Minnesotans who swim laps in pools are now driving in laps — to Wisconsin and back, every day.
The swimmers, locked out of pools in their own state, travel east in search of fitness centers, hotels and schools that have swimming pools. There, they stand in lines to get what they can’t get in Minnesota — a total-body aquatic workout.
“Right now we are fish out of water,” said Scott Tripps, owner of Genesis Aquatics, which coaches about 300 teenagers, adults and and tri-athletes.
Fitness buffs feel whipsawed by Gov. Tim Walz, who shut down the state’s fitness centers in March, re-opened them June 10, and shut them down again Nov. 20 due to the pandemic.
Swimmers feel as if they have been singled out.
They can’t stay in shape with cross-training. In other sports, such as basketball or baseball, athletes can use their down-time with calisthenics or weight-lifting.
They are dependent on indoor pools. “Even with tennis, you can still play outside if you have to,” said Tripps. “You can play football in the snow.”
The Hudson YMCA has seen the rush. Every weekday, Minnesota swimmers line up hours before dawn. At 5 a.m. the doors open — they plunge into the pool, two swimmers in each of the six lanes.
YMCA spokeswoman Joan Schimml said most of the Hudson Y’s programs are operating normally, albeit with mask-wearing and limitations on personal contact.
But the rush of swimmers has taken them by surprise. In response to the Minnesota migrations, she said, the Y is setting up a new reservation system for the lap pool, to be started in the next few weeks.
Coach Tripp said his swimmers look for alternatives.
Some small hotel pools allow swimmers to do “vertical training,” which is moving in various water-treading exercises.
More exotic is the technique that makes swimmers look like fish on leashes. Swimmers can create their own aquatic treadmills by strapping themselves in smaller pools.
Some of Tripps’ athletes have erected temporary pools in heated garages. They then tie a bungee cord around their waists, tie the other end to a stationary object, and start swimming in place.
It’s an example of a creative response to COVID, he said. “This is a great time to re-invention,” said Tripps. “You can re-invent yourself, your family, your business.”
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