Everything you need to know about swimming with Ellie Simmonds


Feeling the urge to dip your toes into a new activity? National sporting hero and Vitality Ambassador Ellie Simmonds tells us why you should make a splash

Ellie Simmonds in a pink shirt with goggles in her hand

Whether you’re looking to switch up your exercise routine or the cold snap is keeping you from slipping on your running shoes, there are many reasons to add swimming to your weekly list of activities this winter.

According to a recent survey more people across England are taking to the water, with an increase of 1.8 million swimmers in 2022.

Now, unless the trend-setting cold-water plunge is more your thing, doing laps at your local pool – or venturing down its lanes – can be a great way to keep fit without needing to withstand ice-cold temperatures.

You might think that a HIIT class gets your heartrate up, but swimming is actually a top-tier cardio-workout. It’s low impact nature and ability to work the whole body make it a popular activity for all ages.

So, who better to ask about getting into the sport than two-time gold medallist Paralympian and Vitality Ambassador Ellie Simmonds.

Taking the plunge

If you’re new to swimming, or it’s been a while since you’ve immersed yourself into a pool, it’s okay to feel a bit nervous. Just take your time, there’s no rush.

“The first step is just getting in there,” says Ellie.

Even the noise around the pool can be overwhelming, so if you’re feeling anxious, she advises taking time to get yourself relaxed around the pool. From there, try and dip your toes in and slowly make your way into the water as you feel more comfortable.

“It’s a life skill as well.”

Ellie Simmonds

There’s no time limit too. Should you be having a lesson with an instructor or enjoying the lap lanes to improve your technique and fitness, Ellie says: “It’s more about what you’re happy with and what makes you comfortable.”

Going with friends makes it more fun too, helping to remove any nerves you might be feeling. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the lifeguard or swimming instructors if you’ve got any questions or if you need assistance.

“Everyone tries something new, whether it’s swimming or dance,” says Ellie, who appeared in the 2022 series of Strictly Come Dancing.

There are leisure centres and community pools dotted across the UK, and they’re not just for kids to enjoy but adults too.

“Don’t be afraid, get out there and try something new and why not try swimming!?”

‘Swimming is amazing for everyone’

Unsurprisingly, Ellie does not hold back on her love for swimming. “You can do it at any speed and it’s incredible for all ages and all abilities. Almost anyone can swim,” she says.

Ellie, who’s disability is Achondroplasia dwarfism, is a testament to that. She put on a pair of goggles for the first time aged five and her disability has proven not to be barrier; Ellie eventually went on to compete against other children without a disability when she was eight years’ old.

Her mum too is living proof of the philosophy, who learnt to swim with Ellie aged 40.

smiling old man in swimming pool

Water aerobics is just one of the ways that you can take to the pool. This form of exercise is great fun and offers a number of benefits for the body, especially in older individuals. Studies show improvements in strength, mobility, and endurance when enjoying the activity.

After growing in popularity on land, dance exercise Zumba has taken its moves to water with Aqua Zumba. The dance party brings a high-energy aquatic exercise perfect for letting loose and toning muscle.

If they’re not quite ticking the box and you prefer the swimming lanes, there are a few things that can’t hurt to know on swimming etiquette.

  1. Choose the right lane for you – often pools have lanes for different speeds
  2. Swim in the right direction – signs around the pool will indicate whether you should be swimming clockwise or anticlockwise
  3. Allow faster swimmers to pass – wait until you’re at the end of the lane to pull aside and let them past, this will avoid clogging up the lane for other swimmers
  4. Take a break on the side – should you want to take a rest after a strong swim that’s completely fine, swimming is hard work, just make sure you stop at the end of the lane and move as far to the side as possible not to be in the way of others.

And let’s also not forget cold open water swimming, which Ellie also enjoys every now and again. “At the moment there’s a massive craze for that which I absolutely love, but just ensure your safety.

“Really think about the temperature of the water, being around people and if you can put your feet down,” she says.

Prioritising safety above all else is important whether learning to swim or any other activity. In support of this, Ellie is raising awareness of Swim United a programme created by well-recognised swimming brand Speedo to help more children learn how to swim.

Sadly, one in three children leave school not knowing how to swim, but Ellie says it's about much more than just activity. "It's a life skill as well," she concludes. 

At Vitality, we’re all about encouraging our members to make small positive lifestyle choices that can make a big impact to their lives. That is why we offer partner benefits and rewards with a range of big brands.

If you’re ready to get wet and wild, at Vitality you can get discounted membership at Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Centres and Virgin Active Gyms, and access swimming at a selected number of locations across the UK.

Log into Member Zone or visit vitality.co.uk to find out more.

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