Last week, my co-worker Pia, who also happens to be an Ironman competitor, offered to take me as her guest to the Cherry Creek Athletic Club for some lap swimming. I love swimming and I’m used to it being a regular part of my workout routine, what with the ocean practically in my backyard where I went to college. Since I’ve moved here, however, the only lap-swimming I’ve done is limited to when my friend Ashley and I came back from the bar at two am and decided it was the perfect time to teach ourselves how to do the butterfly. Needless to say, it wasn’t so much swimming laps as it was crashing through the water until her boyfriend came out of their six-floor apartment and told us to lock it up.

Once in the water at the Club, I started with some warm-up freestyle laps. I opted out of using a swim cap, as I don’t much like the idea of stuffing my head inside a condom. I swam underwater a little bit, mermaid-style, and got a giddy rush from being in the water again. Pia told me the outdoor pool is open all year round, and the idea of swimming in the heated water with snow all around sounds deliciously invigorating.

After our warm-up, Pia suggested a 500, which is ten laps there and back, or 20 laps, if you count each length as one, which is what I preferred. The first few laps were about finding a groove, figuring out when to breathe, etc. The next 12 laps or so were lost to a pattern of exhale-exhale-inhale. That was when I noticed that my arms started to feel super tired and slow and like they couldn’t keep up with my legs. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about my bangs repeatedly flopping into my eyes every time I took a breath because I didn’t have a stupid head condom, then I started laughing because of “head condom” and if anyone has never tried laughing under water, it feels exactly like choking, so then I kept my head above water for a few strokes until I could get it together. At that point I was on my 17th lap and the only thing I could think of to keep me going, forreal, was Dory singing, “Just keep swimmingggg, just keep swimminggg,” and then I was on number 20 and I managed to find an inner well of strength to finish strong. I grabbed onto the side of the pool and sucked in all the oxygen ever and watched my heart try to beat its way out of my chest.

Pia, Ms. Ironman Swimmer, bounded out of the pool and chucked me a kickboard for a couple cool-down laps. After being on my feet all week at my job with gravity at work on my skeleton, being stretched out in the water did things to my joints that even yoga can’t do. Pia and I flutter-kicked four laps and the cushion-y resistance the water provided for my legs was like an active-participation massage on my leg muscles and ankles which doesn’t sound nearly as relaxing as it was, while I felt space slowly seep in between my vertebrae.

After the cool-down, Pia went off to life weights for a few minutes and I decided to take advantage of the whirlpool bath and steam room. The whirlpool had a waterfall and there was a spot on the edge of the fall that came down pretty hard. When I sat under it, it put a nice pressure on my tired shoulders. The steam room utilized some lemon and mint aromatherapy that, combined with the thickness of the steam, was almost overwhelming before I realized that it was actually overwhelmingly relaxing.

I left the Club in a bit of a daze, on wobbly legs, probably like The Little Mermaid when she learns how to walk. My muscles were tingly and I still felt the exhale-exhale-inhale rhythm from the swim. I chugged a full Nalgene of water because I forgot how thirsty being in the water can make you, then chugged an apple and pear Lifewater to replenish my electrolytes, or whatever it is that Lifewater replenishes, and then ate my body weight in chicken with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes, because it’s delicious, duh.

And you, Denver? What water workouts are your faves? Where do you prefer to make like Ariel and flip your fins?