Observations from our first indoor pool swim workout in Paris

Last Friday night The Girl and I walked a few short minutes away to ‘our’ new pool.  By ‘our’, I mean the closest one to us, and the one we’ll likely end up getting an annual pass at.  Given it’s all of a few hundred yards away – it makes complete and total sense.

We had stopped by a few times before to check it out – but hadn’t quite yet had the time in the schedule to go swim there.  It’s been a rather busy summer thus far with more time out of Paris than in.  So, with a rainy Friday night we decided it was time for a workout.

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At this point in the day, the fee for entry was €4.50 – so about on par with a typical rec center in the US.  Interestingly at night the fee doubles to close to €10 – but that does allow you to swim till basically midnight.  That’s pretty sweet.  It’s like cosmic bowling…but for swimming.  Disco music was on one night we stopped by to check it out.  Mostly serious.

After paying our toll we received our receipt.  Do not lose your receipt.  Instead, walk upstairs and past the below sign.  Take note of the sign and ensure to adhere to it.  Notably, the removal of shoes and sandals/flip-flops.

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Once you meet the ticket taker man, he’ll take you around the outer perimeter to one of the two levels of bathroom changing stalls – you can see them all the way around the perimeter of the pool below.  You pick out the open (literally, opened) stall of your choosing, and go ahead and go inside and change.

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Interestingly, the doors do not have exterior handles – or locks that you control.  Instead, he controls them.  When you’re done changing pre-swim, you simply close the door behind you and it automatically locks.  You have no key.

Also of note is that the doors all have about 1” holes in them at about my shoulder level, so you can see inside (or outside).  Could be kinda awkward.  Just sayin’.

(Side note: In France there are many pools/gyms which have shared changing rooms for men and women – no doors.  This pool is not one of them.  I’m sure at some point I’ll encounter such a pool.  I’ll let you know how it works out.  Should that happen I can only hope I don’t choose to go at the same time as elderly water aerobics.)

In order to unlock the door when you’re done , you find the man.  The man in turn takes his key out and unlocks it.  I assume he remembers who’s stuff is who’s.

With all that settled, you wander downstairs via the staircase which forces you through the (gender separated) shower rooms and across the foot pool.  The 6” deep foot pool washes your feet before you go in/out of the pool deck.  It’s all very systematic, and actually, somewhat logical.

With that – we’re on the pool deck and ready to roll.

First up though is understanding the lane system.  The right half of the pool (left half in first picture below) is apparently dedicated for general unstructured wandering.  Mostly this includes people with kickboards and others doing drills.  Or those wishing to chat in a circle.  To be fair, this does make it somewhat easy to do drills in that you’re not really in anyone’s way – because everyone is in everyone’s way.  There’s no lane dividers on this side.  Just a free for all.

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Then you’ve got the three main lanes.  These lanes are filled with folks doing laps back and forth – like any lap pool would have.

At the time of the picture below, the pool was starting to empty out a bit (taken after our swim), but we peaked at about 12 people in our lane at one point.  It was pretty much like rush hour traffic leaving the city.

Except, it reminded me of Thailand – where two sides of the lane (road) really means three lanes.  There’s a magical unmarked center corridor that’s where passing occurs.  Same here, except, sometimes it would be two magical center lanes – with two outer lanes.  More like express lanes.  Really, all you can really do is hope and pray nobody fails on a pass.  Or goes all butterfly on you (happened).

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I’ve observed that folks in this particular pool love to breaststroke.  So much so in fact that there’s a sign at the end of one lane indicating it is a breaststroke free lane.  The other lanes allow all the breastroking you want however.

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Regrettably, some folks didn’t follow the sign.

Thankfully, one of the swim building peoples yelled at them.

Problem resolved.

I also observed that there’s no apparent understanding of where to stand at the end of the lane while taking your rest.  In general, folks lined up as if they were preventing a penalty kick in soccer (football) – blocking the entire wall from lane divider to lane divider.  So the turns at the shallow end often ended up being rather lazy since you sorta stopped, hit ground, and then turned around.

Now – the cool part of all this is that the whole swim was pretty much a battleground – so it wasn’t all that different than a triathlon.  You were constantly sighting to avoid swimming over someone, or having someone swim into you, or any combination thereof.  So my sighting skills will dramatically increase in time.

Further, if you were timid about whacks/splashes/etc – this would be the place to train.  It doesn’t bother me, but for newer triathletes, it might help.

One other interesting difference we both noticed is that in the US folks would tap your toes if they wanted to pass you.  Here, they gave me a lower leg feel-up.  Like a mini-massage.  Perhaps they just like my legs though.  It’s happened before.

Ok…it’s never happened – but maybe it’s happening now.

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Finally – one last thing I found cool.  I noticed someone using one of the swim products (Nabaiji Waterproof MP3 Player/Distance Counter) I reviewed last fall as part of the great Swimming MP3 Player Shootout.  That in and of itself is very normal – but since I reviewed a European-only product – I’d never seen anyone using it in the US.  But sure enough here’s my first swim and someone’s out there using it.  You can see the little green blob attached to the swimmers head above (lower swimmer).  That’s it there!

With that, we did the whole foot pool, shower, go upstairs, find the man to unlock the door, change in the room with the peep hole, walk out but not wearing your shoes and go back down the stairs routine in reverse.  And then get a baguette for the way home.  First swim, a success!

Of course – this is just my first swim, so it’s possible that this particular pool is either totally off the wall or completely the norm.  I’ve gotta say though – the pool facility itself is pretty sweet.  I’d love to hear from other Paris/France folks on how this compares.

As always, thanks for reading!

24 Comments

  1. Thanks Ray for the post. Your Paris posts are my new favorite on the blog.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Is this a private club or something like a public rec center?

    Reply
  3. Tom

    Hi Ray, It's a typical French pool, you will find the same setup anywhere. I encourage you to try the 50m pools, it will be less of a battleground. When I was in Paris I liked the keller pool.

    Reply
  4. Having just moved to Sydney (2 months back) its interesting to read your new experiences as I am having many of the same.
    Pool etiquette is certainly different around the world. I swim in the medium/fast lane out of 5 with a 3 lane free for all at the end. This certainly shouldn't mean having someone swim 40m and walk the last 10 each lap, as I had on Sunday (my second swim with the garmin swim, bought after your review-thanks!).
    I am also swimming in a beautiful old fashioned pool link to northsydney.nsw.gov.au which has paid showers, and only allows cubicals with an annual subscription. I'm also trying to avoid the oldies sessions for the changing rooms space...

    Reply
  5. magiccyril

    Except for the changing room where we have a key to lock, it's the same in Bordeaux (France) for the lane system. It's very anoying when there's too much people in the lane.

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  6. It will be mostly the same everywhere, except you'll see pools with fast, medium level and slow lanes which is cool unless someone is upgrading himself.

    50m-swimming pool will be easier.
    Also, you might consider joining a swimming club and/or a triathlon club, they can have specific hours of training that will prevent any trafic jam within the pool.

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  7. i didnt realise that not everyone swims the same way up a pool - kinda like which side of the road you drive on. in australia you stay to the left up and back, around the black line. you dont stay on one side of the black line either.

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  8. I wish my local pool was as cool. In our swimming a length is like navigating the English Channel shipping lanes.... grown men acting like kids doing widths and dunking each other... grrrr.

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  9. Another great post thanks Ray.

    My family and I are planning to move from Toronto to Paris next summer. I do triathlon and my daughter is a competitive swimmer, so we're looking forward to many more posts on the swim/tri scene (and life in general) in Paris.

    Hopefully we can meet up and have a Kronenbourg together when we get there!

    Reply
  10. Pyf

    Welcome in France Ray... where swimming training is not easy to say the least. For the other two activies of triathlon however I'm sure you'll find some great places to ride and run.
    If you are at Eurobike this week, stop by the Look Cycle booth. Enjoy your new life. Pierre

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  11. It's a bit similar to the german pools, however you see standard lockers with keys or (much cooler) RF-ID Chips.
    25m pools are okay, but often crowded, I would also suggest to find a 50m pool.

    Btw. I am not sure how it works in France, but in Germany you can find "early bird" tariffs at many public swimming pools, where you can swim from around 5 AM to 8AM for around 1,20-1,70 Euro.

    Combined gender change rooms are also found in Germany, but only at the places where you also book both-gender sauna sections.

    Cheers,

    Daniel

    Reply
  12. I assume you've seen this website? link to piscine.equipement.paris.fr

    I went for a swim at the Piscine Blomet once when my parents were staying nearby & I was visiting them. I was so nervous but it was a fantastic experience.

    Enjoy1

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  13. It is just as croweded as the swimming pool in Shanghai.
    I bet you will meet many fake laps in 910XT as you need to pass someone during the swimming.

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  14. Thanks all, glad you're enjoying!

    Hi Anon-

    Just a public rec center. I don't know enough French yet to figure out how to get into the swanky private clubs. :(

    Hi Tom-

    Yup, looking forward to trying others. There's a number of pools in walking distance or 5 minute biking distance, really cool.

    Hi Pyf-

    Yup, I'll definitely swing by on either Thurs or Friday!

    Hi Pompom-

    Yup, a great site - especially the map part, super easy to see where things are.

    Xiao-

    Funny insider joke, well played. :)

    Reply
  15. Seb

    Nice post Ray. The lanes system is basically the same in Belgium and Luxembourg.

    I've seen pools that also had specific times during the week where the pool was available only to those who wished to swim laps, with all lanes set-up, but not often.

    Here in Luxembourg, it's basically the same as you encountered, except that sometimes (when schools come to the pool), the lanes are turned 90°... so it becomes a 25m pool that is 50m wide, instead of the classic 10-lane set-up (50m olympic pool).

    People who just want to enjoy the water without specifically swimming can go in the 25m pool (which has a shallow end, while the olympic pool is uniformly 2.20m deep) or the 8x4m "baby-pool", and those who want to practice their diving skills have the 17x17m 5.5m-deep (extensible to 15m deep) diving tank at their disposal.

    The pool can be pretty crowded (relatively-speaking) from 5 to 8 PM, but the pool is open from 8 AM to 10 PM (7 AM with the subscription, since you have your own private RFID bracelet).

    The second (underground) 50m pool is used mainly by swimming teams and some schools (only 6-lane).

    And of course, there's a 12x8m pool reserved for water aerobics.

    The only thing is that the changing room set-up you experienced is unusual. All the pools I've been to have have individuals cabins (no holes in the doors...), which you lock from inside, then you store your stuff in a locker, which you lock either with a key or another similar system (some sort of RFID chip, here in Lux), tied to a watch-like bracelet, which you try not to lose in the pool while swimming. And you remove your shoes before accessing the cabins, though flip-flops are allowed up until you enter the water (assuming you don't wear them outside, of course).

    Fees (no time limit) are in the EUR 4 range, too, about EUR 275 for yearly subscription, with access to the hot tub, suntan machines, and lounge. Make that EUR 9 and EUR 450 respectively if you want pool + fitness center.

    So basically, that pool seems to have a convenient location, but you might find better infrastructure elsewhere in Paris, I guess. Of course, Luxembourg is a bit far from there ;) and is an extreme example (unusually nice infrastructure), but you can find better than what you tried.

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  16. the calf massage sounds interesting :)

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  17. Hi Ray,

    I've been going to this pool for years since it's also a few hundred meters away from my place, and I can tell you that it's definitely not the usual setup.

    First, it's not entirely a public rec: they follow the city pools rules, but it's also a private club with membership for the gym/squash courts, and as such the entrance fee is slightly more expensive than other public pools.

    Second, the cabin system is unlike any other I've seen: nowhere will you find a ticket man who opens your door. You always need a key to your locker in other pools. Most public pools only have a large changing room where everybody tries to avoid staring at each other. I hate those. Even private expensive clubs often have the one-room system, where some dude will flash his privates to everyone else.

    The length of this pool is 33m, which is also not the norm (usually 25m, and in rare cases 50m).

    If you go often, I suggest you buy a book of 10 tickets. The price is lower. Or you could become a member if you go more than twice a week. Otherwise, I don't think it's worth it.

    The third lane (against the edge of the pool) is reserved for lessons. It's not very expensive and it's a great way to have the lane for yourself for 30-40mn and a coach.

    Speaking about busy lanes, I recommend going early in the morning if your job allows it. It's much less crowded.

    Enjoy! :)

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  18. Ploup

    Oh, it's funny, I used to swim in this swimming pool. Unfortunately most of them are crowded in paris. It's cheaper if you're a student. There is a cheaper one near the panthéon, not far from where you've been, called jean taris.

    You can find any swimming pool in paris on this website
    link to nageurs.com
    There is a lot of informations if you speak french.

    Reply
  19. Anonymous

    Hi, great review !

    I would add one more thing though.
    Swimming lanes in france are fast/medium and slow, and there's usually a lane only for people using swimming gear (like paddles, fins or kickboards).

    Lanes in Australia and UK/ireland are only about the swim speed, and to me, it makes much more sense !

    Reply
  20. Love your comment, "...it reminded me of Thailand – where two sides of the lane (road) really means three lanes. There’s a magical unmarked center corridor that’s where passing occurs." LOL, I lived in Thailand for a year in the mid-90s, and saw that all the time on the roads, don't know about the pool, didn't do any pool swimming there.

    Reply
  21. tim

    I'm curious what you used to calculate the time indoors

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  22. Gus

    One really important point for casual swimmers (probably none on this site then ;-)) is the sign which reads "Shorts et bermudas interdits" - despite speaking good French I found myself at an outdoor pool with family in France, having just purchased a Speedo-branded pair of loose casual swimming shorts... but was refused entry by an 80 year old leather man in a thong as they only allow traditional speedo-style swimming trunks. I wanted to punch him! "Pas de bermudas!"... GRRR!!!!

    Reply
    • Tom replied

      Gus, I had a similar experience at an outdoor pool in L'Alpe d'Huez. I was told. "You need a swim suit" and I responded "this is a swim suit, see the mesh liner" They said my 5 year old son I and had to rent one of their suits, speedo briefs. The one for my son was fine, he actually look adorable in it. They looked at me and said "You are a medium. We are out of mediums, do you want large or small. I took the large. Unfortunately the large was too large around the leg opening allowing stuff to fall out. I went back to the counter to see if any mediums were available now. Of course not; so I took the small. It was extremely small! Thank goodness I was in decent shape or I would have felt more awkward than I already did. Once I got out to the pool deck it wasn't as big a deal since everyone else was wearing something similar and most looked worse than me.

      Reply

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