What happens when your local pool opens back up after the COVID-19 pandemic? How will swimming change? How can swimmers be safe the pool? All of us are curious to know what it will be like the first time we get back in the water. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re here to help!

It’s likely that it will take time for swimming as we know it to get back to “normal.” Timelines for pool reopenings vary widely by country and even city, and it is likely that our new pool experience will involve strict social distancing protocols to keep everyone safe.

Read on for safety tips and a look at what your swimming experience could look like post-COVID-19.

Watch the Video

Listen to the Podcast

When Will I be Able to Swim Again?

The risk of transmitting COVID-19 “is probably proportional to the amount of people in the community who are infected,” said Mary Schmidt, an infectious disease specialist based in Virginia. If the risk is low in your specific community, you may be able to get back to swimming. However, in areas where there are still a lot of cases of COVID-19, you’re probably going to have to wait a little longer.

Regardless of your community’s situation, social distancing is here to stay. “Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force. 

It’s important that as swimmers, we respect social distancing rules not only to protect ourselves, but to protect others and ensure we can continue to access our pools.

Related: What Swimmers Should Know About the Coronavirus

Is it Safe to Swim During a Global Pandemic?

There’s no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through pool water, hot tubs, spas or water play areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Dr. Michael Ison, an infectious disease physician at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, proximity to others is the main concern.

“The bigger issue is that you have to change in the shared locker rooms, and people are often touching the mouth, nose and face and then maybe touching the lockers,” Dr. Ison said. 

If your pool is open and you’re unsure about its safety, we recommend talking to the pool operator and asking the following questions: 

  • What are you doing to clean and disinfect the pool and its amenities? 
  • How will social distancing be enforced? 
  • What will you do if someone tests positive for COVID-19? 
  • How do I know I/my family will be safe?

Staying Safe at the Pool

Ready to hit the pool? We recommend following these protocols, in addition to your pool’s rules, to keep yourself and others safe: 

  • Wash your hands: Use antibacterial soap and wash for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer before you go to the pool.
  • Don’t use the locker rooms: Arrive and leave with your swimsuit on. 
  • Do not share equipment: Bring your own kick board, pull buoy, water bottle and other equipment.
  • Avoid touching anything: Don’t touch gates, benches and doors if you don’t have to.
  • Be conscious of symptoms: Do not swim if you or a member of your household is sick/not feeling well.
  • Social distancing: Maintain 2 meters between you and others at all times.
  • No physical contact: Avoid giving high fives, hugs or touching your face.
  • Don’t stick around: Leave the facility immediately after swimming, and wash your hands as soon as you get home. Don’t congregate and chat with fellow swimmers.

How Pool Operators Can Reduce Risk

Check out these tips to keep your pool in top shape. We also recommend reviewing USA Swimming’s Facility Re-Opening Messaging and Planning report for more resources and ideas.

  • Eliminate the use of spaces with low ventilation and rooms that prevent social distancing, such as locker rooms and small dryland rooms.
  • Increase the water sanitation level. For example, keep chlorine closer to 2.0 PPM.
  • Create visible markers on the floor to indicate appropriate spacing on the pool deck and at entrances.
  • Ensure proper use of PPE and masks for employees.
  • Ensure your sanitation protocol aligns with your local, state and federal requirements. Create a daily checklist to ensure everything is sanitized regularly.
  • Ask each swimmer if they feel ill before they enter the water. If they report any symptoms, send them home.

Tips for Swim Coaches

Masters swim coach

Swim coaches play an important role — they must strictly enforce social distancing during practice, and clearly communicate the new pool setup to avoid confusion.

  • Clearly communicate each swimmer’s “home position.” Who starts at what end of the pool? Where should they put their bags?
  • Re-invent your terminology so swimmers understand how workouts will run in this new format.
  • Find the pool setup that works best for your swimmers. Each team is different, so one setup may work better for you than another. Having some swimmers start off the wall while others start in the middle of the pool creates chaos, collisions, and confusion for swimmers and coaches. Rotating the stopping locations (such as rotating who was at the wall each set) is too confusing and creates accidental ‘pile ups.’

Social Distancing in the Pool

If and when pools reopen, it is likely they will limit capacity to 25 or 50%. USA Swimming shared 5 options to help coaches and pool operators maintain social distancing in pools of varying sizes:

25 yard 6-lane pool with 12 swimmers

12 swimmers in a 6 lane pool
Courtesy of USA Swimming

25 yard 6-lane pool with 18 swimmers

18 swimmers in a 6 lane pool
Courtesy of USA Swimming

25 yard 6-lane pool with 27 swimmers

27 swimmers in a 6 lane pool
Courtesy of USA Swimming

50 meter 10-lane pool with 60 swimmers

60 swimmers in a 10 lane, 50 meter pool
Courtesy of USA Swimming

On-Deck Sit Down slide sets

Sit Down Slide sets
Courtesy of USA Swimming

Clubs Returning to the Pool

Some swim clubs are putting social distancing to the test as they return to operation. Check out how these clubs in the United States are balancing safety requirements with swim training.

SwimAtlanta, Atlanta, Georgia

With 7 locations in the Atlanta area, SwimAtlanta has been training swimmers of all ages since 1977. Georgia’s pools officially reopened in early May. Public pools can reopen with 10 or fewer people (aligning with the state’s new policy for most businesses and government venues). If the facility can accommodate more than 10 people with at least 6 feet of space, larger groups are allowed.

SwimAtlanta Co-Founder Chris Davis reported that coaches are running workouts from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Swimmers enter and exit the facility through different doors, and must arrive at practice already dressed to get in the water. They have about five minutes to leave the facility after practice ends. 

The locker room and weight room are not available, and swimmers must have their own in-water equipment. 

SwimAtlanta can have up to 48 swimmers per practice at its long course (50m pool) location at Georgia Tech. USA Swimming’s guidelines for teams released earlier this month demonstrate how to safely host as many as 60 swimmers in a 10-lane long course pool. 

Coach Davis said that having swimmers complete 2 workouts per day is not an option at this point, but that he could see using open water swims to fit in extra workouts eventually. 

City of Lafayette Aquatics (COLA), Lafayette, Louisiana

COLA is located in Louisiana’s fourth-largest city, the team has resumed training at their 5-lane outdoor pool with 10 swimmers at a time. Swimmers must stay in their cars in the parking lot until their practice time. The facility has used tape to mark appropriate distances on the ground, to ensure swimmers maintain proper social distancing. 

Swimmers are assigned their lane and the side of the pool they will start from before they arrive at the pool, and must arrive with their suits on. Each lane has a designated chair for swimmers to place their bags. Coaches sanitize each chair between practices. All COLA coaches must wear masks.

After practice, swimmers must quickly leave the pool through the same gate they came in. A staff member will walk them back to the drop off point.

What About Open Water Swimming? 

Open Water Swimming

Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology and immunology at The University of Arizona in Tucson, said human pathogenic viruses have a shorter survival time in salt water than fresh water, so he would expect the same for COVID-19. 

“Swimming in surface waters that are not disinfected could be an issue if the face is submerged — people with the virus may release (it) into the water. Probably a good idea to keep social distancing when swimming in non-disinfected surface waters,” Gerba noted.

If you choose to go for an open water swim, go with a buddy (but stay 6 feet away from them!), avoid crowded beaches, use a floatation buoy and only swim if you’re feeling 100% healthy.

Alternatives to Swimming

In many communities, pools are closed for the year. If this sounds like your area, remember: No pool, no excuses! You can still maintain your fitness and get stronger out of the water. You have numerous options:

  • MySwimPro Dryland Training Plan: Our dryland training plans are designed to enhance swimming performance. With options for swimmers of all skill levels, both with and without equipment, you’re sure to find a plan that works for you!
  • Open Water Swimming: If you have access to a lake or ocean, give open water swimming a try! If you’re new to open water, go with an experienced buddy.
  • Tethered Stationary Swimming: Have a pool in your backyard? Purchase a tether and swim in place! Swimming tethers attach to your waist, and provide extra resistance for a challenging workout.
  • Endless Pool Swimming: If you have a swim spa in your backyard, put it to good use! It will help you maintain your feel of the water and work on stroke technique.
  • Other Cardio: Keep your cardiovascular fitness up through running, cycling, jumping rope or high intensity interval training. 

Related: How to Set SMART Goals

Is your pool open where you live? If not, how are you staying fit while in quarantine? Share in the comments!

If you’re ready to start your dryland or swimming training routine, download the MySwimPro app and try ELITE COACH for free!

30 day trial

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *