It's thirty degrees. You can see your breath in the morning. Snow is on the ground. Sounds like a perfect time for a . . . swim!

No, not outdoors. I'm not one of those crazy people who goes swimming in the Chesapeake Bay on Christmas. I mean indoors. The winter indoor swimming season is heating up all around the area.

Lots of kids spend the cold winter months swimming laps in warm pools. Check this out: Potomac Valley Swimming (PVS) is one of the biggest swimming organizations in the country and has 32 swimming clubs in Northern Virginia, the District and Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The PVS clubs have more than 6,000 swimmers, from 6-year-olds to high schoolers. Maryland Swimming and Virginia Swimming have major indoor programs too. That's a lot of kids in Speedos.

These kids are not just doing the dog paddle. The PVS has produced four swimmers who have competed in the Olympics, including gold medalists Mike Barrowman and Tom Dolan. Dozens of other local swimmers have raced in the Olympic trials and on college teams.

Okay, let's say you like to swim or that you swim for your local pool team in the summer. Is winter swimming for you? Only you (and your parents) can answer that question, but here are some things you may want to think about before you dive in.

First, winter swimming can be tough. The kids in some programs are very serious. They swim almost year-round. I know an 11-year-old girl with the Potomac Marlins who swims three times a week -- and two to three miles every workout. Lots of kids swim even more.

But winter swimming is not just for the hard workers. There are different kinds of swim programs: easy ones for beginners and super-tough ones for Olympic hopefuls. There are even programs to help kids with physical disabilities learn to swim. Everyone can get something out of swimming.

Like all sports, swimming is a great way to meet other kids and make friends. All the practice is great exercise and will help you become a better swimmer -- or get you in shape for another sport.

And kids tell me that even if you finish last in a race, you can still feel like a champ. Why? Because you may have swum your best time for the event. Winter swimming helps you reach your personal best.

There's one more reason you may want to swim during the winter. More and more high schools are starting swim teams. Unlike soccer and basketball teams that cut more players than they keep, swim teams almost always are looking for kids to fill the lanes because the meets have so many events. Winter swimming is a great way to make sure you can get in on the fun of a high school team.

The forecast is calling for more cold and windy weather. How about a swim?

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids. Write to him at KidsPost, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071. Or e-mail (with "The Score" in the subject field): kidspost@washpost.com.

Jump in, the water's fine: When it's cold outside, many kids take to indoor swimming programs.