For runners and cyclists, swimming can be a great way to cross-train. We know that if it's been a while, it can be daunting to dive back in. We asked Speedo for their top tips on planning your visit so you can get the most out of it.
Plan your visit
Before long, trips to the pool can become a favourite part of your weekly routine. But is there a best time of day to go swimming? It depends on your goals. Arguably you should pull on your swimwear before breakfast if you want to lose weight. Whereas if you’re hankering for a mental refresh it might be better to save the trip until later. Ultimately, it’s about understanding your own needs and body clock.
Swimming before breakfast
Forgo that extra sleep in favour of an early-morning dip and you’ll not just be rewarded with a great start, you’ll enjoy a boosted metabolism for the rest of the day too. So if you’re in weight-loss mode, consider this your chance; by swimming on an empty stomach you’ll encourage your body to use up fat reserves to keep itself going. Chances are the pool will be less busy too.
The drawback to an early swim? Your muscles and joints will be relatively stiff. Take care to warm up properly before launching into that front crawl or butterfly stroke.
Swimming before lunch
It’s been a long morning. There’s an even longer afternoon ahead. Nip out to the swimming lanes to refresh your mind and soul with a few gentle lengths. It might be tricky to find enough time but the benefits are worth their weight in energy gold. The trick? Make sure your swim bag is organised with enough pockets for a slick operation in the changing room.
Swimming during the afternoon
When it comes to facing the mid-afternoon slump, swimming scores huge points. If you expect to be lacking the ‘get up and go’ factor, book yourself into an aqua-fit or Zumba™ class or arrange to meet a friend.
Or maybe you could wait until 5pm or 6pm? Studies suggest that most of us fare better when training in the late afternoon or early evening. By this time our muscles have reached their peak warmth and so perform with more ease.
The downside is that the pool might be busier. Depending on your area, kids may well have begun their after-school takeover.
Swimming during the evening
Sometimes the only redeeming feature of a stressful day is the feeling of slipping into the pool afterwards. An evening workout can encourage your mind to slow down – swimming’s meditative quality allowing for quiet reflection.
Another bonus is you might be afforded a deeper night’s sleep. Just be aware, intense workouts right before bed can mess with your body clock. Be sure to finish your swim at least an hour earlier.
How long to wait to swim after eating?
Did you grow up hearing that you should leave an hour between eating and swimming, otherwise you’ll get stitch and indigestion? It seems the jury is still out on this notion. No evidence suggests you should wait that long although it does depend on what you eat. Complex carbs take longer to break down, while other foods, such as beans and lentils, can make you feel bloated in the water.
What to pack
What do you need to bring to the pool? The most obvious items are your swimwear and towel, but you’ll most likely be needing a few more things. Don’t forget your goggles if they make swimming that much easier, plus a water bottle and snack for keeping yourself energised. As for toiletries, counter the drying effects of chlorine with moisturising shower cream and a decent shampoo.
Lightweight fabric is the name of the game – you’ll want to sling on your bag with minimum fuss. It could be a rucksack that serves as your normal daypack, carrying other items like your laptop and wallet. How about an opening at the back? This can be great for quick access to items that’d otherwise be stuck at the bottom. Or maybe you want more of a simple duffel or a bag made from quick-drying, open-weave mesh. Either way, you’ll need various pockets and a waterproof section for your wet gear afterwards.
There are plenty of options here. If your usual beachwear doesn’t cut it, find a design that will be comfortable for laps, drills or anything else you might fancy giving a go. It’s important to look after your swimsuit too. After getting out of the pool, rinse it in cold water to get rid of the chlorine. Then, when you get home, leave it to dry properly before packing it again or else bacteria and mould might grow.
When it comes to protecting your eyes, goggles are the only way forward. To avoid any water leaking inside, go for ones that have light suction and even pressure against your face. Know how they can sometimes mist up? To protect the lenses’ anti-fog layer, gently wash in lukewarm water after a swim and store your goggles in their protective pouch.
Your pool might already provide these. If not, consider packing some for extra variety in the water. Up for a challenge? Finger paddles will add resistance, working to strengthen your arms and shoulders. Likewise, pullbuoys target the upper arms (including ‘bingo wings’) by reducing lower body movement. As for your legs, experiment with a kickboard or a pair of fins that will demand an extra puff of effort.
Cold tiles under your feet. Water slipping between your toes. If you want to stay dry for longer, throw in a pair of pool flip-flops or sandals. An anti-bacterial design will go far with the hygiene-conscious, while a non-slip sole will give you added grip.
If you tend to leave your towel by the pool edge, how about a bright or distinctive colour to avoid any accidental swaps? Once wrapped around you, a soft and absorbent fabric – such as 100% cotton – can be a welcome choice. As for packing the towel away again, look for one that’s quick-drying and that won’t weigh you down.
It’s vital to shower before and after a swim. This might involve a quick ‘splash and dash’ with some liquid soap or the full-on works of chlorine-fighting shampoo and conditioner. A comb can be a worthy opponent to hair tangles or maybe you need a soft-bristle hairbrush for some extra muscle.
Possibly the most humble item. Probably one of the most important. Always pack a bottle of water to sip from before and after your swim. Even a 2% loss in water content can start to negatively affect your brain, causing you to lose alertness and feel tired.
A protein-packed cereal bar? A sliced pear? A handful of cashew nuts? Work out what type and size of snack you’ll need for your swim. You’ll want to eat 20-30 minutes after leaving the pool to get your energy levels back on track.
If your pool has paying lockers, don’t forget to bring the right change. A small zipped pocket in your bag can be great for stashing a few coins in.