Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bobbing for Fitness

[Originally posted at]

I have previously mentioned that the Health Club had a formidable Korean community. Much of this community belonged to one of the swimming pool's most popular sub-groups, the Non-Swimming-Asian Society for Fitness (NSASF).

"Non-swimming," you say? "Then what are they doing in a swimming pool?"

This is the question that plagued Damon and I for the duration of our tenure at the Health Club. These were people who had never learned to swim, but still wanted the vigorous, healthy workout that the pool had to offer. They would enter the pool, walk down until the water was just below armpit depth and bob up and down in place for about an hour, often aided by a float-belt. Not water aerobics, mind you. Literally just bobbing up and down.

Vigorous. Healthy.

It was so vigorous that they never seemed to be out of breath, tired, nor did they ever show any remote sign of fatigue. It was so healthy that they never visibly lost weight.

The NSASF was also one of the biggest obstacles to our lap-swimming members. Those who actually wanted a workout got more than they bargained for when attempting to swim in a straight line. Our pool wasn't large enough to warrant lane lines, so lap-swimmers were always dodging NSASF's who placed themselves in their paths.

"Excuse me, I was swimming laps right here. Could you move over just a few feet?"

Bob. Bob. Bob. Bob.

"Really? Can't you just move over here?"

Bob. Bob. Bob.

I'm not really sure why it was just the Koreans who bobbed for fitness, but it was. Just like I wasn't sure until many years after I worked at the Health Club, why the Koreans were the charter members of another popular sub-group, Loogie-Hockers Incorporated. I've since read that it is common in the Korean culture to expectorate just about anywhere, and the practice is not considered rude in the least. They find nose blowing extremely offensive, but spitting is a casual thing. But it was certainly alarming to me at the time to see them walk over to the side of the pool and hock a lunger right there on the pool deck.

"Hey! You can't do that here! That's disgusting!" The most response I would get was that they might flick a little pool water on their gooey pile, which really only disguised it for the next unsuspecting, bare-footed soul to walk through.

Another off-shoot of the NSASF was the CTCA, or the Cross-Trafficking Commission of America. There was no ethnic requirement to be a part of this group, though it was certainly founded by the NSASF. The CTCA consisted of non-swimmers wanting learn how to swim by themselves, but fearing for their safety, they would stick to the shallow end of the pool. Thus they were forced to "swim" the width of the pool, providing more obstacles for lap-swimmers.

When I say "swim," I mean they would push off the wall, hands out front, face down for as long as they could hold their breath, and then convulse briefly until finally putting their feet down, gasping for breath and wiping away the water from their eyes. They'd laugh and look around for some sort of approval from anyone, as if they'd just accomplished something in their personal lives. They would then repeat the process after walking the rest of the way to the other side of the pool where they would promptly propel themselves into a now furious lap-swimmer. Several collisions later, their work was done, and they felt as if they'd learned something new, grown emotionally and maybe even burned a few calories, which of course, they hadn't.

The more daring affiliates of the CTCA would venture into the deep end. They would never relinquish their death grip on the side of the wall, but dammit, they made it! See? It's not so scary! The wall will hold you up! If you can do this, you can do anything!

The Cliffhangers, as they were affectionately called, were fun to watch. They really looked like they had done something important, taken a big step in their personal development.

"You finally made it to the deep end, sort of," you'd say in your mind! "And you're only 43? Your parents will be so proud of you! Let's call Guinness to make sure this isn't some sort of a record."

Then then on your way to pick up the phone you step into a squishy pile that your foot now instantly recognizes as Korean spit.


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