Don’t overtake, no butterfly and arrive in your costume: the new rules of swimming in a pool

Swim England has shed new light on what swimming at indoor pools and lidos will be like when they finally reopen in England.

Swimmers will be asked not to overtake one another, to avoid certain strokes and may be required to arrive wearing their bathing suits under their clothes, according to new guidelines published by the industry body this week.

In its ‘Returning to the Pool‘ guidelines Jane Nickerson, the chief executive of Swim England, said: “We have all been missing the water during the Covid-19 enforced closure of swimming pools.

“When pools reopen, it will not be a case of ‘business as usual and we know that things will have to be different. However, if we are to play our part in protecting the NHS from another wave of Covid-19 admissions, it is important we follow the latest guidance and adjust to the new ‘normal’.”

The government is yet to issue a reopening date, but is not expected to be before July 4, along with gyms and leisure centres.

Here are some of the changes you may expect to see when you’re finally allowed to take that first ‘new normal’ swim.

Prebooked sessions

There is likely to be a maximum capacity of 6 square metre per swimmer, and Swim England has suggested that one way of ensuring social distancing can be adhered to at facilities is “to run using bookable sessions only,” which it adds could be implemented using a combination of “coloured band systems, locker tokens/keys, access kiosks, prebooked admissions and turnstiles.”

‘Beach style turn up and swim’

In order to minimise time spent in changing rooms the guidelines suggest the introduction of a “beach style turn up and swim,” which would see pool users come ready to swim in their bathing suits under their clothes.

“Arrive ready to swim. Once you have finished your swim, leave the venue as soon as you can. Shower at home, pre and post swimming (showers may be available at the facility but by arriving wearing your swimwear under your clothing and showering at home pre and post swimming you will help minimise time spent in the changing rooms and help maintain the water quality),” it reads.

No overtaking, avoid butterfly (when busy)

Swimmers will be required to pay careful attention to their chosen lane (fast, medium and slow) as overtaking would not be permitted while swimming.

“Before pushing off at each turn, check to see if anyone faster is approaching,” the advice reads. It also encourages swimmers to maintain enough space between each another while in the pool and discourages “wide strokes such as butterfly” when lanes are busy.

“If you change to a slower stroke as part of your session, think about moving lanes,” it says.

Expect plenty of signage to remind people to socially distance inside and outside the pool and, potentially, a one-way system to enter and exit the facility.

Bring your own

Swimmers may also be required to take personal equipment such as floats and kickboards with them, ensuring it’s clean and easily identifiable as yours, as well as bringing your own pre-filled water to stay hydrated during your swim.


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