As regular readers of the Harris New York newsletter/blog may know, my love of running has taken me all over New York City.
I’ve written about my runs here, there, and everywhere – even to New Jersey (gasp!).
New Orleans, Dallas, Coney Island.
Very recently, my running even took me to the East 70’s, to the Hospital for Special Surgery for hip surgery.
Ugh, you say.
It’s all perspective.
This is much better than being unable to run, and preferable to than a hip replacement in 20-25 years.
So, in preparation for hip socket surgery to fix an FAI Hip Impingement
and labrum tears
(so that I can be writing about running again by the end of the year), I took a tour of many of New York City’s pools and gave them a test swim.
I ended up swimming for 3 months in preparation for the surgery and because I needed to stop running.
I’m delighted to report that I’m on the other side of hip surgery number one, and expect to be on the road by September.
I can’t say that I’m not utterly jealous of even the slowest runners I see all over during the summer, but I am hell-bent on rejoining their ranks in September!
If you want to know more about how great Dr. Brian Kelly and his team are at HSS, or anything else, just call or email me!
I thought that I’d share my thoughts about many of the Upper West Side, Midtown, and East Side pools, with reviews.
If you’re training for a triathlon or just want to try swimming, the sad truth is that your options in New York City are pretty thin.
Short pools, busy lanes, stinky club managers, germy locker rooms.
Here are some rules of the road:
1) You must have a swimming cap.
Few, if any, pools will allow you to swim without one.
2) Goggles are also a must, but prepare for a “raccoon” look for at least an hour after you’re finished swimming.
3) I would recommend swimming ear plugs.
For a couple of weeks, I was swimming without them, quite miserably.
While you’ll be quite the looker with all of this get-up, at least you can tune out your neighbors during your laps.
4) Bring a lock!
I love that I still have a combination lock from high school, and am even happier that I remember the combination.
My brain isn’t a complete mush yet!
5) Traffic for use of the pool starts early, so get there at gym opening.
Otherwise, you’ll have to play well with others.
In thinking about this blog post, I realized that I didn’t have much to offer in the way of positive reviews of the facilities, generally, but perhaps it will be helpful to you.
I realized that my needs for a gym are pretty utilitarian, so I didn’t mind the old gym parts of any of these gyms – but something about the unclean locker rooms gave me the Heebie Jeebies!
In the course of my travels to Asia, I also got to experience the swimming pools at the Peninsula Hotel in Shanghai and the Legendale Hotel In Beijing.
Both fabulous pools and empty – just bring your goggles and swim cap (or buy there if you forgot). But I digress…
Here you go:
West End Fitness, 740 West End Avenue at 97th Street – $105/month
West End Fitness (formerly known at The Paris) is where I ended up swimming for the months of February and March.
I intended also to swim there in April, but the pool abruptly closed with less than a week’s warning.
just say that for those of us who only used the gym for the pool, they did not offer refunds – in a situation where they require a month’s notice to cancel.
By the way, they gave their employees the same notice.
I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
There’s a first time for everything.
Given that I’m in a customer service business, truly egregious behavior should be pointed out.
The pool features four individual lanes and a larger, shared lane.
A thirty-minute limit was okay at first, but then as I got accustomed to the workout, I had to move lanes to be able to get my full
The unrenovated pool area was obviously in need of some TLC, hence the closing.
The locker room was pretty Spartan, but the towels
I would advise you walk with flip flops, and enter the Sauna at your own risk!
But, and this is the most important part.
The pool itself is only 50 feet, which means that you are in for a LOT of turns, and 105 lengths to get a mile in.
It’s pretty dizzying, really, though not even close to the shortest pool, if you can believe it.
This was tolerable for a season, but I wonder how most people would handle it long-term.
It does offer kids swim on the weekend, whether you belong to the pool or not… For $105 per month, it’s a value proposition you may enjoy – but the trade may not be worth it.
Equinox Columbus Circle @ The Time Warner Center, $200+ per month
The facility at the Equinox Columbus Circle was incredible.
The music is rocking, at any hour; the locker room’s amazing, with great shower products including shaving cream and razors; the amenities are
The pool was also great, but quite crowded.
There are three large lanes, organized by speed.
If you must share a lane, you are swimming in a circle (one lane up, one lane back) and in a longer, 60-foot pool.
The turns are acceptable, and the entire experience SO much more lovely.
Also, this is the among the short list of salt-water pools in the city.
And you can feel it on your skin.
That’s a treat worth savoring.
Were it closer to my apartment, I easily could have bitten the bullet and joined Equinox.
I felt like a rock star, if not a little intimidated by the super-fit people all around.
It was really positive.
Equinox does it right, and I didn’t even use all of what is on offer.
63rd Street YMCA – 63rd Street on the West Side off Central Park West, currently $200 for the entire 2015 summer
The 63rd Street Y is less than a block from my office, and were I going to become a regular swimmer, I think this could have been the long-term winner.
The facilities are old, but the pool is a 1920’s stunner.
Art Deco design everywhere.
This building was built to inspire locals to be fit!
I had never been in the building, oddly enough.
This Y has a number of uses.
It’s a low-cost hotel, plus a really huge gym with a variety of classes.
The locker rooms are not new, but the cost of membership is reflective of that.
The pool itself is a lovely 75 feet.
25 yards, ahhhh….what a pleasure!
Lots of space, room enough to get a good workout, and not very busy, at least on a weekend morning.
A huge locker room made up for its age. I didn’t mind.
It didn’t smell bad like West
End Fitness, anyway!
92nd Street Y, 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue, East Side
West End Fitness made a paltry gesture by offering a discounted a la carte to swim at the 92nd Street Y on the East Side.
Again, I was embarrassed to admit to myself that I hadn’t even made it to this location in the past 12 years, despite having signed up for some lectures in the past and missing them.
First, how does one get from the West Side to the East Side on a weekday morning and get home in time to get kids off to school and go to work?
It’s a mystery for the ages, no doubt!
So, on a weekend morning, I scooted Eastward to the Y and had a top-notch experience.
The facility is a mix of old-school (the lockers themselves) along with renovated portions.
The staff is great, the pool is as nice or better than the 63rd street Y, too.
The major complaint, if I have one, is that it is BUSY.
I am not the world’s fastest swimmer, and there was simply too much traffic.
I kept reminding myself that I just needed to keep swimming, and stop thinking about it.
This is probably some of the same self-chatter I use during my longer runs, or during marathons, but without the ability to really socialize during swims (one of the major cons, in my opinion), you really have a lot of alone time to consider the meaning of life, or whatever is on your mind at the time.
In this case, these were the first times that I could utilize the sage advice from Ellen DeGeneres’ (another New Orleans native, by the way) character in Finding Nemo to “just keep swimming.”
Prior to this 3-month stint, I hadn’t really swum since high school, when I was training to be a lifeguard.
So, if you’re an East Side resident, I would strongly endorse joining the 92Y.
It’s a terrific facility, overall.
I hear the trainers and gym
are great, too, not to mention all of the community life happening there.
New York Health & Racquet Club – 56th Street between 6th and 7th (rates may vary)
I am sad to say that while the rest of the NYHRC is actually quite nice, with racquetball, a great gym, and a variety of other goodies, the pool really is not close to large enough to be considered a regular place to swim laps.
Sure, do aquatherapy there.
Do water fitness of any kind.
Luxuriate in the sauna, the whirlpool, the steam room.
But avoid the pool otherwise.
It’s WAY too small.
The photo here doesn’t really accurately depict how small it is.
I think they advertise that it’s 52′.
I don’t see how that can be true.
Not only was it busy, but I was turning every 5 seconds.
OH MY GOSH.
This pool gets a fail as a lap pool.
But….it’s otherwise great!
I couldn’t test drive the Trinity School pool (on CPW in the low 90’s) without joining first, and same goes for the Upper Manhattan pools.
I hear Trinity is quite amazing.
Let me know any other great pools you love! – Scott