Why you should always swim in a healthy pool

by Timothy O’Donnell, Professional Triathlete

As a lifelong swimmer, and professional Triathlete, swimming is in my blood. It strengthens my discipline and keeps my body in tip-top shape, and it’s also downright enjoyable. Life can be a constant blur of training, traveling, racing and coffee (my weakness), but swimming is my one constant.

One thing I’m a stickler about where my swimming’s involved is making sure the pool I’m swimming in is properly treated. It’s easy to tell when a pool hasn’t been cared-for correctly because it has that familiar “chlorine” smell (for more on that, see below), the tiles are slippery or the water just doesn’t have that crisp, clear look to it.

Pool water might not sound (or rather look) like a big deal, but because I make my living as an athlete, it’s important for me to stay healthy, and swimming in a pool with improper chlorine levels and pH could lead to recreational water illnesses such as diarrhea (not fun). And more importantly, who would want to swim in a dirty pool? Yuck.

Swimming is supposed to be fun. To make sure that it stays fun (which includes not getting sick!), make sure you’re not only a swimmer, but a proactive one. Be an activist swimmer! Start by ordering some free test strips from HealthyPools.org and test the water at the pool(s) you use regularly. If the readings don’t match those of a healthy pool, tell the lifeguard. It’s easy to be proactive, and the best benefit will be swimming a healthy pool. Then, go back to HealthyPools.org to enter your pool’s data and help paint a picture of pool conditions across the country. See how your pool stacks up!

But also, be a good example yourself — shower BEFORE you jump into a pool. Remember that “chlorine smell?” It isn’t even chlorine. It’s CHLORAMINES– by-products of the interaction between chlorine and body oil, pee and other contaminants.

Because I plan to spend a lot of time in the water over the next few decades, I want to be sure to be swimming in the healthiest water possible. I’m going to be an activist swimmer, and I’m asking you to join me.

Timothy O’Donnell is the 2009 ITU Long Course World Champion and the 2009 USAT Non-ITU Athlete of the year. He placed second at the 2009 US Pro National Championships and is a six-time US Armed Forces Champion (2003-2008). A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he is a member of the USAT Project 2012 Team. You can find him online at www.TimothyODonnell.com or follow him on Twitter.