Article image

by Dr Paul Hutinger

August 1, 2003

Some options when you can't get to water

Swimmers need to be creative at times, to maintain a training program, when their regular pools are not available. Walking, running, cycling and weight training (light weights/high reps) are good cross training techniques. However, we still need the water. When traveling, check out city, YMCA, high school, and motel pools. Rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans are also possibilities. Specificity is the principle to keep in mind. Swimming is a sport requiring arm strength and I have listed some options friends or myself have used.

TETHER—Commercial tethers come in various lengths. 18’ will stretch to 25’ for the average swimmer and can be tied to a dock at a lake. The 4’ length can be used in a motel or back yard pool. You can make your own from three old bicycle tubes (check out bike shops). Use one tube, tied around your waist, for your belt. The two other tubes tied together would stretch from a ladder or dock. You can do intervals by counting your strokes and keeping track of your time with a waterproof triathlon watch.
In 1975, I used this method to train for a 2-mile cable swim around a 200 meter cable. In my pool, I timed my 200 m with a tether, to get my pace and the number of strokes. It approximated the specificity of training for the cable swim. It took me 160 strokes and approximately 3 min, with 15-30 sec rest. My cable swim was 49 min and 30 sec, which at the time was the new record. Tether training can work; it did for me. Set your goals and work towards them.

OPEN WATER COURSE—Measure a pond or lake for 25 or 50 meter courses. Use a rock, post driven in water or shore or a gallon jug anchored in the water for your turn around. Bill Smith, national and world record holder in the 1940’s, did part of his training in an irrigation canal in Hawaii. When I was stationed on Palmyra Island during the war, I trained in a boat slip (25 yds), with rope and cork lane lines, for my meet in Hawaii.

FLUME—If you have the financial means and desire, this is an excellent option. Bonnie Pronk, world record holder, lives on an isolated island in British Columbia, Canada, well over 90 min from the nearest pool, via ferry. She used money from an inheritance from her mom to turn half of their garage into a memorial swim flume room. I suggested she mount a long mirror on the ceiling so she could correct her back stroke. At the worlds in New Zealand, she set 7 world records, including her improved 200 back.

DRIVE TO A POOL—When Bill Volckening is visiting his parents at their lakeside home in Maine, he often drives an hour, each way, to the nearest pool. If you are planning to travel, check out the USMS places to Swim Directory at -- sometimes you can find pools with Masters groups. Keep a laminated copy of your USMS card attached to your swim bag. It can sometimes help you get you in to Masters group workouts.

SWIM BENCH—When water still is not available, use a swim bench to condition the arms. Designate the resistance needed, as light, medium or strong. By counting the number of reps,.it is similar to tether training,
Most importantly, use a positive approach to realize your goals – even if you don’t have a convenient pool!

Dr. Paul Hutinger is the coach and co-founder of the Florida Maverick Masters. He is a past recipient of the Ransom Arthur Award, and will be inducted into the Masters Swimming Hall of Fame in January, 2004.


  • Technique and Training