Outdoor Swimming in Acton - It's No Algarve

But it's still an experience to be recommended

(Outdoor swimming pool @David Lloyd Club)

The roadmap to a return to some form of normality continues and the countdown is on to hairdressers,pubs,and leisure facilities fully reopening.

When happy swimmers were featured on television news enjoying their open air dips (on March 29) I despaired that there were no real lidos in the Ealing borough - the closest being Hillingdon or Hampton or Richmond Pools on the Park.

I searched desperately and discovered that Acton's former Park Club - (now part of the David Lloyd Leisure Group ) had an outdoor pool and it was indeed open. Could I possibly test it out?

It had been such a long time since I had been swimming ( or indeed doing anything in a communal setting) and with indoor facilities - including changing rooms- closed I wondered how busy it would be and what sort of experience I would have.

I had been warned about the lack of changing facilities so had my gear on beneath my clothes and it didn't take long before I was ready to literally take the plunge.

Speed Lanes were in force at the pool, not being the speedy type yet wanting to challenge myself a bit, I chose the medium lane with just one other person in. The whole pool only had about 10 of us, distributed between the lanes.


Sliding in, the water was an initial jolt to the system - not cold by any means but certainly not as warm as my last swim a couple of years ago now, in the Algarve.

However as soon as I started moving in this Acton not Algarve pool, it felt marvellous. There's something very therapeutic about swimming, maybe it's being totally enveloped in water, silencing the outside world, but it really is one of the best forms of mental and physical exercise going.

Water acts like a cushion - causing no stress to the skeletal system and is exactly why swimming is good for those with injuries and without.

I lost myself in the motion and experienced a wonderful sense of mindfulness forgetting all the many problems and worries of the last year.

Using muscles I had long forgotten was a bit of a wake-up, but I soon got into the rhythm and as they say about never forgetting how to ride a bike, it's something your body just recalls.
Changing and drying off afterwards was a bit of a challenge in public (and would recommend a swimming robe/coverall), but once all done and dusted I was ready to depart.

Suffice to say I was smiling like a maniac after I left the pool following my hour's session and that 'high' really did last quite some time, I also wanted to tell everyone about the experience - such was my 'buzz'.

It really can't be remotely classed as cold water or 'wild' swimming - (the pool temperature was 24 or more degrees) but that is something I really would like to try one day because there appear to be huge benefits in this too (wetsuit crucial though!).

The brave souls who have ventured into open water often report an incredible "high" after jumping into the cold (though I think my chosen word would more likely be ''shock'' !)
But the science is there, endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, apparently kick in to take the sting away from the cold. This temperature dip also triggers the release of the neurotransmitters,dopamine and serotonin - these happy hormones keep us feeling good.

The saying about not realising how much you miss something until it's gone is so true and having this taster of an outdoor swimming experience made me crave more.

Yes, I can't wait for the pubs to reopen for sure, but the incredible sense of natural well-being produced by one swim session really surprised me.

Would I recommend? Yes for sure.

Annemarie Flanagan

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7 April 2021