Whether you’re cross-training, nursing a sports injury, or just love the water, swimming is always a solid option. It tends to drop off the radar once the weather turns cooler, but for my money that’s the best time to start up. Indoor swimming during the cold months puts me in mind of all those great moments when you’ve been shut up inside someplace that’s gone overboard on the heat—a stuffy lecture hall, a smelly gym—and at last you burst out into the cold air. For a brief time, it doesn’t register as cold at all, only as a bracing and welcome change. So it is when you’ve been swimming: your hair is wet, your lungs are stung by chlorine and exertion, and the sharp edge of the air takes you by surprise.
I sing in praise of indoor swimming because I recently discovered one of Pittsburgh’s real municipal treasures, the Oliver Bath House on the South Side of the city. The city has a quite good pool system, with most of the pools open during the summer only. But only the Oliver Bath House remains open through the fall and winter months. So far, it’s been a great experience. I’m lucky in that I work only about a mile from the Bath House, and can get there by 5:30 p.m., a few seconds before the bulk of the post-work rush, thus allowing myself about 20-25 minutes of lap-swimming. The pool is well-maintained, if a little small, the staff are friendly, and there’s a general willingness among the patrons to share lanes when things do get a bit more crowded.
The best part, though, is the price. It costs $4 to go for the day, $3 for a child’s pass. But a season pass costs an adult only $30. I was genuinely surprised, upon signing up, to find that “season” doesn’t mean the fall, or even fall and winter, but that my pass will cover me all the way to June. That is the kind of steal that makes me proud to be a Pittsburgher, and to pay the taxes that make such a thing possible.