Hello and welcome to a new series I’m bringing to the blog: “a beginner tries...” which, funnily enough, will involve me, the beginner, trying something new every time. First up: swimming in public pools.
Basically, I love the idea of exercise, and I want to be doing a lot more than I am.
Unfortunately though, there is one thing that gets in my way time and time again and this is FEAR.
Fear of the unknown, fear of looking like a fool or being judged or laughed at or, most frightening of all… just being a bit crap.
There is so much I want to do and I keep thinking… if only I knew what I was getting myself in to, I’d probably really enjoy it.
And so, I’ve decided that rather than simply sit around and wish that I was out pole dancing whilst actually squishing chocolate brownies into my mouth three at a time, not only am I going to actually go out and do these things, I’m going to document every excruciating detail of them so that other fearful-chocolate-brownie-squishing-women might find the strength to try something new too….
First on the agenda is to write about swimming in public pools.
(obviously not a picture from a public pool: partly because you don’t take your phone in, partly because I went on my own and I’d have had to ask the lifeguard and that would have been mortifying and in part because, y’know, common decency and all that)
Similar swimsuit: HERE*
Although not a class per say, swimming in my local pool is something that I am recommended by EVERYONE, from my physio (it would be so good for your joints!) to my boyfriend (it gives you the best muscles!) to other anxiety sufferers (it is the BEST place to escape to mentally!!) and it’s something that I put off for YEARS.
I would always tell Alex that it was because chlorine wasn’t good for my hair but in truth, I was terrified of it, with insecurities ranging from: what if I fall in and DROWN to do I have to get my fanny out in the changing room??
And it seems I’m not the only one who feels a little bit anxious/awkward/nervous about swimming in public pools: I asked the question on my Instagram stories and found that 74% of people felt the same way. And for what it’s worth, nearly all of those ‘yes’ votes, came from women.
So for whatever reason a large majority of us gals are being prevented from reaching our mermaid potential thanks to a fear that we absolutely need not be feeling.
A fear that we’ll be shit; overtaken by grannies or that we’ll walk out with a tampon string sticking out. That the lifeguard will have to save us or that we’ll accidentally walk into the men’s changing room. That we’ll slip and fall and break our leg in the most embarrassing way ever or that someone will notice (OR COMMENT ON) our unattended-to-bikini-line.
Swimming always scared me, arguably more than any class I’ve ever been too scared to try before.
So I thought it would be a good place to start with this series. I bit the bloody bullet, I dug out the only ‘appropriate for a London pool’ swimming costume and forced myself to give it a go.
Let me start by saying: I DIDN’T DROWN!!!
And from there I can crack on with giving you a rundown on how it went, a how-to on all the stuff I had no idea how to do before I tried it and a list of all my newly-found-top-tips. LET’S GO!
A beginner tries: swimming in a public pool.
WHAT TO TAKE…
A gym bag!
– a swimming costume
– goggles (not NEEDED but good if you’ve got ’em)
– a clean pair of pants
– shampoo & conditioner (unless your gym is really fancy)
– a padlock
– a hairbrush
– flip flops (if you, like me, fear verucas)
– a hairmask (I’ll explain this one…)
– a hairdryer (depending on how nice your gym is – most gyms provide them now)
– moisturiser (because chlorine dries your skin out like CRAZY)
– maybe a towel, although really most gyms will provide them,
WHAT TO DO ON ARRIVAL…
Find the changing rooms, sounds obvious but we gotta start somewhere.
Locate a towel. Normally towels are kept at reception, they are in Virgin Active Gyms anyway, but if not there will probably be an area in the changing rooms. If in doubt, ASK and if it’s your first time at the gym and you’re not sure, there is no harm in bringing your own, just in case!
Find yourself a locker and make sure your padlock works – sounds daft BUT the last thing you want to be doing is flapping about in your swimming costume with a broken padlock. If it is broken and you need to borrow a new one you don’t want to have to go out to reception in a towel!
Get changed. Don’t worry about getting your flaps out – that room has and will see more and worse. I thought I’d be really awkward about changing but it got so much easier when I realised that the whole point of building a room and naming it a ‘CHANGING ROOM’ was so that people could CHANGE in it. You’re too old to be doing the knicker trick. Sorry.
Pop a squat and OBSERVE. Not other people changing, but what other people are doing. If you don’t know, for example, how to get to the pool from the changing room, watch the other people in swimming costumes and see where they go. Be prepared to follow them (in a non-creepy way of course).
Put your valuables in the locker – I put my rings in there, for example, because I worry that they might fall off in the pool (and dives to the bottom to look for them WOULD be embarrassing).
ACTUALLY GOING SWIMMING…
Put your flip flops and towel on. Neither of these things are actually mandatory BUT if ya haven’t broken the cozzy in, for example, and are worried it might go see-through etc. a towel is a GREAT thing to have at the pool’s edge. If you’re cool with your bod/never get cold/have tough af feet then you CAN go without these things but this is just one gal’s opinion.
If an option, jump in the pre-pool-shower. If I’m ~totally~ honest, I don’t always do this but I SHOULD.
Pick a lane. It’s okay to wait and watch a bit, you don’t need to go from changing room to shower to pool in under three seconds. In every pool there is a fast lane and there is a slow lane and there are lots of lanes in between. When looking at my pool, in Virgin Active, the slow lane is on the right an the fast is on the left (although I suppose that depends on what end I’m looking at it from). They should be labelled.
If there are already people in every lane THAT’S OKAY, you don’t need to leave (although it seemed like the perfect excuse to me the first time when I was all awkward and hating it). The lanes are wide enough for two people, and if you can get the rotation working right, even as many as three. You’re not a burden, you have just as much right to be there as anyone else and no one will get annoyed with you for getting in the same lane as them.
When I actually went swimming for the first time, full of nerves, being weird and useless and all that stuff, I got into my lane and I shit you not, after I did about four lengths I looked up to see the lifeguard DRAGGING the divider to the right, thus crushing me in my lane – apparently 11am is water aerobics time in my gym and no one had told me. I had to dive underneath two dividers and into the fast lane as dozens of women got into the pool for this class! Why must I be so awkward????
Just keep swimming. I’m a terrible swimmer, I’m getting better (my mum recently gave me a proper lesson) but the first time wasn’t particularly pretty. I breaststroked, doggy paddled and backstroked – I didn’t even attempt front crawl. If it hadn’t had been for the divider ducking incident I don’t think I’d even have got my hair wet!!
Before I went swimming for the first time I assumed everyone would be looking at me and judging me, lifeguards poised ready to save this damsel quite clearly in distress – alas, this didn’t happen.
On the contrary. I swam for thirty minutes, pretty much totally in my own world (only coming out of it once a length to make myself as small as possible as the butterfly-doing-speedy-gonzalis-dude next to me glided past) and really enjoyed it.
AFTER YOU’VE SWUM…
Gather up your shit, thank the lifeguard, don’t whatever you do run because you might fall over and just because you’ve had a successful swim thus far doesn’t mean you should get cocky, and head back to the changing rooms – MAKE SURE IT’S THE WOMEN’S ONE!!! (yes, I speak from experience as I give you this advice).
Go back to your locker and get your shampoo/conditioner OR hair mask. I told you I’d explain and I will…. I live about five minutes from the gym and it also takes me a long time to blow-dry my hair. SO. Rather than wash my hair there and have to dry it in the changing room only to get back home in five minutes, I get in the showers at the gym, rinse my hair and swimming costume, clean my body and put in my Olaplex Hair Perfecter* (it’s changed my life, I cannot recommend it highly enough).
With my hair mask in I moisturise my body and face, get dressed, (being sure to put a hoodie on so I can hide my slimey hair!) pack up my shit and get out of there.
When I’m at home I rinse out the Olaplex which has been in for the right amount of time by now and have a shower as normal. Two birds, one stone!
I don’t know if this has been a helpful blog post. I’m a bit worried, as I get to the end, that I’ve literally just taught grandmothers to suck eggs but hey ho, we’re here now.
I was always nervous of swimming in pools because I had no idea what to expect and always felt like a knob for having to ask questions. I hope that this blog post has at least answered some of those questions for anyone out there who is a little bit nervous but doesn’t want to feel like a knob.
It’s still not the most practical of sports for a woman with a strict every-other-day-hair-washing-routine but when I can find the time and fit a hair mask into my schedule, it works rather perfectly!
In conclusion though, I really enjoyed swimming. Yes it’s a bloody faff, but it’s incredibly good for the mind. Thanks to the fact there are no screens in the pool and I don’t have waterproof headphones or anyone to talk to, it’s really the only time I get away from all of it.
No technology or distractions or other people, just me and my thoughts.
It’s also, apparently, fantastic exercise.
The first time I went I did 40 lengths of breaststroke and my the time I was out my back and arms felt like they’d been in active service for days. It would seem I’m not just aiding my mental health but bidding farewell to my bingo wings whilst I’m at it.
So there ya have it.
The first in what I hope will be many ‘beginner tries’ episodes.
I have lots more I want to try (pole dancing, reformer pilates, boxing, Thai chi, dancing etc.) but if there is anything YOU want me to try for you, so you know what you’re getting yourself in for before giving it a go, hit me up and I’ll be sure to oblige!
GOOD LUCK!! And if this does help you face your fears and head to a public pool for the first time: I’M SO PROUD OF YOU and please let me know how you got on!
Have I convinced ya? BRILL. Let’s get you kitted out.
The swimming costume I am wearing in this picture is from the brand Funkita and they make the COOLEST COZZIES EVER. I’m sharing a collection of my faves down below, if you’re in the market for a new one…
Also – GOOGLES. I recently found myself the proud owner of a new pair of gogs (what us in ~the know~ call them) and they have CHANGED THE GAME. They’re from Zogg and available on Amazon – if ya fancy a pair, pick them up HERE*.