✓ Swim cap ✓ Goggles ✓ Towel ✓ Pool slides

I’ve started swimming again, it’s so nice to be back in the pool. It also took me forever to finally go since I felt like I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t really know what to bring. Seems silly, but it was a bit of a barrier. I had a look online for what to expect but didn’t find much, so here’s a checklist and some info about swimming in a public pool in the UK.

What to bring

  • £1 coin for locker and payment method for entry
  • Hair tie
  • Toiletries bag (small, water-resistant, zipped): Shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, lip / cheek stain, concealer (goggles give me really bad eye circles), eye / brow pencil
  • Swim gear bag (canvas so it “breathes”): swim cap, goggles in a little bag to reduce scratching, earplugs in plastic container
  • Sandals (light, waterproof)
  • Towel
  • Plastic grocery sack or two, for wet stuff or outdoor shoes
  • Change of clothes, as needed
  • Water and snack for after

What to wear

Wear your suit there if you can, otherwise wear something you’ll be comfortable to change in to afterward. Slip on / off shoes are nice as well so that your laces don’t fall in to a puddle in the changing room. Slim-fitting trousers, a skirt, or shorts can also be preferable since the fabric is less likely to fall around and get wet when you’re changing.

What to expect about the changing facilities

The locker / shower room is co-ed, so all of the changing happens in cubicles of various sizes. There are showers available for pre and post swim. Some of the showers are within cubicles, some are not. There are also toilets and mirrors for tidying up afterward, and the pool I go to has two hair driers. Personal items can be kept in lockers of various sizes, and each is operated by a £1 coin that you get back after use. The facility does not take responsibility for loss of items, so avoid bringing anything valuable. People enter and exit the space very wet, so expect the floor and many surfaces to be damp.

What to do when you arrive

Upon entering the locker room, change from outdoor shoes in to your sandals. This keeps outdoor gunk out of the changing room. Find a cubicle and change in to your swimsuit. Take out your swim cap and goggles, and arrange your bag so that your towel and toiletries are towards the top and easy to reach. Exit the cubicle, find a locker, and lock your belongings inside. Keep your sandals on if you want; it’s probably more sanitary and it’s usually fine to leave them next to the pool. Shower off, then put on your swim cap and goggles and head to the pool.

What to expect about the pool

Check the pool schedule for information about what’s going on when you want to go. Certain sessions may have restricted access or fewer / no lanes. If there are lanes set up, these are usually marked with the direction of travel and speeds. Speed is somewhat subjective, so observe people in the lanes to determine which is appropriate for you. When you’re in the pool, respect the direction of traffic (clockwise or anti-clockwise) to avoid bumps and scrapes between swimmers. No one wants a kick in the goggles.

What to do when you’re finished

When you’re done swimming, head to the changing rooms and grab your towel and toiletries from your locker, leaving everything else in the locker. Shower off thoroughly, washing your hair and skin and rinsing your suit. Pool chemicals can be irritating to skin and damaging to hair and fabrics, so this is important! When you’re done showering, grab your bag from your locker, get changed in a cubicle, and sort out your hair / makeup if need be. Right before you leave, grab your outdoor shoes and outerwear from your locker. As soon as you get the chance afterward, take out any wet items, let them dry out properly, and then repack your swim gear bag so that you’re ready to go for next time.


I’m going to look in to a more quick-drying towel and am definitely going to spend some time investigating goggles. The ones I’ve been wearing are actually pretty decent, they don’t leak and I don’t have to wear them super tight, but they’re leaving some serious marks on my eyes from suction and the bone just beneath my eyebrows gets a bit sore. Might have a look at Swedish goggles or an Aqua Sphere mask. Two totally opposite directions, I’m hoping at least one will work!