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Swim training in short pools

Updated: Jul 10, 2021

At our 2015 camp in Jeju, we had to improvise as the Olympic standard pool closed down for three days over Korean Thanksgiving. It left our Kona-bound pros a little nervous, as during a crucial period in the lead up to the season’s ‘Big Dance’ they found themselves preparing in a 20m lap pool in the aqua park.

It has had me reflecting on the early days of my swim coaching career and how sessions with the stretch chord might help some age groupers who only have a small pool in their apartments or frequently travel long distances so they can get to a 25m or 50m pool. It’s quite possible you’d be better served doing every second workout in the mini pool with a little bit of innovation.

Let me explain why. My first ever State Swimming Champion in the mid-70s came out of a winter swimming in a 12.5m pool.

Yes, off 8 laps to the 100m Bruce Leverton won the 100m backstroke final.

During our preparation in the swim ‘puddle’ we took inspiration from an Aussie swim great, Mark Kerry. Mark lived in a hotel complex run by his parents and they trained him to his first National Championships in a 16m pool (or 3 laps to 50m). Mark went on to great heights – American University, Olympic medals and a star career as a model in the USA.

Similarly, 10 years later I advised a swimmer in our team who lived in a remote area that she needn’t make the long trip to the big city as she had a 15m pool next door. Off her winter training, she made the trip down to the Age Group Australian Championships to win the 100m butterfly in 63 seconds. Not too shabby. Triathlon’s best females swim about this for 100m freestyle now.


When asked by the media ‘how do you even swim in winter?’ they were taken aback that she did every swim main set using a $9 dollar swim stretch chord. Coach told her it would make her strong. It did. She represented Australia that year without leaving home.

Fast forward nearly 40 years. Nicola Spirig and Daniela Ryf both use the stretch chord to enhance their new strokes. Nicola uses hers in a 12m pool at the Giardino Hotel in St Moritz. Daniela has used hers in a hotel pool in Kona. Yes, before the biggest race of her life Coach is perfectly happy to for her to swim in the hotel rather than 50m pool for certain sessions. Having this equipment is a must for all triathletes who travel to race. It gives you the chance to swim at any hotel-sized swim pool.

Searching for the wall using the stretch chord.

We also use a number of other swim tools apart from paddles and pull-buoy, which I have written about earlier. These were all developed from the days when heated pools were not the norm.

The ‘bucket’ was a favourite that my father would use to great effect. Inflicting many a lung-busting aerobic set in the most unlikely swim pools. The ‘parachute’ is a further innovation along with the Dennis Cotteral ‘Octopus’. Add to this the 3m chord, the 10m chord and the 15m chord and we have all the tools to make any size pool feel like a long way.

These are all cheap options to the jet resistance pool that can also be bought anywhere in the world and be used with great effect. So, I hope with a little out of the box thinking you can turn that pool you think is too small into a positive addition to your swim program.

Short pool session in Jeu left no-one in any doubt that can detail get a very exhausting swim workout.

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