Tag Archives: swimming

Piscine DELIGNY, Paris

When I travel, I like to find local swimming facilities. The oddest — and most charming — pool was Piscine DELIGNY, a floating barge that contained a swimming pool(!), on the River Seine in Paris.

I’d guess that the pool was about 25 meters long by 15 meters wide. It was surrounded by two decks of private changing rooms. This superstructure hid the pool from the outside world and gave the pool and surrounding pool deck a cozy private atmosphere.

There was even a unique “ski nautique” concession: a speedy winch powered by a powerful electric motor would quickly pull a skier from one end of the pool to the other! It’s the oddest skiing contraption I’ve seen anywhere. The ski ride was fast but brief.

1965 video of Deligny pool on YouTube


In the mid 1970s, while in Paris for a few days, I first found this unique pool. France — even rural France — has some great swimming venues, but this was unique.

Video from 1973

From Vogue:

This is the deck in La Piscine Deligny, Paris, 1975, perhaps the most glamorous public pool in history. It contained wood from a boat that transported the body of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was frequented, over the course of its 200-year life, by kings, by Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Errol Flynn. “Do you remember that day?” I ask sort of naively. Looking at Schlesinger’s photos, you tend to imagine a story lurking below the surface of each image. “Every day was like that,” he says, laughing. But of course.

Alas, nearly 20 years later, La Piscine mysteriously sank to the bottom of the Seine, never to be heard from again, so Schlesinger’s shot of its loungers, like all of the pictures in A Photographic Memory, offers a blissfully carefree record of a lost bohemia.


Deligny pool, or bath Deligny, a floating pool was open air on the Seine, moored on the left bank (Quai Anatole France, in the 7th arrondissement of Paris) since 1796. She included a restaurant and private dining rooms.

The BRANDT brothers (Edgar and Jules), among other famous swimmers, swam here beginning in 1898.

Deligny the pool was the place of the swimming events of the 1900 Olympics.

It was a popular place where you had to be seen.

Speed is relative

Einstein taught that time and speed are relative to our frame of reference. I experienced this in the swimming pool recently. I’m working hard to swim at less than one yard per second. It feels fast to me.

hof poolThe national swim teams from Hungary and Italy have been training at my local swimming pool. While swimming my (fifty yards in sixty seconds) laps, I looked up to watch several Hungarian swimmers swimming lap after lap, with no pause. One was swimming backstroke 50 yard laps in 14 seconds. That’s more than two yards per second — lap after lap. Gulp. That’s way over twice as fast as I swim freestyle. These guys are flying.

Their coach later explained that these guys are headed to the Olympics and most are under twenty-one years old.

I can’t blame this speed difference on Einstein. These swimmers are young, gifted, and train hard. It just seems like they’re in a different universe.

Interval training

When a friend recently asked about my swim workouts,  I told him about interval training.  A swim champ taught me interval training in the 1980s.  It works.  It develops both speed and endurance while allowing you to concentrate on technique.  I use interval training for my swim workouts.  You can use interval training for your favorite sport.

Wikipedia has a simple definition.  About.com has a more complete explanation.

Here’s what I do1:
swimmer 150w blended

I use “fixed” intervals — intervals of a fixed duration.  I swim ten 50-yard laps on one minute thirty second (1:30) intervals.  If I swim hard I can come in on less than 0:55, but then I’m knackered and can’t recover in time for the next interval.  If I swim slowly, and come in on 1:15, I won’t have enough time to rest.  If I swim at about a 1:00 to 1:03 pace (that’s about 70 to 80 percent of full throttle), I can do ten intervals, maybe even 15.  Mind you, I’m gasping for breath by the last few intervals, but that’s a good thing.  Supposedly that’s when your body really benefits.  This ordeal requires about fifteen minutes.

stopwatchI like using a clock for intervals because it gives me an objective measurement of my performance on each lap.  When a 1:30 interval becomes easy, I’ll decrease it to 1:25, then 1:20, and so forth.  Or, I could increase the length of each lap to 75 or 100 yards (which would require me to increase the number of seconds in each interval).

I round out my workout by using a kickboard for alternating hard and easy kicking laps, and a pull buoy for freestyle pulls that strengthen the upper body and allow me to concentrate on breathing.  I don’t swim these against the clock.  I finish with some easy slow laps.

To get started in your sport — any sport — you can monitor your pulse after each interval.  You might see your pulse climb to 140 or more2.  (The younger you are, the higher you can push your pulse.)  Let it drop to 100 or less before beginning the next interval.  This will provide an idea of what sort of fixed interval works for you, for any particular exercise.

(I suppose that variable duration intervals — that is, always resting for thirty seconds regardless of how slowly or fast you swam/ran/whatever — a “fixed rest period”  — would be better than nothing.  I think, though, that fixed duration intervals, when adjusted to suit you, ensure that you always work hard on each lap.)

During the exercise portion of each interval, aim for an effort of about 60 to 80 percent of full throttle.

Once you’ve arrived at an interval that works for you, start with just a few repetitions.  Continue this routine for a few weeks until you can do these pretty easily.  Slowly — very slowly, in small steps — bump the number of repetitions up to ten.  Stick with it for months.  Try this routine at least three or four times a week.  Don’t give up.  You will see results.

  1. My times are pathetic compared to a competitive college swimmer.  He or she might swim ten 50 yard laps on a fifty or sixty second interval.
  2. An easy way to roughly measure your pulse is to feel your heart beats on the inside of your wrist or on your carotid artery on your neck.  Count the number of heart beats in ten seconds.  Multiply by six.  Easier (but less accurate): count number of heart beats in six seconds; multiply by ten.Measuring pulse


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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695


I’ve found that defining goals is more difficult than achieving them. Once you define your goal, you just need to imagine the path to your goal and then place one foot in front of the other. Then do it again. And again, ’til you reach your goal.

John Naber headshotIn the 1980s, I heard John Naber speak to a small audience of maybe thirty swimmers at our high school’s outdoor swimming pool. John is a famous swimmer who won four gold medals in world record times at the 1976 Olympic Games.

John began his talk by describing how impressed he was as a college student while watching East German backstroke Olympic champ Roland Matthes win Gold at the 1972 Olympic Games. John mused, “That looks like fun! Could I do that? Nah.” That night John looked at himself in the mirror and asked again, “Am I an Olympic champion? Nah . . . Mathes is a legend, and I’m just a decent collegiate swimmer.”

An impossible dream

A little voice in John’s head kept asking, “Could I do that? Well, let’s see, Mathes’ time for the 200 meter backstroke is 2:02.82, and my best time for the same event is (let’s say) 2:11.00. In four years time Mathes might knock a second or two off his 1972 time, so to beat him in 1976’s Olympics I would need to get my time below two minutes. That’s impossible!”

Then John made the great leap. “Let’s see, to beat Mathes in 1976, I’ll need to drop my best time for the 200 meter backstroke by twelve seconds, to something under two minutes (2:00.00). That means I’ll need to swim three seconds faster each year for the next four years. If I train twice a day, I might swim twelve workouts each week. That’s 624 workouts each year. To drop three seconds a year, I need to drop about .005 (five thousandths) of a second each workout. I’m sure that I can do that!”

Baby steps. 2496 of them.

John plotted a path with thousands of tiny steps to his goal: to win the gold medal in the 200 meter backstroke event at the 1976 Olympic Games. Then he worked hard for four years.

Dreams can come true.

John Naber, 1976 Olympics, winner, 200 meter backstrokeAt the ’76 Olympics, on the last lap of the 200 meter backstroke event, as John touched the edge of the pool, he looked up and saw the clock: 1:59.19 — a new world record, and exactly what he had set as his goal four years earlier.

John concluded his talk by speculating that most champions achieve great things not by chance. They set goals, plan paths, and then work hard to reach their goals. What looks incredible to us, is the result of careful planning followed by hard work.

This modest presentation, outside on a pool deck on a clear warm evening, was the best motivational speech I’ve ever heard.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A cure for muscle cramps

I’ve always been bothered by painful muscle cramps in my legs after strenuous exercise. They wake me at night after a hard day of hiking, biking, or swimming. Occasionally they’ll occur during a long hard bike ride or a hard swim workout. For decades I thought that I’d just have to tolerate the pain. Yes, some cyclists fill their water bottles with Gatorade, but it’s loaded with sugar. I thought that it was a useless gimmick. I’ve tried gorging on bananas to replace lost potassium, with no apparent effect.

gu-brewDave at Lauderdale Cyclery suggested that I try drinking a solution of Gu Brew and water (one tablet per water bottle) while cycling. I was skeptical, but was pleased to find that It actually works! No more cramps at night, and only occasional minimal hints of cramps when after a flip-turn, I push off the pool wall.

I drink this solution when swimming, cycling . . . any form of exercise. I wish that I’d discovered it earlier. The tablets are available in a variety of flavors. I don’t have a favorite flavor; I like them all.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Swim stuff online

I like to swim. Even in Fort Lauderdale, finding just the right swim gear can be tough. I’ve found that swimoutlet.com is a reliable source of everything I need to make swimming a joy.

Here are a few of my fave items:


    • AquaSphere Seal swim goggles. Over the decades I’ve tried every brand of goggle. On my face, they all leak, save one. The Seal goggle is the only one that does not leak . . . on my mug, anyway. It also provides a beautiful wide angle view. It probably creates more drag than smaller goggles, but I don’t care. Sports Authority stocks this goggle with smoked lenses.
    • Sporti swimsuits. Sporti is SwimOutlet’s house brand. Sporti mens suits are priced at about 60% of comparable Speedo suits and seem to be of comparable quality.


  • Coppertone Water BABIES sunscreen, in a pink plastic bottle. SPF 50. Contains zinc oxide. Not greasy. Stays on skin throughout an hour’s workout and more.
  • UltraSwim shampoo and conditioner. Chlorine quickly dries out my straight fine hair and turns it to straw. This shampoo seems to break chlorine’s chemical bond to hair. It’s the only shampoo that keeps my hair soft the day after a swim.

Choice of swim gear is highly personal. These items suit me. Your mileage may vary.

Looking for a nearby lap pool?

Swimmers’ Guide maintains a useful database of public accessible pools that are suitable for lap swimming. It’s great for travelers.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Croatian water polo giants win gold

Water Polo
photo: Ex13
I give both teams credit: all players survived.


Warning: this article has nothing to do with computers. Since it’s my blog, I figure that I can break its rules once in a while.

Yesterday, I watched the Croatian men’s water polo team defeat the Italian team 8 to 6, to win the Olympic team gold medal. It was a terrific game that matched the cunning Italians against the gigantic Croatian players.

I love to watch water polo, but I suspect that most people don’t. If you’ve ever played it, you appreciate how hard it is just to race up and down the pool, then struggle with your defender. Most of the action happens beneath the surface, where attacker and defender wrestle for control. A good water polo player must be fast, strong, and, like Dan Marino, have a quick release when he takes a shot at the goal.

A game contains four 7-minute quarters, and substitutions are limited. It’s a formula for complete knackerization.

Here’s the Croatian 2012 Olympic men’s water polo team roster. Check out the sizes of these big boys!

Name Pos. Height Weight Date of birth
1 Pavic, JosipJosip Pavić GK 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in) 90 kg (198 lb) 01982-01-1515 January 1982
2 Burić, DamirDamir Burić CB 2.05 m (6 ft 9 in) 115 kg (254 lb) 01980-12-022 December 1980
3 Boskovic, MihoMiho Bošković D 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in) 96 kg (212 lb) 01983-01-1111 January 1983
4 Dobud, NiksaNikša Dobud CF 1.99 m (6 ft 6 in) 118 kg (260 lb) 01985-08-055 August 1985
5 Jokovic, MaroMaro Joković D 2.03 m (6 ft 8 in) 95 kg (209 lb) 01987-10-011 October 1987
6 Muslim, PetarPetar Muslim D 2.00 m (6 ft 7 in) 102 kg (225 lb) 01988-03-2626 March 1988
7 Buljubasic, IvanIvan Buljubašić CB 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) 108 kg (238 lb) 01987-10-3131 October 1987
8 Buslje, AndroAndro Bušlje CB 2.00 m (6 ft 7 in) 115 kg (254 lb) 01986-01-044 January 1986
9 Sukno, SandroSandro Sukno D 2.00 m (6 ft 7 in) 93 kg (205 lb) 01990-06-3030 June 1990
10 Barac, SamirSamir Barač D 1.87 m (6 ft 2 in) 89 kg (196 lb) 01973-11-022 November 1973
11 Hinic, IgorIgor Hinić CF 2.02 m (6 ft 8 in) 110 kg (243 lb) 01975-12-044 December 1975
12 Obradovic, PauloPaulo Obradović D 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in) 100 kg (220 lb) 01986-03-099 March 1986
13 Vican, FranoFrano Vićan GK 1.92 m (6 ft 4 in) 94 kg (207 lb) 01976-01-2424 January 1976

Table from Wikipedia

Traditionally, the water polo teams from the Mediterranean and Adriatic Sea areas are powerhouses. The Italian and Spanish teams are usually quick and clever. It was fun watching the Italian team give the much larger Croatians a good run for the gold.

Wolf Wigo provided NBC’s expert commentary. He was a key player on the US water polo team in the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympic Games. Here’s this article’s local color: Wolf’s father, Bruce, is CEO of the Swimming Hall of Fame, right here in River City.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695