Diving back into a swimming pool felt fantastic – and more vital than ever

·3-min read
Olympian Duncan Goodhew, right, and The Telegraph's Jim White go swimming on the first day of the reopening of indoor swimming facilities, at the Clissold Leisure Centre, Stoke Newington, London - Geoff Pugh for the Telegraph
Olympian Duncan Goodhew, right, and The Telegraph's Jim White go swimming on the first day of the reopening of indoor swimming facilities, at the Clissold Leisure Centre, Stoke Newington, London - Geoff Pugh for the Telegraph
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

The first time back in an indoor swimming pool for nearly six months and what surprised me was the temperature.

Like large numbers of people in lockdown, as our local pool became out of bounds, I discovered open water swimming. Which I can assure you, even in April, is not warm.

Compared to that, stepping into the pool at the Clissold Leisure Centre in North London felt like getting into a bath. For a moment I worried I might get heat stroke.

But it felt fantastic to be back: I reckon lockdown meant this was the longest time I'd been out of a swimming pool since I was eight years old.

I’d booked a slot to swim lengths and I was not alone. There were dozens of others, eager once more to immerse themselves in another world.

And it was brilliantly organised, with one way systems, signage and sanitising stations, everything done to maintain social distancing and keep the participants safe.

These days I’m not quite as quick as I was, but just to feel the muscles stretching in the water felt so good; it is like floating yoga.

Perhaps I would say this, but swimming is by far the best way to get fit and stay fit. Research suggests regular swimmers feel 12 years younger in terms of their health.

What I’d say to anybody, if you want to look after yourself and have a productive life right to the end, get down to your local pool.

What I’m hoping is that now lockdown is easing it will prompt a real renaissance in swimming (and judging by the queue of people waiting for their turn as I left the pool, I may be right).

The Telegraph's Jim White swimming with Olympian, Duncan Goodhew on the first day of reopening of indoor swimming facilities, at the Clissold Leisure Centre, Stoke Newington, London. - Geoff Pugh for the Telegraph
The Telegraph's Jim White swimming with Olympian, Duncan Goodhew on the first day of reopening of indoor swimming facilities, at the Clissold Leisure Centre, Stoke Newington, London. - Geoff Pugh for the Telegraph

Health and fitness is really key to our recovery, both personally and as a wider community. The sad fact is Covid particularly targets people who are overweight. And the best way to help those carrying a bit of extra poundage to get fit is to direct them to their local pool.

If any government wants to have an impact on the obesity crisis, then swimming has to be high on the priority list.

I’m President of the Swimathon, the national mass participation charity fundraiser. In the brief window when pools reopened last summer, our swimmers collected over £1million for Marie Curie and Cancer Research.

We are planning for this year’s event in the autumn and if you want to start training for it, everything is now open again. Which can only be good news all round.

You only had to look at the smiles on the faces of the people in the pool around me to see what a positive effect swimming has on the nation’s wellbeing.

Duncan Goodhew is a former Team GB swimmer who won the 100m breaststroke gold at the Moscow Olympics in 1980

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