I inhale deeply, and the faint kiss of chlorine greets me in return. It's been well over two months since I've last swum, and my body is screaming at me to jump in. So I let the water envelope me as I fall back into the easy pace of one, two, three, breathe.
This has been my first time swimming outside of the USA, and inside of the pool, it really isn't that much different. I do 2000 meters in forty-five minutes. First I do a 1000 warm-up that usually consists of a 500 straight swim, 3x100s kick, and 6x50s drill/swim. Then I do an 800 of a set. On Monday I focused on building distance so I did 4x200s freestyle, before warming down for a 200. Today, I wanted to focus on stroke and kick, so I did 200 kick, 200 straight fly, 200 kick, 200 straight backstroke.
What's different is outside of the pool.
In America, I woke up at six and stumbled to my car, bleary-eyed, and drove down to the local pool, skipping breakfast altogether, and then sleeping for several hours, simply signing my name into the logbook.
In Japan, well, it's a little bit different.
My morning starts off with breakfast, courtesy of my lovely host mother. As far as breakfast for an athlete, it's perfect. Salad, fruit, a starch, protein. Usually I have some form of an egg, brown rice, salad, and fruit. Today it was curry, a piece of bread, a salad and fruit.
I don't drive to the pool. I walk straight through Morishita to it, two miles, every morning at 6:20 AM sharp. Maybe it's the jetlag, or maybe it's because I'm sleeping earlier, but I'm up every morning at 5:30 AM like clockwork without even yawning. I pass by the neighbor's cat on my way out. He's giving himself a bath, as usual.
I get to the sports center around 7:00, just in time for the morning hour special.
The first thing I do is buy a ticket for one hour at the vending machine. It's like a subway ticket timeslot. I think if you go over the time you have to pay extra at the desk.
Once you've been accepted by the machine, it's time to go into the locker room. An important thing to note: make sure you take off your shoes before you enter the wooden flooring though, the same ruling applies here as it does in houses and in changing rooms. Once that's done, I put my things in a locker and head out to the pool for my laps. Make sure to bring the towel with you on deck, because once you come in, if you drip all over the locker room, you'll get some nasty looks. But if you do forget, don't worry because in the corner is a towel-mop that you can use to wipe up your water-trail. Also, another thing- absolutely do not put on your shoes until after you've left the locker room!
Out of habit, I forgot the first time because in the USA, swimmers should wear flipflops otherwise you can get a nasty case of plantars warts.
Another thing I didn't realize is that water bottles aren't allowed behind the lane. I guess it's because they could spill into the water, or people might knock them over.
What's also interesting to note is the number of elderly I see at the pool. They are all in swimming classes, and walking in the walking lane and swimming in the lap lane quite efficiently, staying very active. When I swim in the USA I do see a large amount of adults in their fifties and sixties doing laps, but I've never seen an entire swimming class dedicated to teaching elderly people in their seventies how to do a flip turn. I was very impressed with both the drive to learn and the effort they were all putting into it.
So far, I love swimming in Japan. That's one thing that will never change, no matter what country I'm in- I just love to swim.