In this guest blog post, MySwimPro community member and marathon swimmer Cynthia Hertzer shares how she built a pool and swimming tether in her backyard to help her stay fit during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

The pandemic has caused me to take a “gap year” from swimming. With everything closed, I won’t log as many miles or high intensity workouts as I did with my Masters team before the pandemic. Instead, I’m exploring how I can train and recover smarter.

Related: Why You Should Consider Getting an Endless Pool

During this down time, I got creative and built a tethered swimming setup in my backyard. I am excited to share my #chlorinetine learnings with you and hope to help my fellow landlocked friends have more water-based fun with MySwimPro

Building My Pool

Setting up my pool was a pretty good day of dryland workouts! I purchased an Intex Metal Frame Pool that is 10 feet wide and 30 inches deep. It can hold about 24 inches of water. Here’s how I set up the pool:

  • Level the ground: Make sure your yard is completely level to ensure proper water depth throughout the pool.
  • Lay down a tarp: The tarp acts as a protective layer between the ground and the bottom of the pool
  • Smooth out wrinkles: Before you get too much water in the pool, smooth out any wrinkles in the bottom.
  • Get a debris cover: Keep leaves and other unwanted items out of your pool! I got this cover.
  • Consider maintenance: Invest in a nice vacuum and make sure you factor in the cost and time for maintaining proper chemical balances in the water. Invest in a testing kit and check the water regularly!
  • Upgrade the pump: This is totally optional, but I purchased this pump and it has made a big difference!
  • Get a deeper pool if you can: My 6’2″ friend swam in my pool and thought it was great, but if you have enough space, a deeper pool would be even better. A technique mirror on the bottom might work with deeper water, too

It took about 5 hours to fill the pool. Water came out of the ground at 60º F. Currently air temps range from high 40s-high 70s (more typically low 50s-low 70s) and the pool fluctuates between 64ºF-76ºF depending on how cold it gets at night and how hot much sun we get. I like to let the sun heat my garden hose and periodically run sun-warmed water into the pool in the afternoons. 

Related: COVID-10 Lockdown Training with MySwimPro & a Swim Spa

DIY Swimming Tether Setup

My tether includes a belt from an old swim-safe buoy, some clothesline, and a short cargo bungee. With small pools, I recommend very little stretch in the tether — just enough for comfort. Adjust the length so that you can swim comfortably centered in your pool.

I anchor my tether on a Santa Rosa plum tree. Other trees should work as well. I wrap the short bungee around a piece of cardboard on a stout limb of the tree. I think it makes sense to have the anchor point a bit higher than my ideal waist position. I have seen kits sold where the tether looks like a fishing pole on the side of the pool and is more flexible.

Related: How to Get Back into Swimming Shape

How to Build a Tethered Workout with MySwimPro

I have tested tethered swimming workouts on my Garmin Forerunner 945 and my Apple Watch Series 5. Here’s how I build my workouts!

  • Set rest time: In Workout Settings, set the Rest Time Between Sets and Rest Time Between Set groups as desired.
  • Build your sets: Rather than entering a set of 4×200, make each repeat its own set. With this setup, MySwimPro will signal when it’s time to stop swimming and signal to start the next repeat. Rest Time Between Sets becomes the rest between repeats. Use set groups if you wish.
  • Consider pace: Think about how you would pace yourself in a pool for the interval you chose.
  • Try open water drills: Various open water drills work well in a tethered environment. For example, 10 strokes easy, 20 fast, and other patterns fit nicely inside MySwimPro-driven intervals.

Related: Easy Swim Workouts to Try After Quarantine

My Tips for Tethered Swimming

After testing out and perfecting my tethered setup, I have noticed a few things:

  • Affects body position: The tether pulls your back half down, and you’ll need to kick more to compensate. Also, pay more attention to breathing in from the dry side of your mouth. I like to do some of my training with a snorkel since breathing is more difficult.
  • Better technique awareness: With the tether, you will likely notice stroke details more often than swimming in a regular pool. Are you swimming straight? Maintaining consistent power? How tight is that kick? Could your long-axis rotation be improved? 24″ of water forces early vertical forearm. My hands tap the bottom occasionally, but it’s not an issue. 
  • Strokes are limited: Butterfly is not really doable, but backstroke and breaststroke work. You don’t get a lot of glide on breaststroke. Butterfly, pushing off walls, and flip turns are not essential in a pandemic 🙂
  • Listen to music: Tethered swimming is a great time to use a waterproof MP3 player!
  • Try out equipment: Even in 24″ of water I can use some paddles — I have a couple types that don’t extend beyond the fingertips. Short fins are fine as well.

Have you tried tethered swimming? Share your setup in the comments! For more swim workouts, technique tips and inspiration, download the MySwimPro app!

30 day trial

8 thoughts on “DIY Tethered Swimming with MySwimPro

  1. Thank you! I set my pool up in our garage this spring and have discovered many of the things you noted. A change for me was my shoulders began hurting. I thought it was because I hadn’t swam in a month, but I’ve been to our outdoor swim team pool (when it was empty) and had no problems. I’m thinking I don’t have my tether attached at a high enough angle. Have you encountered this?
    I’ll be saving your workout info for the future. I’m trying to swim outdoors untethered for now, but I expect the pool to close again before long unfortunately.

    1. Interesting! It could also be that tethered swimming doesn’t give your shoulders the break that pool swimming does. No walls or turns to give them a rest!

  2. Heather: I haven’t experienced any unusual shoulder pain. My weekly yardage is ~ 60% of last season. Taylor makes a good point about walls giving you a break. I swim half in the tiny pool and half in OW with only two swims with flip turns since March 2020. I do notice that my stroke is different when I use the snorkel. I touch bottom more on freestyle without the snorkel than I do with, thus I mostly use the snorkel. I imagine I may be rolling more or changing my catch or both when I have to breath to the side. I would love to hear if Coach Fares has an explanation for this.

    Having MSP workouts is a great motivator! Keep swimming and stay safe!

  3. More than a comment I have a question… I do tethered swimming as well and don’t know how to record a workout. It seems the only two choices are pool swim and open water swim. The first requires a length and measures laps, the second uses GPS and tracks distance.
    No one clearly works if I don’t move. How did you manage this?
    Thanks

    1. Hey Massimo, the MySwimPro team is working on a new workout option that will be perfect for tethered swimming. Keep an eye out for an update soon!

  4. Thanks for this – i think the tip on making each repeat it’s own set is going to improve my experience using the watch to help me follow the workout while swimming in place. The other thing I’ve discovered is that in the past I would not put an interval on my warm up sets or active recovery parts of sets. Without an interval I had to manually advance to the next set, so it’s definitely better to put an interval in for those items.

  5. I have been thinking about tethered swimming in my outdoor pool which is 11 meters at its longest point. There was some sort of a system one of our swim coaches used at our indoors facility. After reading this article I’m totally setting myself up for the second part of the summer. The turns at 11 meters are driving me nuts….

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