My Romance With Running

Stories about running, as if you haven't heard enough from me already


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Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Riding 100km

The best way to learn a new skill is to go deep, submerge that sack subaqueous, and get stuck in. Don’t wade in and test the water with your toe, do a manu.

Before you set off on a long ride, there are a few things you should attempt to learn first, riding the bike is only one of those things! These are helpful questions that you can ask yourself if you are thinking abut embarking on a pedal powered expedition.

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1. Am I good enough to ride with other people?

The likelihood is slim if you’re reading a running blog looking for riding advice. A good way to test your skills and to pick up new ones is to ride with other newbie cyclists so that you can learn the ropes (cables?) together.

Riding with people who think that a cassette is a mix tape, and who don’t have terrifying intimidating vascular meaty quads and lumpy moose knuckles all stuffed like a hastily packed sleeping bag into a too-small shiny lycra casing – is a great way to get started.

You can both focus on your cycling skills rather than the pace, and you will probably both have un-cool cycling gear so will avoid embarrassing your mates who have a perfectly matching kit and their sock length measured down to the millimetre.

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My cycling gang

Riding with other people who have an interest in cycling, but do not feature in any Strava leaderboards is great for enthusiastic beginners. You can do dip-shitty things together at a slightly faster pace than you can with the super new newbies. You can break all the ‘cool’ cycling codes, and get called wankers by bearded people driving four-wheel drives because you were masturbating on your bike at the traffic lights, again.

There is a limit to riding with newbies. If someone turns up to ride the 60km leg of a charity cycle on a bike they have never ridden saying ‘Lolz I am hungover as and I haven’t trained for this’, fuck them. Do not ride with them.

2. Do I really need all the gear?

Does the Pope shit in the woods? Yes you need all the gear. Looking even vaguely like you belong on a bike will make you seem, to the uneducated eye like a ‘real’ cyclist. Someone might even ask you if you are a professional (they could have been asking the person next to me, I’m sure it was me though).

As a general rule the amount of gear you need is always one less item than you currently own. At the very least you should invest in a spare set of shorts if you intend on riding more than once every few days, because when you’re riding inland you can’t get away with blaming that swampy smell on the seaweed.

3. How do I deal with stressful situations?

Going on a long ride when you are not a cyclist is really terrifying. Especially when you know it’s going to go on for hours, and you will hit the wall and get tired and cranky. Going on a long ride with your workmates will test your ability to keep your big girl pants firmly on when you stress out and want to have a tantrum. Any hardships and stressful situations that you face during this ordeal will be downplayed and internalized on the day, then let out two weeks later in a blog post that you hope none of these people will ever read.

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Happy about this ride with the workmates, it was only 45mins!

I signed up for a 100km charity ride through work, it seemed like a very noble thing to do and I was happy to discover others from my office were also doing the ride. We arrived at the start of the ride in Levin, got on the bicycles and set out into the mist and drizzle that would not lift for the entire day on our journey to Upper Hutt.

One colleague had packed a large bottle of sunscreen in his saddle bag, perhaps just in case he needed some extra moisture to masturbate at the traffic lights, as those wanker cyclists tend to do. Another ‘hadn’t trained for a year’ he said, but something was keeping him well ahead of the pack. Was it pride? Having ridden a bike before? A more senior position in the office? Padded pants? We will never know.

The 5 hour, 120km ride was damp, dank, and dreary in parts but we pulled through as a team and managed to do our first 100km on the bike. I managed to remain positive when I really wanted to cry and swear and sit on the side of the road. I didn’t say a single four letter word, spit, or launch any snot rockets in front of my workmates, you can’t do that in front of the people you work with.

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1-0-0 Kilometres!

4. Can I fix my own bike?

If you are going on a long ride you should at least learn how to change your own tyre. Some problems though you can’t plan for, like your chain going completely dry because you didn’t bring any oil. Oh wait you can plan for that, bring your own dam oil! Spit might be hailed as a magic lube but it doesn’t work in this situation. Have a cyclist friend on speed dial so that you can call them from outside the Palmerston Pub and ask how to fix your gears or if the butter from your sandwiches will work as chain lube.

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5. How often will I need to stop for smoko?

Taking breaks on a long ride is awesome. You can pop in to the bakery and get a danish. Clip across the linoleum in the petrol station and get a pie. Get a coffee. Take a thoughtful poo mostly naked with your bib shorts around your ankles. Break time is great!

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Sweet sweet pastry

When break time is not great is when break time is over and you have to get back on the bike. Too many minutes spent selecting a pastry delight in Brumby’s Bakery has let the blood flow back into your ‘down below’ and the numbness has dissipated. After 100kms in the saddle, trying to get comfortable on the seat again is futile. It feels like you’re sitting on top of that over stuffed ham roll you saw in the bakery cabinet, or perhaps that burning hot crusted up and calloused sausage roll with bits of meat hanging out the side that was flaking fragile bits of pastry onto the floor.

Limit your time spent in the bakery and make sure you get back on the bike before your circulation comes back, for fanny’s sake.

Happy Riding


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The original running buddy

Ten years ago (gulp) I was embarking on my final year of high school. I set clear goals for my exams during the year, and a few for ‘Where I see myself in ten years time’. The only one of the long term goals I remembered was ‘I want to have a dog’.

I do have a dog, her name is Ellie and she was my very first running companion.

Me and my main girl

Me and my main girl

When your human siblings turn you down, the family dog will never decline the opportunity for an adventure. Off down the dusty gravel lane we would go, past the wool shed with it’s exciting smorgasbord of poo smells, climbing over wooden gates, (or squeezing through wire fences) scattering sheep, re-capturing escaped lambs, rolling in fragrant dead ones, and running all the way out to the concrete bridge. Conveniently located at the bottom of a large hill, this bridge signified the halfway point and an opportunity for one of us to jump in the creek to then sprinkle the other with a cool refreshing mist.

When the urge to explore took over (or we thought we saw a possum) we would run past the bridge off the road and up a hill, along the tiny single tracks worn away by sheep plodding in single file, through matagouri and red tussocks and stop to take it in. Sitting there, tongues out and panting we’d take in the everything and the nothingness that is the Northern Southland landscape. I remember thinking ‘It’s just me here, wow’ as I looked across ploughed fields, and steep tussocked hill faces that stretch to the pinnacle of rocks; beyond the skyline would be another farm with more hills to explore. At that moment it was just Ellie and me; no traffic, no people, the only interruption an unenthusiastic solo ‘Baaaaah’ from an old ewe.

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(Photo taken from Nokomai Station- By Shellie Evans)

This is the moment when I think I started to love running. Although I didn’t run regularly again for another 6 years, that feeling is the same now as it was then.

Ellie is getting old now, and can’t run because of her arthritis. She got really sick six months ago and couldn’t go to the toilet, it was around the same time I had a stress fracture in my pelvis (from running). At the time the thought of losing the ability to run and losing my doggy friend was a bit overwhelming. When Mum txt me to say that the dog had finally taken a shit it was the best thing I had heard in months, she was going to be ok.

I have a few new running companions now. None of them chase possums (although they all have strong looking teeth, and could take one down if they wanted to), and I yell at them when they try to roll in rotting dead animals. All of them are just as enthusiastic as Ellie is to be outside running with friends. Having friends to run with is great, it keeps you motivated and it makes the time pass a lot quicker if you have someone to talk to on a long Sunday run.

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Look at all my friends!

This is how I found my running buddies

  • Stalk people on Twitter that talk about running. Meet them in a remote carpark in the dark at 7am and run for 90 minutes, instant friends!
  • Offer to walk someone’s dog. Every day. And for three hours on a Sunday. Make sure you feed the dog so it doesn’t get too skinny.
  • Join your local harriers club. If your favourite colour is yellow or the Lion is your spirit animal you can’t go past Scottish Harriers in Wellington.
  • Hitting people with a stick you found in the pine trees doesn’t motivate them to run. Try a softer approach. Like rotting fruit or small stones.
  • Talk to people at running events, like the girl who passed you going up that big  hill, offer to teach her some sort of skill while learning all her hill running secrets so you can beat her next time.

Who do you like to run with? Do they have nice teeth?


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Breaking a Six Month Drought

How do you get your mojo back after a dry spell?

When it’s dry, it’s dry for ages. Often the only thing you need to get a good stiff run under your belt is a slightly less desirable initial run, just to break the drought and dust things off.

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How do you define a drought?

A drought is an extended period when a runner experiences a deficiency in his or her run supply. A drought can last for months or years, or may be declared after as few as 3 days depending on existing levels of hypochondria and addiction.  It can have a substantial impact on the fitness and mental state of the affected runner. The definition may depend on you, and what you class as a ‘normal’ number of times to be sneaking off for a quick run. Some of us do it twice or more a day, others once a week, and the odd few save it for special occasions like Christmas and New Years (those fitness resolutions are great!). I think we can all agree, that if you haven’t wet your end of your nose with sweat from a run in six months, you are experiencing a drought.

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What a run drought looks like on Strava

During a dry spell you can feel quite left out of the action, because you are. You wake up feeling squeaky-clean on a Sunday morning, and you’ve got no juicy stories for your workmates on Monday about the sweet route you conquered in the weekend. If it’s been a while since you’ve been out for an all-morning sweat fest you might be feeling like it’s never going to happen again.

This hot weather we’ve been having in Wellington gets everyone in the mood for it. Bronzed bare legs and a warm 120km/h breeze blowing through your hair like a Pantene commercial, the conditions are perfect for some carefree summer loving. I’m here to help you to get back in to the game, to end your drought, and regain your prowess on the streets, the track and the trails.

Let’s put another notch on your GPS watch and break the dry spell, let’s get you a RUN.

  1. Take stock of your appearance

What typically happens to your body during a six month drought?

You gain or lose weight, you wear things that aren’t made of spandex and regain a sense of style, your hair is clean, and you have all your toenails! You have had lots of spare time while you haven’t been chasing trails to work on things like flossing your teeth and getting hair cuts, there will have been some big changes. You need to reverse all of that.

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Consider changing your hair, making it more aero. If you have acquired a fringe since being out of action this just has to go, they are not good for running. Have you shaved off your beard trying to look clean and fancy? Grow that pube-face back, especially if you’re running off road, you need somewhere to keep mementos of your big running dates.

The boobs/moobs? I’m sorry but they need to go. Also not aero. Once you get back on the horse you will have plenty of time to run off your titties, but if you want to start the process now then get your bum on to a spin bike. I recommed the RPM classes at Les Mills to get your lungs cardio ready before launching back in to that first run.

2.Get ‘Interested’ again

If you find yourself home alone (again) eating pizza and watching the Susan Boyle X Factor audition (again) to make yourself believe that the Ugly Duckling story can come true, just stop right now and put away the pizza (keep the tissues out though).

If you have lost that burning desire that once had you at it twice a day, try to reignite that passion. The best quality ‘inspirational’ material is on the websites you can subscribe to, like Flotrack. Sign up to the site, grab a sock, some bodyglide, a strong shoelace, and any other running paraphernalia that might get you inspired (I like to wear my race medals when I watch running videos), and settle back for an evening with just you and the screen.

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Runboner material from Flotrack featuring Mary Cain

The more you watch, the more you will get inspired and want to get a slice of the action for yourself.

  1. Have realistic expectations

You’re not going to get that perfect run on the first go, so just stop with the idealism and focus on what is attainable for you right now to get this first run out of the way. Have an open minded approach when it comes to choosing your run.

What you are saying:

‘I need to get new shoes, it has to be a sunny day, I need perfect form, my favourite flavour energy gel, and the scenery has to be so good that I try to fumble a photo with my iPhone and run and eat my gel at the same time.’

What you’ll say if you really want a route. to run:

‘Stuff it, I’ll run in my chucks and skinny jeans on the damp grass after eating a turkish kebab at 2am’

Don’t wait for that perfect run to come along, you have to slay a few dragon runs to get back to prancing like a prince or princess.

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It won’t be pretty. Nice one on the ponytail hole Lululemon.

  1. Take every opportunity

Drought buster- A person you normally wouldn’t run with but whom you decide to bang. out a run with anyway because you haven’t been on one for too long i.e. The person who breaks the dry spell.

“I heard you had a run with Emily. That girl is suspect. What were you thinking?” 
“Yeah, she’s not quality. She runs 12 minute kms. I’m not proud, but what can I say? She was my drought buster.”

All your friends have continued training and you’ve been left in the dust. They are all married to their training programs, and can’t just do casual runs any more. You need to meet new people, ones who are going to have an attainable pace that you can see yourself conquering without too much effort.

Be wary of the running virgin. It may be tempting to pick up someone who hasn’t run before to help you break your drought. You might fluke it and have an amazing run with one of these people, but it’s never good having to comfort them the next day when they are in pain and walking with a swagger because of you. On the plus side, your technique can’t look bad to them, because they don’t know any better!

Other potential drought-busters

Online meetups. These are often in a group though, so if you’ve been flying solo for a few months, going straight in to a group situation can be intimidating. Some people don’t like group runs, but if you’re serious about breaking the dry spell then doing it in a group means you have not just one but up to ten new potential future running buddies! From these ten you may find the one that you can go steady with on long run Sundays. I recommend our local group Wellington Running Meetup, they are fantastic.

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Wellington Running Meetup. It gets weird.

THE ONE

When the golden opportunity finally presents itself, try to remain calm. Take it slowly or it will be over within a couple of minutes. Start off at an easy pace to get in to the rhythm, if it feels uncomfortable then slow it right down. Listen to some Lionel Ritchie if it will help to set the pace.

Expect the unexpected, it may feel like you have never done it before if it’s been a while but practice makes perfect right? The shock of that initial run is over, now it’s time for you to get in to training!

Describe using as many multi-syllabled adjectives as possible, what your first time (or first time in a long time) was like. Share with the group, go on.


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Pa-le-NO

It’s been 28 hours since it happened. Since my partner decided to go Paleo.

It happened too fast for me to realise what was going on. One minute he was sitting down to our traditional Sunday roast – Hell Pizza and Powerade- the next he was slapping sandwiches out of my hands and yellingPete Evans is a GOD!’.

There’s only room for one restrictive diet in this household, and it’s mine. I’ve been vegan for over six years, I think we’ve firmly established that I hold the title as most awkward person at the restaurant, owner of the animal friendly eco friendly sustainable compostable ergonomic bamboo toothbrush, and shunner of bacon butties.

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Friends won with this salad, at least three.

I was ok with this whole diet change until it started to affect me. We were out for a walk, and he had taken my bag of vegan jelly beans out of the car. I thought he was going to eat them; which I was ok with because sharing is caring, and you need jellybeans when you’re running for a little bit of energy. But it was much, much worse than that. He THREW my jelly beans in to a rubbish bin. A PUBLIC rubbish bin (seven second rule does not count in there). WHAT THE HELL!? I would have gone in to retrieve them had there not been a suspiciously urine-coloured pillow in there too, I just had to walkrun away and remove myself from that horrible scenario.

‘Why did you throw away my jellybeans?!’

‘Why were you just eating cancer Amanda, CANCER. That’s the old us, the new us would never eat that.’

He says he’s doing it because he cares. I think he just wants to punish me. Retribution for five years of living as an omnivore with a vegan. He survived the 6am pre-run raw smoothie stage, he pulled through the raw-food-only month in the middle of a Wellington winter. He held his tongue through many a failed fettuccine and vegan-ised Italian dish, and he has stayed.

I’m hitting reverse now with ‘sharing is caring’, after five years of dairy-free dining I am not about to let someone else in on my CoYo (Coconut yoghurt) and my dairy-free ice cream stash. I saw him eyeing it in the freezer, with his cave man drool. I pelted him with sugar cubes until he retreated and left it alone. Now I’ll have to eat all my treats in one sitting or I may not get any, thanks Paleo.

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Oh wow, so many things we could eat together! Like parsnips!

I don’t think we could ever eat out at restaurants again with one of us Vegan and the other Paleo, the chefs would hate us. That being said, I would take great joy in taking the newbie Paleo to a vegan restaurant full of soy products and seeing him scan the menu before saying with a woeful downcast look, ‘I’ll just have the salad thanks’. Ha.

I think I could show a little more patience with the Paleo ‘thing’. I don’t think I realised how hard it can be when someone changes their diet, and how much you have to learn to accommodate them and their bloody irrational new eating habits. I am trying to put things in perspective by putting myself in his shoes, what if he was as unsupportive as I am with this diet change?

I ignored your dietary requirements and made a delightful fresh basil pasta for tea, oh well, if you’re hungry you’ll eat it!

I ignored your dietary requirements and made a delightful fresh basil piglet for tea, oh well, if you’re hungry you’ll eat it!

My strategy from here is to buy all of his favourite dairy laden foods for an entire week and try to drive out the Paleo demons with Holy Cow water. I’ve been pouring chocolate milkshakes and discarded single-use kitchen appliances on the front doorstep to mark our territory ‘No Palaeolithic things in here thanks’.

I would talk about being vegan and running a lot and my diet but I’m too sugar deprived to think right now, I just want my jellybeans back 😦

RIP

RIP xoxo


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Practical travel tips for visiting the land of Pool

My first memories of swimming are at the Takitimu Community Pool in Ohai. I was five, my little legs couldn’t reach the bottom and I would hold on to the rail all the way along the edge of the pool. I flat out refused to put my head under the water (it ruins your curls). The pool was heated with coal from the local coal mine, and instead of inflatable toys or floatation devices to play with we had wine bladders. Whoever took it upon themselves to drink enough goon sack to give those twenty little kidlets some pool toys should be made Mayor of Ohai, a job well done. As far as I know, nobody went on to become a competitive swimmer, but everyone is pretty decent at drinking booze.

Freyberg Pool in Wellington, where I am attempting to become a local

Freyberg Pool in Wellington, where I am attempting to become a local

Not being able to swim well is only half the problem when embarking on an adventure to the land of Pool. It’s like travelling to a foreign country, where you must learn the customs, the language, and the politics of the Poolinese people.

Pool tourists can unwittingly offend local Poolinese by violating beliefs of their culture without ever intending to. If you’re planning to swimingle with the locals, do your research first so that there are no awkward misunderstandings.

BEFORE YOU GO

Put your togs on underneath your clothes to save on time and potential nip-slips in the changing room. Forget to pack spare underwear. Remember to pack a pair of unused and un-adjusted goggles, a swimming cap, an inappropriately sized towel and something to drink; the water that you swallow doing laps isn’t the best for hydration.

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My pool kit, complete with souvenir Wellington Marathon towel for proof of sportiness

Travelling is always more fun with a friend, so grab a mate who you are pretty sure is a terrible swimmer and totally foreign to the land of Pool. This way you can sympathise with each other, and band together if the locals give you any stick.

Check the lane timetables so that you don’t turn up at 6 am to start Aqua Jogging only to find that all the lanes are chock-full of swimming squads, and there is no space for you to meander along with your floaty belt apparatus.

TOUR GUIDES

For $30 per half hour (or thereabouts) you can enlist the services of a local to help you to get acquainted with the pool. The tour guides can spot a tourist a mile off, and the good ones will notice you struggling and come to offer their help. This is how I met Dougal, my lovely, patient swimming tutor. With his expert knowledge I have been able to go from swallowing 3 litres of water over 11 lengths, to drinking a mere 500ml over 54 lengths. You may also be able to arrange payment for your tour guide using wine, the Poolinese seem to enjoy this beverage.

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Dougal is a life saver!

ETIQUETTE 

The land of Pool uses a class system, and categorises people in to slow, medium, and fast. There is also a lane for Aqua Jogging which at times will attract the people who are not coordinated enough for the slow lane. These people are of great value as they become spectacles for the upright bored-out-of-their-minds aqua joggers.

Use the appropriate lane. If you are doing one of the following strokes; breast stroke, dog paddle, or ‘bird caught in fishing net’ then please do not do this in the fast lane. The fast lane is that magical lane right in the middle of the pool, where people who have huge backs and tiny waists frolic, have hilarious banter, and glide through the water like Maui dolphins. If you are new you should stick to the slow lane, where you won’t feel ashamed about taking breaks after one lap, and most of your fellow lane buddies are also more like eels in the gutter than dolphins. These eels will become your new tribe.

Treat the lanes of the pool like the lanes on a road; pull over if you are holding up traffic, or have bad fumes escaping from your exhaust.

LANGUAGE

What kind of lingo do the Poolinese use? When most of your time is spent underwater or gasping for air it is hard to hold a conversation, much less pick up some of the local dialect. Here are a few terms to get you started;

Pull:  Place a foam buoy between your legs and pull using just your arms. This lets you focus on training your arms, and your body position. Pull sounds like Pool in Kiwi speak. I must say it’s pretty disappointing when a Pool Boy is a Pull Buoy.

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Kick:  Use a kick-board and just kick, with your legs. This is slower than a legs/arms combo so remember your lane etiquette.

‘You go ahead, I’m just kicking’

‘No no you go ahead, I’m slow, I’m just arms-ing’

Apparently ‘armsing’ is not Poolinese lingo.

Laps: My logic, and my fondness of rounding up tells me that one lap is one length of the pool. This was challenged by a Poolinese girl I had befriended by the name of Sophie Lee. She said ‘I will just do ten more laps’ then did twenty! What the flipper? I don’t want to change my definition so won’t be checking this one with any of the locals.

Tumble turn: What people who don’t need an excuse to rest do when they reach the end of the pool. It’s an aquatic roly-poly and when you tumble towards the wall you work it out so that you are spat back out facing around the other way and you can keep swimming.

Goggle marks: Proof that you have been swimming. You won’t get sweaty pits or crotch as you do with a gym workout so this is how you let people know you’ve been working out. The severity of the marks will let the Poolinese know exactly how fresh you are to the land of Pool.

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Swimming nOObs are not unlike kickboxing nOObs in this respect

DRESS CODE

Traditional dress around the pool complex is quite minimal, less is more when you are dragging yourself through water. It is also possible to wear a combination of tight lycra, latex, and rubber while slapping things and still appear conservative in the context of a pool.

Wearing a bikini to swim lengths is like running wearing a bikini; if you have loose bits then things tend to fall out of it. I recommend investing in a one-piece that has no chance of untying mid-length, or a sporty two piece with a crop-top to hold things firmly in place.

For the men, get yourself a pair of Speedos, these are also known as DT’s. DT stands for Dick Togs, I learned this from my Australian friend Matthew who owned a bottle opener that was a pair of kangaroo gonads complete with original hair. He celebrated the masculine physique and if you too want to celebrate all things manly then a pair of these togs will suit you down to the grundle.

A fabulous example of DT's as street wear

A fabulous example of DT’s as street wear by LMFAO

It seems to be generally accepted in the changing room of the pool that it is a no pants zone. Don’t worry about people looking at your rudey bits, nobody cares! The Poolinese people like to test their flexibility in the changing rooms, lifting legs on to high surfaces, and without the shackles of underwear to prevent them getting that extra millimetre of stretch in there. You too can participate in the stretching and flexing, just check the location of the mirrors first, please.

DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES

#1- It would have to be drowning. Take precautions against this and get a few swimming lessons. I have been seeing Dougal every couple of weeks and have avoided drowning so far.

#2- Always assume that everyone is naked. Be cautious when running in to a shower cubicle that it is not already occupied by another nude Poolinese person. No surprise hugs in here.

#3- Hitting people. This doesn’t happen (often) while running, but kicking and poking people in the pool is a regular occurrence. If you are slow, you will be hit.

BEST POOL SAFETY TIP:

DO- Ask for advice from friends that have been to the pool. Ask experts and newbies so that you know both what you are supposed to be doing, and what you will end up doing accidentally.

DON’T- Expect to just nail a swimming stroke like you would a run. This sport isn’t a ‘turn up on the day and just do it’ kind of sport. Unless you have gills, just don’t risk it.

Have you got any advice for someone new to the Pool? Will I ever get to swim in the fast lane?