2014: Getting Active in Surrey
|Surrey Sports Park 50 meter swimming pool, Guildford|
So, on the first Saturday of January I drag myself out of bed, check that the elastic of my thus far neglected swimming costume is still stretchy (and more importantly not see-through) and head off into Guildford. I went for a morning lane swim, and opted for a steam and sauna too – I thought after Saturday morning exercise (and braving the rain and wind outside) I’d deserve a post-swim treat. The receptionist gave me a separate code for the pool entrance and steam room and directed me to the mixed changing rooms. I was particularly keen to see the “wet-side changing village” (an entire village just for changing?) promised on the website alongside the “state-of-the-art functional pool facility” (the main function, one can safely assume, is swimming?). It was – but the facilities didn't disappoint. As the pool is visible from the changing area (it is also visible from the showers – so strictly costumes on washing!) there is a real open-plan feeling to the space. The changing cubicles were immaculate, as was the pool, and for a first time visitor it was pretty easy to navigate my way around the building.
The pool itself is huge – for the lane swim it was sectioned-off into seven lanes, signed for fast, medium and slow swimmers – and over-arched by four massive wooden beams which give the pool a real ‘Grand Designs’ feel. On poolside there are four large spectator seating areas, several clocks and depth gauges and lots of black-uniformed lifeguards keeping an eye on the swimmers. Donning my unbecoming hat and ill-fitting goggles (if anyone has a pair they actually find comfortable please do let me know where you got them!) I took the plunge. The water was a pretty good temperature, and the promise of a low Chlorine treatment system also meant I didn't have to worry too much about the green tinge swimming often induces in my dyed hair. It took a few lengths to get used to swimming an unbroken stretch of 50 meters, but once I got into my stride in the medium lane I was able to really enjoy my swim. A length or two of backstroke revealed that even multi-million pound pools have the obligatory football stuck in the ceiling supports!
After 40 minutes of swimming I got out to the tinkling notes of the Harry Potter soundtrack – not the music played to encourage swimmers to vacate the pool at the end of a session as I originally thought, but the backing music for the troupe of synchronised swimmers practicing their moves poolside before the start of their session. Looking out at the pool from my shower, I could have been forgiven for thinking I had entered some sort of space film – a kind of underwater Gravity – as I witnessed the transversable boom (a pneumatic moveable wall) launch across the water, cutting the space into two 25m pools. The retractable floor then took the level of the little pool down to a shallow depth for children in the next family swim session (in the 50 metre lane swim, with the shallow end at two meters, at a height of 5.3” I was unable to stand). For those who are not keen on swimming, but keen on technology and gadgets, it’s worth going along if only to see this feat of modern engineering at the end of a session.
Post shower (not the strongest jet I've ever experienced, but adequate for a decent hair wash), and using my secret code (changed daily) I found the sauna and steam room. The sauna was particularly impressive – large, clean and hot – just as a sauna should be. After a bit of a sweat, and an impromptu chat with one of the University Professors within (not a permanent fixture) I found my way back to my locker (£1 - returnable). After a speedy change and cursory blast of the hairdryer, I headed back off out to a rainy January morning feeling well-exercised and suitably smug about Saturday morning activity undertaken and calories burned off.
If you’re after a top rate swimming and fitness pool, with none of the frills or extras of a spa, the Surrey Sports Park pool is for you. I’ll definitely be going again. And after all, my New Year resolution is for fitness. Luxury and soft lighting can wait until next year…
Surrey Sports Park Swimming Pool offers lane swimming, open swimming, aqua classes and swimming lessons (both child and adult). A timetable can be found on their website:
Surrey Sports Park, Richard Meyjes Road, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7AD
£4.20 Swim / £8.50 with Sauna (non-member)
£2.80 Swim / £6.00 with Sauna (Concessions)
For membership enquiries Tel. 01483 689 112