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City Work Out: A Mile-Long Bay Swim

Photo by Chad Riley

The Workout: A Mile-Long Bay Swim

The Expert: Morgan Filler (morganfiller.com) is a marathon swimmer who offers open-water swim camps and individual coaching.

The only other time I swam in the bay, it was without a wetsuit. It was more of a dare than a workout, and after only eight minutes, I had to pull my pink and shivering body out of the water. I swore never again.

But coach Morgan Filler is a very good proselytizer. She told me about the way the city looks from the vantage point of open water and about the cleansing power of salt. She also convinced me that with a wetsuit, the protected Aquatic Park, and the promise of the swim club’s sauna, I, too, might enjoy a mile in the open water.

So I gave it another try. I rented a swimming wetsuit from Sports Basement and headed to Aquatic Park. I stood on the sandy shore, tugging at the thin wetsuit and wondering how it would possibly keep me warm in the 51-degree January water.

I dipped my naked feet in and flinched. In less than a minute I was up to my knees in the frigid water. But the good news was that the wetsuit was actually working. I pulled my goggles over my eyes and dove in.

At first the cold water was a shock to my exposed skin, and I struggled to catch my breath. Morgan’s words echoed: “Try to breathe naturally.” I rolled onto my back, and the wetsuit kept me buoyant as I practiced this. Though I was only 25 feet from shore, the city felt miles away. My stroke became even, and the darkness that had been scary became serene.

My goal was to swim to the second buoy, just far enough to feel like a real swim and close enough that if I panicked, I could race back quickly. But I easily passed that buoy, swimming a total of three out-and-back laps, or as I realized later, one full mile.