run-down military bases.   I’ve lived in tiny apartments with no laundry facilities and townhouses where college students partied hardy until the wee hours of the morning making it nearly impossible for a newly divorced mother of two kids to rest a wink through the loud music, thunderous car noises all hours of the night, beer bottles crashing to the pavement, condoms in the parking lot…(explain that to your ten-year old daughter)……well….you get the picture.  At this stage in my life I should be able to enjoy reasonably pleasant surroundings ….a certain amount of luxury that is, of course, within my means.  So,  I don’t feel I should have to “buck up.”  More pointedly…I feel that I am supremely lucky enough now not to have to.

Today after a long power walk and achy knees after the fact, I searched online for other pools in the area.  Two others….water temps 84-85.  This is not looking very promising.  The thought of going back to the Natatorium is thoroughly depressing…. the only other solution is to go back to University Fitness…not sure hubby would like it if I belonged to two gyms….one for swimming and one for everything else…..

Well…Tomorrow is another day. I can “buck up”….or not.  That’s about the size of it.

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