If you are ever invited to perform with a crackerjack synchronized swimming team, you should take the standard precaution of not eating any doughnuts or bacon sandwiches for breakfast before jumping in the pool.
That's the golden rule I followed early Saturday morning when I bravely took the plunge at Seven Oaks Pool for the first-ever Celebrity Synch 'N' See event to promote the sport of synchronized swimming.
The event was organized by Winnipeg's Aquatica Synchro Club, which has about 50 female members from ages five to over 40, in a sincere effort to encourage more young girls to come out and immerse themselves in the sport.
Naturally, the first person the folks at Aquatica thought of was me. "We're trying to promote synchronized swimming and create awareness that it promotes fun and fitness," is what Aquatica president Pam Pyke explained to me. "You'll create a visual that people will remember.
"Plus, having you there will reinforce the athleticism of the sport, because it is really difficult. You have to be in tip-top shape to do it well and your performance will reinforce that."
After skipping breakfast and driving to the pool, I was a bit anxious, even though I'm reasonably comfortable in aquatic environments. In my brand-new bathing suit, I was transformed from 285 pounds of melting lard into 285 pounds of melting lard doing an excellent impression of a flotation device.
The first thing that happened was Carly Ayres, 21, one of Aquatica's bubbly coaches, gave me some nose clips and a manly bathing cap decorated to resemble a shark, with rows of razor-sharp teeth and an impressive fin on top.
Then, Carly made the human shark and about 16 extremely fit and youthful members of Aquatica swim four lengths of the pool to ensure we were "warmed up." I personally became "warmed up" to the point where I needed to hang on to the edge of the pool with a white-knuckle grip to ensure I did not float anchor-style to the bottom.
At this point, they began teaching me the basics, beginning with the eggbeater, which is when you whip your legs around like an eggbeater to keep yourself upright in the water as if you were sitting in a kitchen chair. When the girls did this, they sported ear-to-ear grins, whereas I was wearing a forced, constipated-type smile that conveyed this urgent message: "My heart will probably explode in 30 seconds, but look how chipper I am."
The next skill I learned was the Body Boost, wherein you compact your body with your head just under the surface of the water, then thrust upwards like nuclear missile. The kids were able to rocket out of the water like dolphins, whereas I -- and this is not easy for a manly man like me to admit -- suffered from failure to launch.
I learned many more things, including Sailboat Legs, which is when you float on your back and place one foot gracefully on your knee so it resembles a sail; and Ballet Leg, where you lie on your back and raise one leg in the air like a prima ballerina. It helps when your teammates hold your legs up for you. After about an hour, Carly decided I had absorbed enough and we should perform our "routine" before my lungs filled with water. It is difficult, using mere words, to explain how exhausting it is for a 56-year-old guy of my gender to try and keep up with a group of extremely athletic, highly trained girls in a very deep pool, but I will try: It is very exhausting.
As it turns out, I wasn't half bad at making dramatic faces, fluttering my hands and even doing the splits with my top half submerged, but I struggled somewhat with our signature move -- a back-tuck somersault, wherein we floated on our backs to pounding music, tucked our knees under our chins, then rolled over backwards underwater.
My athletic point is, yes, synchronized swimming is challenging, but, unless you are an aging newspaper columnist, you should definitely fling yourself in headfirst. It's 100 pounds of fun stuffed into a 50-pound swimsuit.
My favourite part came when Carly smiled gently and said it would be OK for me to get out of the pool. And when you weigh 285 pounds and have just used muscles you didn't know you had, that is the hardest manoeuvre of them all.
Winnipeg's Aquatica Synchro Club wants more girls to get in the swim. Go to www.aquaticasynchro.com and click on the "how to join" button; email the club at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 204- 223-0912.
Take the plunge
Winnipeg's Aquatica Synchro Club wants more girls to get in the swim. If you're interested, go to www.aquaticasynchro.com and click on the "how to join" button. Or email the club at email@example.com or call (204) 223-0912.