It didn't feel like I was doing anything wrong- swimming yesterday during the nine days- until I realized, there was no one else in the pool. I had done my research: some say it's a dangerous activity and therefore drawing the evil eye during a period when the Jews were in peril, others say its problematic due to the stringencies against bathing. Still others hold that since the 9 days are a period of sorrow, swimming for pleasure would be going aginst the spirit of the destruction. Exemptions for "medical purposes" seemed to be the only accepted leniacy.
I ran through the arguments in my head. Swimming in Talmudic times were probably dangerous because they swam out in the ocean or sea, not in a community pool with cameras, gaurd rails, and a lifegaurd. ( I've always questioned their emergency action reflexes- maybe I'll test him Sandlot style?) So that didnt seem like an issue to me.
Next was the question of whether bathing was appropriate during the days.But I realized that too was not an issue, because after swimming for an hour, I would take a shower to wash off the pool chlorine, pee, and whatever other science experiments were growing. Never would I consider immerssing in this chemical-human juice as a "bath." I would emerge grosser- and even my most loyal friends would leave me, choosing to walk off the plank into a vat of killer sharks.
The final claim- swimming is pleasurable- I could not counter. I sorta stuck that one in my back pocket, and sat on it hoping to suffucate the issue. So with 2 out of 3 of the pretenses outwitted, I started doing laps. Around lap 8 I realized that there was no issue at all- I found swimming to be so difficult, so exertive and starinworthy, that it was unpleasurable. By lap 25, I realized I was a pious Talmudic Chacham, and I would not burn in the river of Styx for my butterfly strokes.
Discovering swimming to be so deplorable, I decided to go again this morning; Winded by the end of lap 20 I realized that even though I was the only person in the pool, it was okay. I had done the research, talked with Rabbis and friends, gone through the rationale, and decided for myself. It felt good to synthesize my lifestyle and halcha. I'm not saying I don't value kashrut, Shabbat, and halacha, I'm just saying I dont want to be a robot.....expecially a robot in a pool. (I hear they spark quite a bit- cleanup in aisle 2!)