For warm, cozy fun, swim in an outdoor heated pool in winter

For warm, cozy fun, swim in an outdoor heated pool in winter

Jennifer Reinhardt stands atop the starting blocks of an Austin swimming pool during a 2013 cold snap. Pam LeBlanc photo

It’s what I call swimming-in-a-warm-cauldron weather, and yes, people, this makes me extremely happy.

People always seem shocked when I tell them I still swim when temperatures outside drop into the 30s. Even when I explain that the water in Western Hills Athletic Club, which is outdoors, is heated to a balmy 80 or 82 degrees, they look at me like I’m nuts. And while I may be nuts, the swimming outdoors part in January has nothing to do with it.

Take this morning. When I arrived at the pool, the thermometer in the truck read 32 degrees. A thick steam rose off the surface of the pool, which is perched atop a hill on Rollingwood Drive in West Austin.

I shivered as I peeled off my plush-lined, over-sized deck jacket and stepped out of my sandals onto cold concrete. But jumping into a heated pool in the middle of winter in Texas feels like diving under the covers of a bed pre-warmed by a three snoozing Labradors – it’s cozy as heck. After the first five minutes, it’s no different than any other swim practice, except that the clouds of steam blowing over the water make it hard to see.

The person who does suffer during these cold-weather practices? The coach standing on deck. Today, that was coach Cheryl Ridout. (Thanks Cheryl!)

The forecast looks chilly for the next five days, and I’m looking forward to more swimming, as long as the roads stay ice free. We’re a hardy group here at the pool. I snapped the above picture of Jennifer Reinhardt’s feet during swim practice in 2013.

While I love swimming in a heated pool, I do draw the line someplace. Another friend invited me for a pre-dawn, naked mile swim at Barton Springs Pool. I’m all for the naked swim, which I’ve done before (it’s fantastic, and nobody can see in the dark), but not when temps are below freezing. That’ll have to wait a week or two.

On a related note, the Austin Parks & Recreation Department sent out a press release earlier today, noting that all year-round swimming pools, tennis centers and golf courses are closed. Schedules for tomorrow are pending weather conditions, and it doesn’t look much better. Check to check status.

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