After a summer spent swimming exclusively outdoors, I’m strangely reluctant to return to the pool

Img 20200915 070606

Would you choose this or a pool?

I typically swim four or five times a week in a pool. At least, I did until pools closed last March. I haven’t done since, and I feel unusually reticent about returning. I’ve been thinking through why this should be, trying to be rational about it. It’s not big one thing, but a combination of minor annoyances that puts me off. I’d be curious to know if anyone else has been similarly affected. Here goes:

  • Firstly, a positive, sort of. I’ve absolutely loved swimming almost every morning in the Thames this summer, and I’m reluctant to let it go.
  • Pools now operate on a booking system. It seems you need a different app for each pool, and to be sufficiently organised to book your swims (and coordinate with anyone you want to swim with) several days in advance. In contrast, the river is open 24/7, weather conditions permitting.
  • You have to arrive at the exact time you book and an hour’s slot is reduced to 50 minutes as you need to leave the pool before the next swimmers arrive. It seems like a lot of effort for a short swim.
  • Similarly my masters club sessions also need to be planned and booked in advance. My club has been back in the water for nearly two months, and I still haven’t got around to joining a session.
  • You need to decide what lane you want to swim in, and stick to it.
  • Some pools are still using a double lane format, which I don’t like.
  • You need to arrive beach ready and leave in your wet costume.
  • I know my pool swimming fitness will be shocking but until I see the evidence on the pace clock, I’m happily deluding myself.
  • I think I’ve forgotten how to do tumble turns, or any stroke except front crawl.
  • I suspect my swimming technique has fallen to pieces after a summer spent exclusively in open water.
  • Pools cost money! The river is free.

I know, it’s all trivial really. I’m sure I’ll be OK once I take the plunge and get organised. My river swimming buddies are, one-by-one, returning to the pool. Soon I’ll be the only one left in the river. They all say it’s fine in the pool. I know if I want to do any meaningful training over the winter, I need to return too, and I’m not a fan of cold water anyway. Still, if I can put it off for another week or two…

01 Cover November

Issue 43 November 2020

  • The Ice Man - meeting Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof
  • Cold water swimming - why do it, how, and what are the benefits?
  • Our new monthly columnist, Sarah Thomas
  • Olympian Keri-anne Payne on how to make the most of limited pool sessions
  • Elaine Howley on the first Asian woman to swim the Channel, Arati Sah

Swim Wild and Free

Sign up to our newsletter and receive a free five-part series on the fundamentals of freestyle by Olympic silver medallist Keri-anne Payne.