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Here's the One Thing Princess Diana Did Every Day to De-Stress

Her backstroke brought her balance.

Princess Diana's life may have looked so glamorous to those of us on the outside looking in, but the reality was often far more complicated—and more stressful—than most of us realized. When she was married to Prince Charles, her days as Princess of Wales were scheduled down to the minute and booked months in advance. In addition to her long list of obligations, Diana was coping with a great deal of stress in her personal life: she struggled with a troubled marriage and constantly had to adjust as a member of the royal family.

That's why, to alleviate stress and stay fit, Diana swam every single day—even when she traveled.

The princess was a swimming and diving star at school. Her swimming instructor was so impressed with her technique she wrote, "Diana swims and dives with speed and style." Diana even created her own move, dubbed the "Spencer Special"—a dive so smooth it hardly made a splash as she hit the surface of the water.

After she married Charles, Diana regularly used the pool at Buckingham Palace, leaving home at 7am in a red tracksuit and driving from their apartment at Kensington Palace to "BP" for a 20-minute swim. She always wore a one-piece suit to swim up to 30 lengths of breaststroke and backstroke, to get ready to face the day and stay in shape. Diana and Charles taught Prince William and Prince Harry to swim in the same pool.

Diana was so devoted to her fitness routine that she hated to miss her early morning swim. During the eighties, when she was at Sandringham—which has no pool—Diana drove to the nearby Knights Hill Health Club, often accompanied by her then sister-in-law Sarah Ferguson, for an hour's swim and aerobics. When she traveled for official engagements, her aides always arranged for time for private swims in hotel pools.

The princess even swam in the Buckingham Palace pool on the first day of her official separation from Charles and usually went for a solitary swim on Christmas Day after she no longer went to Sandringham with the rest of the royals.

After her divorce in 1996, Diana stopped swimming at Buckingham Palace and missed the soothing effects of swimming in private.

"That was very much part of her routine," said a royal insider. "But after the divorce, she didn't feel comfortable going there." She also didn't feel safe swimming at her gym, The Harbour Club in Chelsea (photographs of the princess working out at the club had landed on the front page of the tabloids), so friends often arranged for her to use the pools at their clubs or on their estates in secret.

"There were so few moments were she felt serene and calm," said a good friend of Diana's. "Swimming gave her the elusive peace she was always searching for—even if it was only for a few minutes a day." And for more amazing facts about Princess Diana, know that This Was Her Final New Year's Resolution. 

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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