Pools prove as popular as gym floors in January

Credit: the Guardian

Image credit: the Guardian

As we pass the half way point in January, we are starting to see people have their first cigarette of the year, maybe enjoy their first drink, or push back that exercise they had scheduled in for this evening.

However, we must not discredit those who have stuck to their word in 2014.

It’s not just been gyms floor and Pilates studios that have seen a rise in numbers this month. Things have been no different in swimming pools up and down the country, as more people look to swimming as an option to get fit and healthy.

An option that doesn’t seem quite as intimidating as a weights room, swimming really is something for everyone, offering the health benefits only exercise can bring. Not only does swimming cover the ‘exercise’ resolution, but we also see it fall under the ‘new skill’ category.

YMCA Club acknowledged there was a significant increase in use of the pool this month, commenting:

“Just like the gym, our pool sees a significant rise in recreational swimmers trying to get in shape for the New Year. It means that we’ve got to keep a closer eye on the swimmers during this period to make sure they are all keeping to the pool etiquette, swimming in the correct lanes and so on.”

Having to ensure newer swimmers are comfortable in the pool environment is just part of the job for YMCA Club.

“It’s always wonderful to see so many keen exercisers getting fit in our pool. To try to prevent the traditional tail off, we have specific programmes available for swimmers of all levels which we feel can help keep our swimmers motivated beyond the initial January surge.”

How have you found January? Has there been a surge in people taking to the pool in your area? Let us know in the comments section.

Fancy swimming in the wake of Champions?

aquatic centre

Following on from its dramatic transformation since London 2012, the London Aquatics Centre in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will open up to the public, on the 1st March 2014.

Now managed by GLL, this world-class former Olympic venue will be home to two 50m swimming pools, a 25m diving pool, a state-of-the-art gym and an onsite crèche. This iconic venue will also play host to a number of National and International sporting events including the FINA/NVC Diving World Series, which takes place this April. 

Here’s what Peter Bundey, Deputy Managing Director, GLL, had to say:

“GLL are proud to be operating the London Aquatics Centre in partnership with London Legacy Development Corporation. The stunning venue hosts arguably the best swimming pools in the world and as a charitable social enterprise GLL are committed to ensuring there is a lasting legacy for London.

“From Monday 20th January further information will be available to customers on how to book activities and join the Centre ready for the venue opening in March 2014. We look forward to welcoming local communities into this iconic venue from March 2014.” 

In the mean time here are a few facts about the Aquatics Centre.  

• The three pools contain 10 million litres of water and are lined with 180,000 tiles.
• There are almost 600,000 tiles in the whole building. Paralympic swimmer Liz Johnson laid the last tile in April 2011.
• The Aquatics Centre’s spectacular wave-like roof is 160m long and up to 80m wide – giving it a longer single span than Heathrow Terminal 5. It rests on just three concrete supports.
• The aluminium roof is made up of 50% recycled content.
• The Aquatics Centre uses 32% less potable (drinking) water compared to other pools. This is achieved by using low flow fittings and recycling water.  

For more information about the Aquatics Centre please visit GLL’s website


Teaching swimming in the 21st Century


My name is Andrea Andrews and I love to teach swimming. What I am teaching in the pool has changed for the better over the years through experience and by syllabus changes allowing me to place a much stronger emphasis on play, fun and enjoyment of the water. The influence of technology on my job has also grown over the years having the use of online CPD, smart phones to talk to my clients every spare minute, twitter, linked in, Facebook and now I take my registers on an iPad that is protected inside a water proof case when I work for GLL/Better at Didcot Wave. I have been using this handheld device for about 12 weeks now and enjoyably it has its advantages, removing the necessity for soggy paper records or the expense of me laminating these same sheets myself and using waterproof marker pens.

At first I found it difficult to transfer all of the details I already possessed about the children’s progress onto the device as there was a lot to enter in the short window of time that the records are modifiable (the same day of the week as the class) and I had habitually recorded more stepped detail than the iPad form permits. I am adjusting to the new leaner system by carrying more detail in my head which may keep senility at bay and may soon wonder what I ever did without it. This is what happens in life. However, I would also like to consider what will come out of this routine electronic data collection. Parents are able to go online and see the status of their child’s progress. This is useful for them to see where their child is in the stage and saves pieces of paper being exchanged. It may not reduce the necessary exchanges of words between parents and teachers, so essential for calmer waters to be maintained. It should improve safety too where a child cannot enter the water without being present on the electronic register. The operator; GLL says that they find real time live registers a key benefit.

In conditions where “the system is down” teachers revert to using paper again and I have not so far lost, dropped or drowned a device thankfully. The intrigued members of the public and the children enjoyed me asking “Anyone for pizza?” when I first started to take the register and now they have satisfied their curiosity we get can all get on with the lesson much faster. What interests me greatly however, are the statistical analyses that the operator may be able to ply on the large evolving data set that they will hold across their numerous sites. Patterns will presumably emerge that can inform the operators how to make improvements in their swim schools. What form any improvements will take and whether teachers will feel that they are empowered as part of a positive process is down to the skill of the operator and the practical accuracy of the interpretations they make. Bare statistics can hide or mislead in equal measure and I hope that operators will not become too dependent on this ready source, employ their newfound knowledge wisely, always follow up with objective on the ground researches and not ever be tempted to make speedy or financial justifications to throw any babes out with the backwash. I would love to see it used as a research tool to shine a light on why some children fail to feel like a swimmer or able to enjoy the water as this will define their future participation.

Examples of how GLL plans to use data for the benefit of the customer include – intervention schemes should pupils be stuck on particular areas of the curriculum, eg a clinic on Breast stroke leg action, monitoring of ongoing assessments, talent identification schemes linked to pupils progression speed and age.

So as a pioneering child of the Pac Man and space invaders age I am being dragged into the 21st century further every day. I never thought I would see the day that electronic records are used in swimming pools so as usual will be trying my best to keep up but will also keep an eye on the interests of the pupils we try so hard to help day in and day out.

Making a Splash – TV and leisure come together

splash!As the hit ITV show SPLASH! is set to return to our screens this coming January, RAPs member James Rankin shares his experiences about what it was like working on the location. 

In January this year I was fortunate enough to be working at a new multi-sports complex which was chosen by ITV to host a brand new TV series. SPLASH! is a reality television series that follows celebrities as they try to master the art of diving. During the series the celebrities performed each week in front of a panel of judges and a live audience in the Olympic-size diving pool at Inspire Sports Village. The result each week was partly determined by public vote. Gabby Logan and Vernon Kay presented the show whilst Team GB Olympic Bronze Medalist Tom Daley was the mentor to the celebrities.  Launching earlier this year, the show certainly proved popular, averaging a weekly audience of 5.6m.

The key area that really struck me in the preparations for filming was the in-depth risk assessments that needed to be carried out. Part of the show involved a stunt crew performing a routine from the diving boards involving some quite daring manoeuvres, including a bicycle coming off the 10m board! The TV company spent several days installing lighting, sound equipment and also a stage which actually sat across the width of pool to provide prime audience seating. This added a new dimension when assessing lifeguard positions and number of staff needed .The stage lighting affected how easy it was to view the pool and the equipment meant standard lifeguard positions were not always practical. Safety had to be paramount and before each live episode there was a rehearsal to iron out any issues and any necessary changes were made. Staff also needed to cover night shifts to ensure lifeguards were available for the TV crews working overnight preparing the sets at poolside. This is quite unusual in the leisure industry as not may pools open for 24hrs.

The filming also had an impact on the rest of the centre as rooms were taken over for briefings, celebrity changing rooms and so on. This obviously caused some disruption to the day to day programme of the sports village and although the show was very popular and oversubscribed not all local residents were happy about the filming. This was mainly due to the two pools being out of use for three days on each weekend of filming. Some aqua sports clubs also had to make other arrangements.

Overall I feel the use of the pool for filming was a positive experience for both the centre and my town. However to benefit customer relations if future events are planned,  more consideration given to the local residents should be clearer, information of the timescales involved, and maybe priority tickets or an opportunity to meet the stars could be considered. However it was a good example of how sports and entertainment can work together.

About James

Having got into leisure through a part time lifeguard job in Bedfordshire, James then progressed to becoming a NPLQ TA. He qualified as a Level 2 swim teacher as well as gaining several other coaching qualifications in a variety of sports. Alongside his teaching James also has a solid knowledge of the legal and safety requirements needed to maintain high standards within the leisure industry and has undertaken Pool Plant operative courses as well as First Aid at work. Having qualified as a personal trainer, James is now setting up his own. In his spare time James enjoys many sports particularly wakeboarding and surfing.

The ins and outs of instructing water aerobics: Part 2

Lucy RAPsGuest Blog from RAPs member Lucy Lloyd-Roach

In my last blog you may remember I described some of the benefits that water aerobics can bring, I’d now like to share with you a few of the anecdotes that people have told me so far. I hope you’ll find them as amazing as I have.

Pat, swims once or twice a week and attends 2 water aerobic sessions a week

30 years ago I broke my back in 3 places. Before starting water aerobics I would say that I only recovered to about 20% of my pre-accident state. I lived with severe back pain all the time. I could only walk for about 20 yards before I’d be in absolute agony and I couldn’t straighten my back.

In August 2012, a group of friends decided to try a swimming and water aerobics class.  I went to be sociable. I couldn’t imagine that when I started, that it would change my life!

From doing hardly any exercise I have built up to 3-4 hours a week and feel I have recovered about 90% from the accident. My posture (sitting and standing) has improved; I can now stand straight, move around more easily and can now walk for 30 minutes without being in pain.  I recently had to take time out and I noticed the difference– I was in pain and looked forward to going again so I could be pain free.

My outlook is now positive instead of negative (if like me, you’re living with pain, you’ll know just how much it takes over your life). I have more energy, am happier and feel better within myself.

Anne-Marie, 35, attends once a week.

I suffered back and leg pain for around 7 years.

I was diagnosed with right sided L4/5 disc prolapse with bilateral L5/S1 prolapses. The pain was debilitating and I was on strong medication. I had tried everything for it from epilepsy drugs to block nerve pain to painkillers (codeine, tramadol but then I became allergic to both so stopped taking them and had to live in pain).

My doctor suggested swimming and I discovered water aerobics and it’s changed my life!

In September 2012 I had microdiscectomy surgery. I went to water aerobics for about 6-8 weeks before surgery and my surgeon said that I had a fast recovery due to my strengthened core muscles and back!  The surgeon was amazed how quickly I was back on my feet and back to work; it’s got to be down to the water aerobics!

Water aerobics has definitely improved the quality of my life in a number of ways. I’m healthier than I have been in years. I’m a single Mum to a 10 year old daughter and I am able to do more with her now. My mobility has significantly improved and it’s helped to maintain my weight. I don’t take any medication whatsoever and my posture is much better. If  I miss a session my back aches badly but when I go to the next session it helps to ease it again. I like to think that surgery took away the pain but water aerobics keeps it away.

Margaret, 63, attends twice a week

I’ve had lower back pain for about 5-6 years. It is a result of knee problems and has been aggravated by poor posture from working at a desk.

I was hesitant to go as I couldn’t swim.  Luckily I had a persuasive and persistent friend. When I first started going I was nervous for a while but over time I’ve gained enough confidence to start having swimming lessons.

It’s amazing how free you feel in the water.  I can do things in water that I can’t do on land e.g. lift my knee up to my chest. I’m walking so much better. Before my back problem, I used to think nothing of walking 1.5 miles to work. Then my back flared up and I started walking with a stick and relying on lifts to get around. Since starting water aerobics, I’ve got rid of the stick and I’m walking comfortably for 30 minutes.

It’s not just me that has noticed a difference. My friends have commented that I’m walking so much better and that my posture has changed. Health professionals have also commented. I recently developed bursitis on my hip, the physiotherapist was surprised at how quickly it improved.

I’ve found that water aerobics helps to loosen me up and I can do little things like make the bed. It has given me back my mobility and makes me feel human again.  It’s good fun and as well helping with my joints I think it’s helped improved my state of mind and I’ve toned up as my clothes are looser on me.

About Lucy

Lucy has been fortunate enough to have been teaching swimming for over 10 years. In the last 5 years she has specialised in teaching adults. She feels there is nothing quite like getting people enjoying being in the water and helping them to achieve their goals. In her spare time she can usually be found in the water. She enjoys success in the pool at a Masters level having been part of a number of World record-breaking relays with Trafford Masters. This summer, was her first ‘proper’ open water season and she was part of the world record breaking female 2-way cross-channel relay team.’ 

Top tips for beating the winter blues

winter blues

With daylight savings now in full swing, we are all at the mercy of the long nights and short days. Staying motivated over this period of the year can be difficult for all of us, especially those who are up early in the morning, working in or taking part in sport.

Swimming is one of the few sports where an early morning is often required for training; this means someone has to open the pool at an ungodly hour to make sure our athletes get the best possible preparation for their competitions.

In the winter months we tend to sleep more, eat more, see people less, leaving our body clocks in a mess and with the inevitable possibility of weight gain.

So here are our five tips for keeping you healthy over the winter months.

1. For people who are prone to the winter blues, try light therapy. Exposure to bright light, especially upon waking up, has some major positive effects that can relieve winter depression.

According to Michael Terman, director of the Centre for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Centre

“It keeps the circadian clock in check, preventing it from drifting later than your desired, or workday, sleep period. It’s an energizer that gives a morning boost, whether you’re depressed or just sluggish. And it has direct antidepressant properties, stimulating the same neurotransmitters as antidepressant medications”.

Special types of lights are required; it’s not enough to flick on your bedside lamp. A visit to a therapist who specializes in this treatment is also recommended, although light boxes can be purchased without a prescription. Terman’s website has a questionnaire to help you determine the best time of day to use light therapy, based on how much of a morning or night person you are. If you are prone to depression and are already using light therapy, he suggests skipping your usual dose this Sunday to help your body adjust to the new time schedule, and then resuming afterward at the same hour you used it previously. Even if depression doesn’t have a seasonal pattern, research shows that light therapy can help: it has been found useful for treating bipolar depression, depression during pregnancy and chronic depression. For more information about light therapy click here.

2. Whilst it may seem fairly obvious eating a healthy balanced diet is key to combating those winter blues. Not only will a healthy diet boost your mood, it will also give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Experts from the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association also suggest taking extra vitamin D over the winter months. For more information on a balanced diet visit NHS Choices website for some great advice.

3. Why not try a new activity to get the whole family involved? As a break from the pool use the winter months to discover a new hobby, perhaps go ice skating, or take a bracing winter walk in the country or along the beach. Regular exercise helps to control your weight, boost your immune system and is a great way to break the tension that can build if the family is constantly cooped up inside the house.

4. Don’t forget your friends and family. Having that extra social support during what can be a gloomy few months can be some times exactly what you to lift you out of a winter funk. Something as simple as a phone call or  a chat over coffee can brighten your mood.

5. Get creative with your fitness routine. As we know physical exercise is a great way to beat the blues as it releases mood-boosting endorphins and will also leave you looking great, but let’s face it many find their workout routine takes a hit when the cold weather sets in. To stay inspired to exercise through the winter why not see what new classes are happening in your local gym or swimming pool, or trying pushing yourself a little outside of your usual comfort zone.

The ins and outs of instructing water aerobics: Part 1

Lucy RAPs

Guest blog from RAPs member Lucy Lloyd-Roach 

People who know me may be surprised that I’m writing about the benefits of water aerobics because when I swim, it has a distinctly competitive focus.

I’ve been involved in swimming for over 20 years. By contrast, I’m fairly new to water aerobics, having been teaching for nearly three years. Before taking my STA Aquacise certificate, I partly subscribed to some of the common myths about water aerobics. However, the training course quickly dispelled these and I soon discovered how challenging it could be. My experiences were further supported by a quick ‘Google’ of elite athletes using water-based exercise (the list includes Johnny and Alistair Brownlee, Paula Radcliffe and the current Four Nation Champions – the Australian Rugby League team).

As I started to regularly teach water aerobics classes, participants soon told me the difference water aerobics had made to their quality of life. The conditions that water aerobics helps to manage include mental health conditions, arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, and hip and knee pain.

As you can start to appreciate it wasn’t just the physical side of things that people noticed change, but also their general well-being. In fact if you were to look at the World Health Organisation’s definition: ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’, you can see that water aerobics can help people with the main elements of health.

The physical effects are perhaps most evident. Water aerobics is a great all-over body workout and brings benefits including reducing inflammation and increasing flexibility and mobility. A commonly reported effect from my clients is that in the water they can exercise for longer, giving them a better work-out. The health implications of getting someone more physically active speak for themselves. Some commonly reported results are that some find it helps them to strengthen muscles, which improves their functional movement on land or it may help them to maintain or lose weight. These in turn then have a positive effect upon other areas in their life.

With regard to the social and psychological benefits of water aerobics, studies have shown that following a course of water aerobics participants noticed a number of psychological improvements including a reduction in stress and depression and an improvement in sleep and quality of life.

Before my course, I thought that swimming can bring all of these benefits too.  However, the difference is that these can be accomplished without being able to swim. I’ve noticed that water aerobics encourages some non-swimming participants want to learn to swim. During a shallow water aerobics session a participant will work with their feet on the floor (i.e. within their comfort zone). This means that many non-swimmers will improve their water confidence and find themselves enjoying being in the water.

Being able to teach water aerobics has benefitted my swimming teaching. I specialise in teaching adults and I use some of the water aerobic moves with my nervous adults to help them explore and feel some of the principles of the water that will help them swim such as the buoyancy and support of the water and as a result I find that it helps them to learn to swim more quickly.

Having briefly described some of the benefits that water aerobics can bring, I’d like to share with you in a future blog a few of the anecdotes that people have told me so far. I hope you’ll find them as amazing as I have.

Part 2 of Lucy’s blog will be up online soon. 

About Lucy

Lucy has been fortunate enough to have been teaching swimming for over 10 years. In the last 5 years she has specialised in teaching adults. She feels there is nothing quite like getting people enjoying being in the water and helping them to achieve their goals. In her spare time she can usually be found in the water. She enjoys success in the pool at a Masters level having been part of a number of World record-breaking relays with Trafford Masters. This summer, was her first ‘proper’ open water season and she was part of the world record breaking female 2-way cross-channel relay team.’ 


RAPs welcomes IoS members


We would like to say a big welcome from all of us here at RAPs to all who have joined us from the IoS.

As an IoS member we are pleased to offer you the chance to join RAPs free of charge for the remainder of your current IoS membership. When your IoS membership is due to be renewed you will be eligible to renew your RAPs membership at the special rate of £15.

What is RAPs and why is it important?

With growing demand for professionalisation, RAPs offers the aquatic industry a united and industry wide platform to showcase the quality of those working in and around the wetside environment.  So whether you’re a lifeguard, a pool manager or anything in-between, RAPs certifies your professionalism and qualifications get the recognition they deserve.

RAPs also offers assurance to the public who use your services and gives employers an extra level of confidence that all RAPs members are appropriately qualified and have the competence to perform their specific roles.

Why RAPs?

As a member of the Register of Aquatic professionals you will receive a range of benefits including:

  • A competitive advantage in a challenging employment environment
  • Recognition in the industry as someone who is committed to continued professional development
  • Reassurance to your clients, parents and the public that you are qualified to perform your role
  • Discounts on leading high street and sporting brands, equipment, nutrition and more
  • Lively debates, discussions and interaction with fellow professionals through social media
  • Career advice from our registers team
  • Regular blogs, newsletters and magazines on the latest industry news from leading professionals.

We’re delighted to have you on board, and it’s great to see so many aquatic professionals shaping the industry.

For more information about RAPs please visit http://www.aquaticregister.org/

RAPs makes a splash at LIW 2013


As well as successfully hosting the RAPs Official Opening last month, we also showcased the ways in which we are helping to further professionalise the aquatic industry at this year’s Leisure Industry Week (LIW), which took place at the NEC in Birmingham from 24-26 September.

Throughout the three day exhibition we certainly had a lot going on and it was fantastic to meet and greet both existing members and those interested in RAPs.

A Q&A panel session was held on the Wednesday with STA’s Roger Millward (CEO), ASA’s Jane Nickerson (Chief Operating Officer) and RLSS’s Tara Dillon (Executive Director) discussing the key issues about the Register(the single qualifications framework and traineeships within the leisure industry) and the plans for RAPs in the year ahead.

Stuart Wilsion, Sector Lead for RAPs said:

‘It’s been an exciting few weeks for the Register with both the launch and LIW highlighting the importance and need for RAPs. LIW was a fantastic opportunity to look at career pathways in the industry and we were able to engage with key stake holders, existing members and potential members.”.

However the highlight of the week, which we are sure those who attended certainly agreed, was our ‘Hook a Duck’ competition, taking place in the STA SwimZone.

After a somewhat apprehensive start, the competition proved a great success, with everyone joining in from show visitors, STA staff and exhibitors. Even STA’s Operations Director Theo Millward had a go! Prizes won throughout the competition included one year’s free subscription to H2Open Water magazine, iTunes vouchers and RAPs branded goodies. An iPad was also up for grabs however, sadly no one hooked the sought-after duck.

We’d like to say a big thank you to the STA for kindly letting us use their pool for the week.

Overall the event was a great success and we look forward to returning next year!

Steve Parry introduces RAPs

IMG_3737 Edited

What a busy few months it’s been here it at RAPs HQ!

First of all we’d like to start off by saying a big thank you to all for joining the Register. Our progress would not be possible without your support!

Last month we had our official launch, hosted by Olympic medallist Steve Parry. Which took place at the Greenwich Leisure Ltd owned Oasis Sports Centre swimming pool. The launch was attended by both aquatic industry leaders and sport stars alike.

The event also included a Q&A panel session which saw David Sparkes OBE (ASA), Roger Millward (STA), Tara Dillon (IQL, the awarding arm of the RLSS) take questions from the floor, where key aquatic issues were addressed.

Here’s what Steve Parry had to say about the Register:

“The Register of Aquatic Professionals will go a long way to strengthen the credibility of the aquatic industry. We can be assured that those on this Register are fully qualified and hold the latest, relevant qualifications.”  

Steve continued:

“Ensuring there is quality and professionalism throughout this industry is a must, and I am delighted that the Register of Aquatic Professionals is actively addressing this major issue. Employers can now easily indentify the best qualified staff and can rest easy in the knowledge that those working in this industry are up to the task”.

Stuart Wilson, Sector Lead for RAPs, added:

“The launch event was a fantastic success and RAPs will give the guidance and confidence to parents that their chosen swimming instructors meet the relevant industry standards. Looking for private instructors can seem like a minefield at times but the process can be made easier by checking RAPs and seeking out accredited professionals.” 

Below is a short film of the launch day including interviews with our partners ASA, RLSS and STA .