RaceSwimTraining Tips

Preparing for a triathlon with limited pool access

by Zone3

Zone3 Female Swimmer


Preparing for a triathlon with limited pool access

One of the biggest challenges for triathletes who continued to train during the past two years has been pool access.

Running and biking are typically done outdoors or at home where it’s easy to socially distance, but most of us rely on gyms and other facilities for pool access, many of which were shut down or severely limited over the past year.

Now pools and gyms are opening up again, I know many athletes are excited to get back in the pool to train. However, a number of restrictions are still in place, which mean you may need to find a new way to get things done.


Find a pool

Finding a pool that is open and meets your needs as far as location, operating hours, and accessibility can be a challenge. Right now, a lot of areas still have strict restrictions in place, and many pools and gyms may still close from time to time depending on outbreaks and staff shortages.

I recently had an athlete looking for a pool in her area. One was still closed completely, and another was closed for cleaning during the time she wanted to train. In the end, she ended up having to compromise and schedule only one day per week to swim because she couldn’t commit to the commute to a pool with longer operating hours.


Do the research

The key to all of this is to do your research. Take the time out of your schedule to plan for success. If you do the work to know what to expect, you can plan ahead.

Some pools will be closed completely, some will have limited operating hours, and some will require you to schedule in advance. In addition, there may be limited availability once you get there.

Many gyms right now have limited occupancy, so you need to know ahead of time when your gym is busiest, because if you show up at a peak time, you may not be able to get in.

Other pools may limit how long you can be there. If there’s a limit of 45 minutes, beginning from the time you walk in the door and ending when you walk out of the door, you’ve got a limited time to get in, get dressed, swim, get out, change into your clothes, and leave.

Knowing the specific limits and restrictions for the pool you use is incredibly important, so be sure to take the time to thoroughly understand their current operating practices.


Plan ahead

When you’ve done your research it makes it easier to plan ahead and avoid getting frustrated when your training plans get derailed.

For example, the pool I like to use is open, but it only has three available lanes and only one person is allowed in each lane at a given time. Plus, there’s no time limit so there’s no telling how long I will be waiting.

Doing research on when the pool is busy and when it’s slow lets me plan my workouts so that I am less likely to have to wait a long time for a lane to become open.

Another athlete I work with goes to a gym that currently requires athletes to schedule swim times seven days in advance—no more and no less. Since I typically build her training schedule out three weeks in advance, I had to be flexible to adjust her training schedule to accommodate the limited pool availability.


Identify alternatives

If you live in an area that still has tight restrictions or simply don’t have access to a pool that works with your availability, I want to encourage you not to simply give up on the swim.

During the height of COVID lockdowns, many triathletes, myself included, did what’s called dry training. Dry training is exactly what it sounds like: a series of exercises done on dry land that help keep your body conditioned for swimming.

When doing dry training, you can do strength training, band exercises, and other alternative methods to keep those muscles firing and the strength level up.

Yeah, you’re going to be a little rusty when you do get back into the pool and will have to brush up on your technique, but it will come back faster than you think because you won’t be starting from the very beginning.

When you are able to hit the water again, you will be primed and ready and once you start implementing your swim drills and get the feel of the water, your technique will come back faster than anything.


Be patient

Finally, I want to encourage you to be patient. So much has changed in the past two years, and everyone is doing their best to adapt to a new way of doing things.

When you get frustrated, remember to be grateful for what you are able to do. If your availability is limited, be grateful you are even able to make a reservation. If you have to travel a bit further, be grateful that the pool is even open.

Remember, this too shall pass. There was a point where we weren’t swimming at all, and now most of us are able to get into the pool at least sometimes. It’s just a matter of learning what to expect and being willing to adapt while we wait for things to return to normalcy.


Find your success

At the end of the day, remember that you get to do this. You get to be a part of this amazing endurance community.

Even if you are only able to swim for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, it’s something, and it’s more than some people are getting.

So, keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t give up. Instead, find a way to succeed, and that’s when success will happen for you.


Morgan Latimore

Morgon Latimore has been a personal trainer/endurance sports coach for more than 20 years, helping athletes meet their goals for triathlons, adventure races, Ultraman, ultramarathons, and even 5ks and 10ks. His commitment to creating a strong athlete-coach relationship and strengthening those he works with both physically and mentally has earned him the moniker “The Peoples Coach.”

Morgon has been certified as a personal trainer, nutritionist, spinning instructor, IRONMAN certified coach, USMS Level 3 Coach, and USMS Adult Learn to Swim Lead Instructor. He has also spent time training and developing U.S. Marines, Navy Sailors, Air Force Airmen, and Army Soldiers.



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