Kelly O

Before a few weeks ago, I had not swam in a lake in maybe 20 years. Granted, I had not lived in the Pacific Northwest, where lakes are abundant. I lived in Oakland, a place where the nearest bodies of water are freezing and/or polluted. It's not that I don't like swimming—it's that I had little desire for skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and gastrointestinal infections. Also, I'm not a very strong swimmer.

Then I met my boyfriend on OkCupid. He listed "lake swimming" as one of the activities he couldn't live without. That sounded like fun, though mildly terrifying. Fast-forward several months: I've now gone swimming four times in three lakes. Each time has required several minutes of gentle coaxing on the part of my very patient boyfriend, but the fact that I've done it at all is proof that it is possible for someone—even someone as risk-averse as me—to step out into the cold deep. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Get water shoes

These cost maybe $5 and they will prevent your feet from having to navigate any gross slimy areas or rocky terrain. Although they make actual swimming slightly awkward, they are worth it.

2. Bring a floaty thing

Initially, I thought a floaty thing would look ridiculous in a body of water that wasn't a pool, but now I realize that this strategy is pure genius. You can swim farther out (beyond the seaweed) and be assured that you won't drown in front of your boyfriend. For this item, I recommend you spend a bit more than $5, because these things get holes easily.

3. Go to Lake Sammamish

It's slightly warmer and less crowded than Lake Washington—although both lakes are many degrees warmer than the ocean (and nearby glacial lakes).

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4. Don't look at the water

Focus on the beauty around you and not the murky, unknown depths below you. And remember: THIS IS FUN. Even if you stay in the water for only half an hour, you will be so proud of yourself at the end of the day. If not for the fun, do it for your ego. recommended