Here at London Fields Lido we're lucky enough to have hundreds of women who visit the centre every day. This International Women's Day we want to feature some of them and hear a bit more about why swimming is so important to them. Thank you to evryone who spoke to us, we love hearing what a difference our centre makes to our customers!
“I swim for my mental health. Lockdown was difficult for me because I was looking after a friend who was dying of a brain tumour and all his family were in America. When he died in 2021, I became very depressed again. I started working out on the Wii Fit at home and going to the gym, neither of which I liked. I’m only a minute away from the pool so I decided to start swimming. Now, I’m loving the fact that I’m losing weight without even thinking about it. I have great memories of London Fields Lido from the 1970s when our whole family went there during the heatwave. We spent the whole summer in the pool, playing in the park, meeting up with friends”.
"Teaching people to swim outside is so rewarding. In fog or sunshine, snow or hail, I am the Lido’s female Swim Doctor – and I get to see the best in people. I listen to their laughter, learn about their lives and their loss. Some are recovering from operations and strokes, or in remission from cancer; others are bereaved, have difficult relationships at home, are dealing with bullies at work or looking after a disabled child or parent. Providing them with a nurturing, safe space is my job. The people I teach might be learning to swim from scratch, having never learnt as a child, or they may be tackling their first triathlon, marathon or Swimathon. Seeing them show me what they have learnt is wonderful, whether it is efficient breathing or a powerful kick. The joy they get from their achievement fuels my energy and my enthusiasm to shout ‘Lovely!’ and ‘Yes!’”
“I love being in the water and have always wanted to learn to swim. Now that my youngest child is at school, I can concentrate on the stuff I like doing. I’m a beginner swimmer. The best thing is how freeing and therapeutic it makes me feel. Afterwards I feel amazing. My teacher Naomi is so easy to talk to. She has good vibes and energy”.
“I’ve enjoyed swimming since childhood but only learnt to do it ‘properly’ when I discovered triathlon in the early 2000s. For three years I’d been swimming year-round at the West Reservoir and loving it! My friend Minna then suggested I enter an Ice Fly competition with her – 50m butterfly in water colder than 5C at the Scottish Winter Swimming Championships in Loch Tay. I wondered if I was up to it but booked a session with Naomi, who asked: ‘What’s your goal?’ She was so enthusiastic when I explained. After a few more sessions and training at the Lido and West Reservoir, I had much more self-belief and was looking forward to it. Sadly the fly race was cancelled but I did do 50m freestyle at a water temperature of 4.8C. It was exhilarating and I had Naomi’s encouraging voice in my head all the way. So a big thank you to all the coaches I’ve had over the years: you are all great! And thank you Naomi. Whatever your own goal is, go for it.”
“I swim at London Fields Lido because, being an amputee, it has the least impact on my residual limb and is the best form of exercise. I just love it! It’s good not just physically but mentally and emotionally, too. If I’m struggling to get out of bed or feel depressed, I know there is no such thing as a bad swim – that something good will come out of it. The feeling of the water and the fact that you are in your own world, and then look up and see the sky… it’s just wonderful”.
“I have been a cleaner for 26 years, 15 of them at London Fields Lido. I absolutely love cleaning – that feeling of seeing the sparkling end results. It gives me great satisfaction. I love being around people, then I go home completely zonked. Part of that tiredness is the menopause and the physical energy needed to clean a large space. Then I need my quiet time, my home.”
“When the Lido opened again after being shut for so many years, it made a big difference to my life. Swimming is the best form of exercise and I have met so many people and made friends along the way. Being a woman of colour is a blessing, and when I see another woman of colour step into the pool, it is bloody ace!”
“I have been a lifeguard at London Fields Lido for a year, while studying criminal psychology at the University of Greenwich. As part of my second year as a student, I am a volunteer with Solace: Women’s Aid – working with children and women, victims of domestic abuse. I want to learn about rehabilitation, what support there is for their mental health and how we can change things in the system to benefit them. Eventually my plan is to secure a placement in a prison and help prisoners engage with their families. Why not give them a second chance? They need it!”
“I’m the Lido’s receptionist and customer service advisor. I love my job, knowing that every day I will meet new people and get to know their personalities. I’m a people person. You have to be the happy one when people are not sociable. When they are, we chat and laugh. I’m a big personality, very loving, very friendly, and I care about everyone. If you can be nice to at least one person a day and make their day, why not? At the end of my shift, my job switches to looking after my teenage daughter with all its challenges and managing my depression as a single mum.”
“For me, swimming is a chance to escape the world for a while. I love the way you can forget about everything else: the water in your ears muffles external sounds and I find I am counting my strokes without meaning to, so no other thoughts get in: it’s like meditation. I’ve had health problems in recent years and although I have had successful treatment, it has left me with stiff, painful joints and muscle weakness. After a morning swim, my movements seem to ease up for the rest of the day. I also get breathless and exhausted because I have small blood clots in my lungs. Hoping to improve my symptoms, I signed up for a swimming challenge and set out (in the pool) to swim the length of the Channel in 12 weeks. It wasn’t always easy getting out of bed for a swim in an outdoor pool in winter, but I had told the lovely staff and fellow swimmers at London Fields Lido about it, so I had to do it! I completed it just before Christmas, with only a few days to spare. I’ll do it again this year – and I’m hoping some of my new swimming buddies will join me.”