In 2019 I trained for an olympic triathlon and had no intention of heading to a pool for that. After all I live on the beach and there is also a lake. Weirdly though our super popular beach was closed for 10 days due to bacteria while I was training. Even though that didn’t close the lake I figured the poor RCMP officer and lifeguards down there didn’t need me pointing out technicalities while turning people away.
You can see where this is going right? It was back to the pool. I loved it and after the fact started scheduling my tutors so I could swim after for the next year. I decided to write a post about public pool hacks for you all in February 2020. So then this thing happened, and here we are three short years later, it’s finally time to share them.
Hanging out on deck
Many, many, so many moons, ago I used to be a professional lifeguard. I always like to point out that lifeguards in Canada are among the best trained in the world second only to Australia. Though I had my surf designation in addition to pool I almost always worked at pools.
I worked at 4 different pools over the years and there were some pretty good hacks that I picked up.
Adding swimming to your fitness routine can seem like a lot of work. You have to get there, change, swim, shower, change again and then there’s all sorts of packing and unpacking along the way. Plus after all that you’re wet and not wearing a stitch of makeup. With these tips, tricks and hacks you’ll be in and out in no time!
Most cities have a few municipal pools where you don’t have to be a member to go. Many universities also open their facilities to the public too. Some of those public swims will often be at a really discounted rate.
My pool, the Canada games center, charges almost $14 for a public swim day pass but there are a few $4 swims on the weekly schedule too. They can be at slightly less convenient times. Often though, facilities offer these swims to make sure the facilities are accessible for all in the community. Often they are right before or after the regular swim.
My favorite is the 8-9 pm swim at the end of the day. I usually schedule some in the city students or errands and go for a cheap swim on the way home. It feels like the most affordable tropical vacation in the middle of winter. By the time I get home my hair is even dry. I’ve even been known to change into my pajama top under my winter coat!
Bonus tip: If you’re flexible I guarantee that there is a swim somewhere in your city that is basically deserted. We used to have a lunch open swim at my pool and 95% of the time it was just one guy the other day a month he had a friend join him. Ask the guards they’ll tell you which one is deserted.
Theft isn’t that much of an issue
Take this advice at your own risk but I don’t think I’ve ever had anything stolen when I was at the pool. I don’t think we ever dealt with it when I was a life guard either. Although I did leave several bottles of shampoo behind. A lock on your locker will do and the pool deck is ‘busy enough’ that it doesn’t seem to make the thieves among us super comfortable. Plus you can always leave things at home or in the car.
Start in your suit but bring undies
Now that I don’t have to wear a one piece bathing suit for work anymore I like to swim laps in a cute sporty two piece. If you’re super busy a good way to minimize the time at the pool is to just come with your suit under your clothes. Just remember to pack undies to change into after.
You can also take this opportunity to change into your next outfit for the day early. So out of work clothes and into lounge wear or even pajamas if you’re so inclined.
Always step on your shoes, the floor is lava
Not really but it is covered with the virus that causes warts! In many years of swimming lessons I did get the odd wart, yuck. Actually, it’s no big deal because the patches and compounds they sell at the drug store do work.
When I became a lifeguard I always, always wore my flip flops. I wore them on deck, stood on them when I changed and even when I was in the shallow end teaching lessons with little ones. Get this, when I did do a rescue the first thing I would do when it was over was dip my shoes and feet into the pool. I was teased but I was the only guard that didn’t get a wart that summer!
Now when I’m swimming laps I put my shoes on at the bench and then come back to the pool and dip my feet and shoes in to disinfect them before heading into the showers.
2 suits are better than one
Chlorine does have its drawbacks but we love its germ and wart killing properties. One thing that can happen if you swim a lot is that your expensive swim suits break down and becomes see through way too fast. Usually this happens in the bum first so give your rear view a check from time to time.
One thing lifeguards and competitive swimmers do is just wear two suits at a time to their regular training sessions. So save up those past their prime suits, they’re not done yet! Weirdly wearing two works for way longer than either one did on their own.
This is going to sound a bit extra but I assure you it is not. Bring two towels! We all have those beach and pool towels at home so bring one of those for the pool deck to the shower and another of your ‘good grown up’ towels for after the shower and to get changed. That way after you get all clean smelling you don’t end up recontaminating yourself with your chlorine towel. This is the key to not having to re-shower after you get home.
Once you get out of the pool in your pool towel, head to your locker to grab your shampoo and after shower towel. Once you get in the shower the switch is completed. Now hold the smelly one away from your body like it’s made of toxic waste.
I mentioned that theft isn’t really that much of an issue at pools. Just adding a basic lock to your locker is enough of a deterrent. No reason to buy a really expensive one. I like the style with the number dials that I just set to part of my phone number. I keep it locked onto the strap of my bag on the way there and back.
Bluetooth might work from the locker room
If you want to run your watch or earbuds in the pool you might be able to leave your phone in your locker. Pick a top locker and place your phone on top of everything else in there. There is a chance your bluetooth link will work on deck from there, depending on the pool layout.
Switch lanes as needed
If you go to a lane swim you will have to pick a lane to swim in. Often they will be labeled slow medium and fast. I usually do a lot of breast stroke when I swim laps and I tend to think of that as a slow stroke or maybe medium at best.
I look at the swimmers already there but usually end up getting in the medium lane. However I almost always end up in the fast lane pretty quickly. Slow, medium and fast are really subjective and it also depends on the swimmers that showed up that day. It is no big deal at all to have to switch lanes.
So if you don’t know how fast you are just start in one and give it a try. If you find yourself passing a lot of swimmers at the wall or stuck behind people switch to a faster lane. If you are the one getting passed drop down one.
Since we are sharing our space with others neither might be a perfect fit, that’s okay. It’s totally normal to pass and be passed a little. If neither is a perfect fit, then stick with the lane that has relatively fewer swimmers in it.
Underwater mp3 player or earbuds
Make your own choices with your money but did you know underwater mp3 players and earbuds are a thing? I think you have two options here go cheaper and potentially buy more or splash out for a better product.
I opted for a really cheap underwater mp3 player fully expecting that it wouldn’t work. Guess what it totally did though! It might be a little extra but it is super fun to swim laps with tunes. I picked an Mp3 player over earbuds since my phone didn’t have to be there. My plan was to try out the cheap one and if that worked to buy a more expensive one after. My cheap one (like this) is still going strong though!
Keep your phone in a waterproof bag on deck
I like the idea of having my pretty expensive electronics like my watch and phone somewhere safer than the pool deck. If you opt to bring yours out I recommend picking up one of those sealable water proof electronics bags. I use the timing clock on the pool deck to know how fast I’m going.
No one is trying to get your phone wet but sometimes kids on deck can be pretty rambunctious. They often drip water all over the stuff on the benches and might even knock it into a puddle without trying. You’ll never regret taking steps to prevent accidental damage if it’s this easy!
Finish with a slide or dive
Are you a super serious grown up all of the time? Because I’m totally not! If you have the option always go down the slide, swing on the rope or do your best swan dive on your way out the door. Just so you know my pool has a straight speed slide and a curly one that even takes you outdoors. You better believe I do both at least once before I hit the locker room!
Park your car physically close to the locker room in winter
I mostly swim at the pool in the winter. In the summer it’s the lake or the ocean. As such the walk back to the car super sucks! It actually is the worst part. You might be tempted to park very close to the door. But… If your car has an automatic car starter you might be able to start it with your keys from the locker room or pool deck before you get ready to go home. It’s worth a try!
Potentially 2 bags or plastic bags
On to the next point and that is all the laundry and mess that swimming generates. It doesn’t have to be that way, you can get away with just washing your suit or not. Keep another foldable bag in your swim bag. This can either be your ‘wet’ bag or ‘laundry bag’ which ever works for you.
I put my wet chlorine stuff in this bag so suit and towel 1 in this bag and everything else in my swim bag when I’m done. I loop towel number two through the handles of bag 2 with all my other stuff so it doesn’t end up smelling like chlorine.
If you are just swimming again tomorrow everything can just be hung to dry. You can really reuse your suits and towels more than once. Or if you plan on washing everything you could have just a wet and dry bag.
Wash you and your suit in the shower
No one likes chlorine have I mentioned that yet? But we all need it to be there. Opt for a cheap shampoo or body wash if you are so inclined and use it (or soap) to fully suds up yourself and your suit while you are in the shower even if you are still wearing it.
I usually give myself a more thorough washing when I’m at the pool then I even do at home. I make sure to get every inch good and sudsy. The soap helps to remove more of the chlorine from your body and minimizes the drying (and smelly) effects it has on your skin. I usually also suds up my hair twice, once at the beginning and again at the end.
Give your suit at good washing with soap while you are in there too in order to minimize the damage to it and how smelly you are underneath if you are still wearing it. If you are so inclined you can take it off while you are in there and give it a good washing in your hands too. Personally I’m a keep it on girl unless I have my own stall.
Depending on your hair color, texture and how often you swim your hair can get pretty damaged or even turn a bit green. You could try a special shampoo or conditioner with a red or purple color to counteract this. I am in no way an expert in this but the folks at your local beauty supply store are. Go ask them about the specifics.
Keep some basic almost empty make up in your gym bag
The easiest thing to do when you exercise is to make and excuse not to do it. With that in mind it’s a good idea to keep some basic personal stuff in your swim bag so an errand on the way home isn’t an excuse. I keep some deodorant, BB cream, pressed powder and a lipstick that can double as blush in a pinch. Just enough so I don’t scare the children under fluorescent lights. Or just enough that I feel comfortable doing a tutor session after.
I wouldn’t put the good stuff in there though since there is a non-zero chance that it might fall in a locker room puddle at some point. What I like to do is just save a bit of product before it’s totally gone and stash it in my swim bag. That way I know it’s there and I’m not loosing or forgetting about a whole lot of product if I don’t use it.
Change without putting on a show
If you are the person that is cool with letting it all hang out in the locker room then that’s fine. I will say though that pool etiquette is still basically to minimize this. So changing stark naked next to your locker or getting totally nude in the shower is cool but put on a towel to walk from place to place. Basically, make an effort to not come off as an exibitionist.
Most people like me are a ‘take all reasonable efforts to not expose yourself’ kinda person. At the pool I mostly worked at we had to change with our swim kids at the end of the day. Probably not appropriate to have them know exactly what you look like naked!
The key here is to keep your towel in the armpit area at first. Place the center of your towel at your back under your pits and turn towards the locker. Lower your suit to your waist and put your bra on over your towel. Now remove the towel with your bra in place and put on your shirt.
Next step bottoms. Move the towel in the same way down to your waist. Reach under and remove your suit and apply underpants in the same way. You could be done with modesty at this point (after all that’s how much you walked in wearing) or pull up your pants in the same way and then remove the towel.
Use a knitted cap to leave
The hardest part about going swimming is the leaving after. Even if it’s just a fall or spring night going out into the cold with wet hair can suck. Honestly, I like a touque after a summer swim too. Don’t worry about even brushing out your hair and just tuck it all into your knitted cap and head into the cold. When you get home just tuck that cap into the swim bag so you’ll have it for next time.
Wash the lady bits at home again and moisturize
You might think this is a little much but I already wrote a whole post about keeping the lady taco healthy when you exercise, so there is that. Truth tip, chlorine, or more often a pool with even slightly wonky Ph can cause inflammation in the downtown and we all know that isn’t ideal!
I’ve suffered from it, all the lady guards at work did too and sometimes we would even refer to the effects of hanging out in a wet suit as ‘crotch rot’. This could literally be a pain in the (front) butt for you too. The best practice is to wash your lady bits at home again with lots of warm water and soap as soon as you arrive. If this seems insufficient for you draw a few inches of very hot water into your tub and hang out for 5 minutes. With this practice even the most sensitive va jay jays can make friends with the pool.
Going to the pool can be intimidating for some. There can be cultural concerns too. Did you know new pools are even being built with these concerns in mind? Things like viewing windows are becoming things of the past for example. These are some tips that you might find helpful in lowering the barriers to entry. You will see people of all ages, body types and genders wearing all sorts of suits at the pool, so chill! What makes your trips to the pool easier? Leave it in the comments below.
PS never, EVER take pictures at the pool or in the locker room. In fact don’t even give people the impression you might be taking a picture!
lots of good advise..I always leave my phone in my car, but my phobia is that I hate busy pools. I don’t mind sharing lanes, but if the lanes are packed, I always feel pushed to get quicker….we seem to have a lot of our pools here in Edmonton closed for mainenance or renovations right now, so training for a June triathlon has become a challenge…..
Ask the lifeguards which swims are the least busy. I bet there is one that’s almost deserted. Although if a few pools are shut down it puts a lot of pressure on the system. Good luck with your triathlon, you’ll crush it!!!
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