Aug 18, 2010

Master Swim, Chamonix Style

Chamonix is a mecca for all things deemed “extreme.” Dozens of sports can be tried here all with the impressive and stunningly beautiful backdrop of the peaks of the Mont Blanc Massive. Some sports are more user friendly than others.

Outdoor pool in Chamonix with the Mont Blanc in the background

The swimming pool and master swim club is no different. It took four years to rebuild the outdoor pool at the Richard Bozon Sports Center in Chamonix (and its still 5 meters short, only 45 meters long) but its incredible setting more than makes up for the lost distance. Nestled in the heart of town, swimmers can look up and sight off the Midi or the summit of Mont Blanc itself.

Master’s swim in Chamonix is part of the Chamonix Club des Sports which boasts 28 different sporting sections. The Club Natation de Chamonix is run by the trainer Jean-Christophe Guer or J.C. as we call him. The club was started in 1972 with 35 members and now boasts close to 170. Practices vary, but are held five times a week twice on Mondays and Thursdays and Tuesdays at noon. During the winter season you can even get up at 6am and swim with the high school kids.

The work outs are pretty demanding and focus equally on all strokes, not just freestyle. J.C’s motto is that you must train all strokes to be strong at one and it also prevents repetitive injuries. Even though I can’t swim the backstroke outside in a straight line to save my life, it stretches out my shoulders after a hard freestyle workout. Not to mention how burly training fly is in a longer pool.

When I first joined the club I had to relearn all swimming terms in French. IM (international medley) for example is quatre-nage and the butterfly is called le papillon. For the first few practices I never managed to get the workout right and just followed Vanessa, the speedy girl in front of me or just kinda did my own thing pretending I knew the drill. The sprints at the end of practice were also interesting as their call to start was a little different. Instead of on your marks, get set, go - it was get set, go! Or sometimes there were three commands so inevitably I left too early or too late much to everyone’s amusement.

My fellow French swimmers tolerated me with a smile and gave me lessons while holding up certain items repeating the name in French. Kickboard = La planche. Lane = couloir. I can now understand most of the terminology and apologize in the right language when I run into someone because I am too busy staring at the view. But thanks to that same view I never miss a practice - even when its raining and we can see the snow on the Mont Blanc.

Interested? Master swim programs are very popular and most certainly there is one near you, check with your local pool or community center.

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