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by Scott Bay

January 6, 2021

If your pool time is limited because of the coronavirus pandemic, here's how you can fit in a great workout

Pool closures and lane restrictions because of COVID-19 have forced many swimmers into time-constrained workouts. Many pools, if open at all, have gone to a model that allows one or two people per lane. Times, which are limited because time is needed between swimmers to sanitize, must be reserved. Here are a few tips and tricks from swimmers and coaches whose pools were reopened under this model early on.


Suiting up, stretching, choosing a lane, and socializing used to be a leisurely part of the routine for many swimmers. Sadly, that part has to go. Maximizing your time in the water is the key. When you get to the pool:

  • Be ready. No locker room—many are closed anyway. Have your suit on under your clothes and head straight to the deck with goggles in hand.
  • Have a plan. If you don’t have your workout written or there isn’t a coach, you’re wasting valuable time thinking about what you plan on doing. Come to the pool ready to rock.
  • Get in right away. You can socialize in the parking lot (masked up and socially distanced of course) after the workout.


Coaches often consider three variables when writing workouts: volume, intensity, and duration. Take the last one out since you only have 45 minutes. Here are some tips for getting a quality workout done in the least amount of time

  • Warm up. Forget the typical leisurely several hundred-yard warm-up. Every yard is time spent. This doesn’t mean skip the warm-up, but rather make it shorter and targeted. Go through your strokes and get some kicking in. Instead of a leisurely couple hundred, do a descend or build set where you get progressively faster each repeat. This will get you ready for some more intense swimming.
  • Quality vs quantity. Since you don’t have the 60 to 90 minutes you used to, it’s critical to prioritize the most important work. Distance swimmer? Longer sets on short rest perhaps. Sprinter? Fewer repeats with not as much rest as usual. Middle distance? Mix it up!
  • Don’t get stuck in a rut. With limited time, give each day a different theme or focus. Exposing your body to a variety of stimuli will help with the lack of time in the pool as well. If you were swimming three days a week, maybe now it should be four or five just to offset the brevity of each session.
  • Forget the yards. Kicking, pulling, and swimming will all produce different yardage amounts. You have to let the volume part go a little bit. If you have a wearable fitness tracker, you can see how your workout can be focused on variables other than yardage. is a great platform to use in this case and you can track your workouts.


Plenty of places are still closed and others are even more restricted, allowing less than 45 minutes. Develop a get-out routine that’s just as important as the get-in routine.

  • Mind the clock. Always a bad idea to go from super intense to stopping without a cool-down. Pay attention to when your session is up so you can leave time for the cool-down.
  • Keep your gear organized. Put it away when you’re done with it between sets. This way you can get out, grab your bag, and go. Although a lot of facilities have that 15-minute buffer for transition, if you’re still getting your things together at the end of your session, it takes longer and infringes on the next person’s time slot. Don’t be that swimmer.
  • Exit quickly. When the lifeguard says time is up, time is up! That last repeat will have to be done another time. If one more 50 is going to make or break your season or your day, it’s best to review that training plan. Just like above, there’s someone else waiting who has goals, too, and that should be respected.

Some final thoughts

Not everyone has a pool to swim in right now. If your time is limited it can be frustrating but try to look at it from a glass-is-half-full perspective. Frustration is bound to manifest itself in some way and it’s ok if you experience that. But keep in mind that no one chose this and it’s important that you don’t take that frustration out on the staff, lifeguards, or your fellow swimmers. Swim, feel better, and remember, this too shall pass.


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