Last week I swam outside at the Oasis in Covent Garden. It’s a lovely place to swim because the water is always quite warm even in winter (I don’t know how they do it because there’s never that much steam coming off the surface).
Anyway at the end of my swim a fellow swimmer, who it turned out worked there, came up to me to inform me that underwater MP3 players, or SwiMP3s, were going to be banned from the pool. When I asked why he said, ‘it’s so you can hear the lifeguard if they shout you to get out the water.’
Now I nearly always swim with an MP3 player in my ears – a Finis SwiMP3 model which I’ve had for a couple of years. This is largely to relieve the boredom of plouging up and down for ages. Without one I reckon I would only be able to manage to swim in a pool for about 45 minutes, whereas with one I can swim comfortably for double that time.
I must confess though the only time I don’t wear one is when I’m swimming in open water, particularly in the sea where I am paranoid about jet skis especially after the tragic death of Kirsty MacColl a few years back. However, I do consider the threat of jet skis to be a little more serious than anything that could happen at the Oasis where the biggest threat is probably from pigeons overhead!
Also as I wear both a swimming cap and earplugs to protect my ears when I swim I almost certainly wouldn’t hear a lifeguard shouting at me anyway (come to that I’m not always convinced I’d hear a jet ski which is why I tend to look around much more when I’m swimming in the sea and always wear a bright swimming cap).
So in my opinion it’s usually a much better idea for a lifeguard to wave his arms or ideally stand at the edge of the pool and attract my attention when I reach the end of the length. Go on, tap me on the head if you really need to I won’t mind!
Surely banning a music player that has been designed to give people a little bit of pleasure when they exercise (something we all find a bit dull if we’re honest) isn’t really necessary? After all no one says you can’t wear an iPod on a treadmill in case one of the members of staff tells you to get off the equipment. Or that you can’t put music on in your car because you won’t hear other cars beeping you.
Sure swimming isn’t without risks – nothing in life is – but I’m not convinced by wearing one of these devices the risk is any greater (surely the greatest risk of swimming is drowning from not being very capable in the water and no one asks you to produce your swimming certificates when you buy your ticket).
To ban SwiMP3s, or any underwater MP3 players, seems to me utterly pointless and unnecessary. We should be actively encouraging people to use these devices so they are more likely to exercise rather than discouraging them so they are less likely.