Tethered swimming – an alternative way to train

If your local pool is shut and can’t swim in open water you may still have access to a small pool so you can still train using a swim belt, bungee or tether. It’s very effective and actually a great workout.

Training with a swim belt or tether can increase speed, improve technique and endurance for an overall stronger open water swim. Whether it is practicing bilateral breathing, kicking or sighting, a swim belt/tether should be part of your swim training.

Many people have a small pool or access to a small pool even when faced with coronavirus municipal pool closures so is an ideal way to make use of your smaller pool to keep training.

So, what is a swim tether? There are two common types of tether, a swim belt or foot tether. A swim belt is a strap that fits around your waist and has an elastic cord attached to a plastic ring at the back. The belt can easily be attached around your waist by an adjustable clip component at each end. Another form of tether is one that attaches to your feet via booties or ankle straps.
I have tried a both types and I personally prefer the ones that tether to your feet as they give you great feedback from your feet and whether your legs are splitting during your stroke and thus causing extra drag and how many kicks you take during your stroke e.g. 2,3, 4, 6 beat etc kick. You can also get a sense of your body rotation so during tethered swimming it’s a time to really tune in to what your entire body is doing. The ones that go around your waist are also great for all swimming strokes so if you can try both. However, the belt types of tether may need attaching higher up to avoid impeding your feet and aiding rotation. I use a Swimovate Poolmate watch to record my swims when using a tether as other watches may only use GPS and during tethered swimming your GPS watch won’t show good data.

Swim belt training can:

  • The tether can be used for a variety of sessions including technique, strength and endurance
  • Improve your ability to swim in a straight line instead of weaving from one side to the other.
  • Aid in practicing bilateral breathing, helping you concentrate on the least amount of head rotation you need to take a breath on each side.
  • Improve your kicking by allowing you to concentrate on the motion from your hips and thighs rather than from your knees.
  • Enable you to work on sighting, which is something all triathletes need to practice. Set up a water bottle or cone on the other side of the pool as something to sight on. Lift your head slightly with your eyes just above the water like “crocodile eyes” and then breath to the side. Try not to breath to the front as your hips will sink low and cause drag.
  • Be a good tool for drills, especially one-arm drills. Swim with one arm for a set amount of time, then switch to the other. This drill will help produce a more even stroke. You can also use it with other kit such as Finis paddles and a swim snorkel.
  • Help to minimize over-rotation from one side to the other by letting you concentrate on equal rotation for each side.
  • Allow you to apply the same pull force with each arm and aid in a full stroke for each arm.

Below is an example of an open water technique session:

Time: 35 – 40 minutes


Tether, Finis Paddles optional: Swimovate Poolmate swimming watch.


5 – 10 mins getting used to the tether with easy front crawl (FS)

What is your beat kicking? Are you rotating your hips and shoulders? How was your head position? What is your arm extension?

40 strokes with paddles concentrating on hand entry

40 stokes normal FS

40 strokes paddles concentrating on catch and pull phases

20 strokes left arm only, 20 strokes right arm only



5 x 100 strokes with 20s RI

1-minute easy swim


5 x 100 strokes as:

  1. 20 sighting every breath (left) + 80 settle into sighting every 2 breaths B2s +30s
  2. 20 sighting every breath (right) + 80 settle into sighting every 2 breaths B2s +30s
  3. 100 B3s sighting every 2 breaths swap to sight on other breathing side half-way
  4. 100 sighting every 5 strokes – breath when you need to
  5. 100 sighting every 5 strokes – breath B5’s

Which works best for you?


5 minutes easy stroke choice

Training Hack

You can also use your swim tether for water running. Water running is a great way to run with low impact. Ideal for re-hab.

Karen Parnell is an IRONMAN Certified Coach and British Triathlon Federation (BTF) Level 3 High Performing Coach and Tutor. She is also a qualified Personal Trainer (AIQ) and ASA Open Water Swimming Coach. Karen is based near Malaga in Southern Spain where she run ChiliTri coaching and camps. She runs 121 and small group triathlon camps all year round in Spain. Southern Spain is famous for its mountain cycling, sea & lake swimming and trail & beach running.

By |2020-03-25T13:30:11+00:00March 25th, 2020|

It’s our birthday

The PoolMate is 10 years old !

We first started selling the very first PoolMate back in September 2009. Amazingly we sold out of the first batch before we even got it and the rest is history.

I’m rushing things, let’s go back 2 years before that to 2007 when we first had the idea to develop a swim watch. Swimovate is my husband Jim and myself, we were doing triathlons at the time and wanted a watch that would track our swims. We had cycle computers and heartrate monitors but there was nothing around for swimming. To cut a long story short we were made redundant and the time was right for us to take the plunge and set up Swimovate. Jim developed all the electronics, embedded software and made it suitable for large scale manufacture, our son Chris designed the first case and I found a factory to make them for us and started spreading the word- the first PoolMate was coming to life.

Of course there were lots of trials with the long suffering swimmers in our triathlon club, it wasn’t easy to get it working with all swimmers and all strokes and some clever software was needed. There was a patent to write and file and even a trip into Dragons’ Den*.

It took longer than we thought but some how we persevered and truly believed we could launch something to make a difference. We learnt so much along the way. I remember speaking to everyone and anyone with any interest in swimming hoovering it all up and taking things on board. As soon as I put out the first press release we had retailers and distributors contacting us and orders stacking up which takes things back to the beginning of this post to September 2009.

It was a rollercoaster few months and before long we had sales in 60 countries and the PoolMate seemed to be the right product at the right time and be the thing swimmers had been waiting for. Of course I skirt around all the hard work we put in, it wasn’t without hours of effort and innovation. Somehow it didn’t feel like work at all, it was an amazing adventure we were lucky enough to be on.

Now 10 years later we still have the largest range of swim tracking watches on the market and sales all over the world. Thank you to everyone we met along the way, especially the swimmers who spent their hard earned cash on a PoolMate or two. We aren’t going anywhere and look forward to helping swimmers track their swims for a good few years yet.

Keep on swimming


* Dragons’ Den was an experience to say the least. I didn’t get funding, didn’t cry or make a fool of myself but we obviously didn’t make good enough TV to be broadcast. Although devastated at the time we were so glad in the end to have the 100% control of our business that we still have today.

If you want to hear more about our story you can meet us and find out more here.

By |2019-09-19T16:26:20+00:00September 19th, 2019|

45 ways to improve your swimming

We’ve put together all our experience and the best from the internet and created a comprehensive guide to how to improve your freestyle swimming.

BODY POSITION- the holy grail

1, Don’t drag. This is the most important element in swimming. Think of your body as a boat, and your arms and legs as the oars / propulsion. If your body is half sinking in the water, the oars / propulsion have to work much harder, or might even be ineffective. It’s the basic principle of drag: it’s much easier to move your body when it is as parallel to the waterline as possible. Most beginners are not parallel, with their legs much deeper in the water. They are swimming at an angle, which is a huge disadvantage, you’ll need to kick harder to keep your legs up and will get out of breath faster.

2, Keep your head down. You literally want to look at the bottom of the pool. Most people lift their head at an angle; if you do this, your body will tip.

3, Learn to float. Practice simply floating with your body parallel to the water line, with your head down.

4, Kick on side drill. Once you can float without sinking move onto this drill. Wearing fins, stretch one arm out in front, the other should be relaxed by your side. Make sure the palm is flat, parallel to the surface of the water and your fingers are relaxed and not pointing upwards. Your extended arm’s shoulder should be brushing your chin. Look down your arm so your eyes are parallel to the surface of the water and your body is rotated so you are on your side at 45-60 degrees. Your opposite arm’s shoulder should be out of the water behind you. Breathe by rotating your head every 4-6 seconds. Repeat on your other side.



5, Basics. Sounds simple but remember exhale with your face in the water, inhale when you turn your head.

6, Don’t lift your head. Don’t lift your head forward before rolling sideways to breathe. This frequent error also causes your hips and legs to drop. Roll sideways instead, and at the same time turn your head a bit farther, so that your mouth clears the water.

7, Rotate enough. When breathing turn your chin to your shoulder and leave one goggle in the water.  This will stop you from lifting up your head and losing your horizontal plane in the water.

8, Take a full breath.  It shouldn’t feel like you’re only getting half a breath.  If it does, try rotating your body more so that when you breath, your hip is actually close to pointing to the ceiling. The rotation should happen just as your pull is ending, but before you bring your arm out of the water.  This will allow more of your face to get out of the water without wrenching your neck too far to the side.

9, Weird timing. You shouldn’t be trying to get a breath while your arm is out of the water.  Breath while your arm is pulling on the side that your arm is pulling.  When your elbow starts to come out of the water at the beginning of your recovery, your head should go back in.



10, Hand entry. Think about it, when your hand is moving forward in the water, creating drag (rearward thrust) you want it to contact as few water molecules as possible. When it is moving rearward, creating thrust, you want it to contact as many water molecules as possible.

11, Think parallel bars. One of the most common mistakes with beginners and improvers is that your arms aren’t facing straight forward when they enter the water. They can tend to cross over towards or over the mid line which results in fishtailing from side to side and losing forward propulsion. Try to make sure your finger tips point towards the end of the pool on each stroke.

12, The catch. The tricky bit. When you start each stroke, your hand should enter the water at your arm’s fullest extension (extending your arm while your hand is underwater is inefficient due to resistance). Once your hand enters the water, you want your hand and forearm to be almost perpendicular to the water line. Your elbow should stay high; don’t extend your entire arm straight down.

13, The pull. Once you’ve “caught” the water at the beginning of your stroke, you want to pull your arm through, all the way past your hip, for a fully extended stroke. Try to keep your elbow high throughout the entire pull. Some swimmers will try to do a fancy “S” stroke, but it’s much simpler to just focus on keeping your elbow high and your pull in line with the centre of your body. This should be achieved by rotating your body, not by crossing your arm across the centre line. Focus on NOT having your arms cross the centre line of your body, as this is inefficient.

14, Recovery. When you recover your hand at the end of the stroke, start by lifting your elbow first, and while keeping your wrist relaxed, bring your hand up past your head to extend in front of you without dropping your elbow.

15, Spread your fingers when you swim. By spreading your fingers slightly, instead of clamping them together, you create an “invisible web” that can help exert 53% more force! The ideal spacing is 20-40% of the diameter of the finger.



16, Rotation. Much of your power will come from proper body rotation. You want your hips to drive your rotation, not your arms. Your head should stay as still as possible, apart from breathing. If you’re rotating properly, the torque of the rotation helps you pull with your arms, and also helps you extend your arms as far as possible when you begin each stroke. To practice this, you can do a drill where you simply kick with your arms by your side, rotating from side to side.

17, Kick from the hips. Kicking should come from your hips, not your knees. Focus on keeping your feet extended and your knees relatively straight. Propulsion should come from your hips. You don’t need to worry about having a super strong kick. This is pretty hard to achieve and requires a lot of strength. For most people, the purpose of the kick will just be to keep your body position in a parallel line and prevent your lower body from sinking.



18, Relax. You should feel and look pretty relaxed when you swim.  If your arms are moving like crazy all the time, you could probably benefit from some swimming drills.  Try the “catch up” drill to slow things down.

19, Embrace youtube. Watch videos of elite swimmers or proper technique drills and see it all in action.

20, Film yourself. Get videoed yourself and see what exactly you are doing, we all think we are the perfect swimmer and doing just what we should but when you actually see it you will be able to recognize your flaws. Film yourself or consult a professional and who can do this and point out mistakes in your technique.

21, Attend a swim clinic. Get valuable stroke technique advice and meet other like-minded people as determined as you to improve their swimming.


22, Goggles. Go to a good swimming shop and ask to try a few different shapes and sizes of goggles. They are all shaped a little differently and some fit specific faces better than others. Hold a pair to your eyes and let the strap fall loose in front of you. Push them slightly into your face, a good fitting pair of goggles will stay put a couple of seconds before coming loose.

23, Wear a swim cap. Swim caps can make you more streamline and keep your hair out of your eyes but will also help protect it from the effects of chlorine and salt.

24, Buy a lap counting watch. Free yourself up from the drudgery of counting laps and even strokes to allow yourself to concentrate on technique.

25, Polyester is your friend. A good chlorine resistant swimming costume is a must, lycra perishes in chlorine so look for a 100% polyester or pbt fabric. They will outlast others considerably and no one wants a saggy bottom.

26, Fins. Short swim fins can help you achieve an efficient kick and avoid crossing over your feet. They can also improve ankle flexibility. They are also a must for technique drills as they will keep you moving through the water with minimal effort so you can concentrate on body position, rotation, arm and head motion.

27, Paddles. Swim paddles can increase arm strength but be careful not to over use and strain muscles.



28, Increase endurance. The best thing you can do to increase your endurance is to perform workouts with short rests between intervals. Try doing something as short as 6 x 1 lap with 5 seconds rest between and build it up.

The goal of intervals is to enable you to swim longer distances while maintaining proper stroke. If you start out in poor shape and attempt to increase your endurance by swimming long distances without rest your stroke will deteriorate and you’ll get much less out of the workout. Is it good for you? Yes, better than nothing but intervals will see you improve much more quickly.

29, Increase strength. Turn a swim into a strength workout by adding strength work at the end of the lap. Swim 100m sets and instead of resting between sets do 10 vertical pushups. Keep your legs in the water and place hands flat on poolside shoulder width apart. Raise yourself up so your arms straighten,  do 10 reps and straight into your next swim set.

30, Sustain your speed. Try a reduced rest workout, swim sets but decrease your rest by 5 seconds each interval. Try for one more each time you do it.

31, Work on your efficiency. The goal of this is to be more efficient in the water, you’ll need to work on covering more distance per stroke without getting any slower. Easier said than done, so try on shorter sets to start with.



32, Heartrate will be lower when swimming. When swimming your heartrate will be lower than it is when running or cycling even if you are putting out the same effort. This is because you are horizontal, supported by the water, cooled by the water and also because of the “dive reflex” which is a neurological response to immersion in water. It can be around 13% lower than on land- something like 17bpm.



33, Practice. Get in open water swims as much as possible. This will also increase your endurance because you’ll be swimming longer distances without the opportunity to rest. As a beginner, it was very easy to take a 2–5 second rest every few laps in the pool. Not so in open water; you got to keep going.

34, Sighting. This is a no-brainer and the most important aspect in open water. This was(is) tough for me because I always (as I am supposed to) breathe sideways. And popping my eyes up to see what is ahead really messes up my rhythm. It still does. If you can maintain your posture and the rhythm and still sight, that is a big advantage.

35, How often to sight? Try swimming (in the pool or open water) with your eyes closed. That will give you an indication of how straight you swim without any orientation aids. If you naturally swim pretty straight, you may not need to sight as much, but if you find yourself weaving quickly to one side or another, you should be sighting more frequently.

36, Swimming Straight. Sighting can help you swim straight but there are other aspects that you can incorporate in your swim that will help you stay straight. Practice breathing on both sides and although you may struggle at first you will swim in a straighter line.


37, Breathing Flexibility. If the sun is up one side, even with tinted goggles it can be quite bright. Therefore the ability to breathe on both sides helps.

38, Practice for nice calm strokes. It is very easy to panic in open water. Especially in the first few minutes. In the pool, you should practice to calm your nerves while swimming.

39, Add water. Pour water in the wetsuit before starting. A water film between neoprene and skin makes for better insulation than a dry suit. You can stretch your neck opening a little when you first get in to do this.

40, Slow down your kick. You will float better with a wetsuit so you don’t you’re your legs to help you float. Don’t kick like an outboard engine, splashing water = energy loss.

41, Think like a kayak. Faster swimmers resemble a kayak: perfect balance between paddling (stroke) and gliding, no bubbles, no splashing, all energy goes directly to push water .

42, Free speed from drafting. Drafting can save around 30% of your energy as the swimmer in front has already broken up the water tension for you. If you can find a slightly faster swimmer to draft off you’ll be able to keep up.

43, Practice for traffic. Practice swimming in an environment with lots of other people. In a race it’s easy to panic when you get swum into, elbowed or kicked- It can be like a washing machine. If you can get a couple of friends together try swimming 3 to a lane- all starting at the same time or go to the pool at peak times and make the most of a full lane rather than cursing it.


44, Don’t give up! When you first start at practice, you will feel exhausted and dead because swimming is so good for you and your body isn’t this used to it. Give it time. It may take 6 months to actually start feeling great at practice, but you just have to give it time.

45, Swimming makes you live longer! The more you swim, eat right and avoid smoking, the longer you’ll live, according to two studies of more than 355,000 people. You may add as many as 10 years to your life, says heart disease researcher Jeremiah Stamler, M.D., of Northwestern University in Chicago.


Pictures provided by wikiHow, a wiki building the world’s largest, highest quality how-to manual. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.”

By |2018-10-23T10:44:17+00:00October 22nd, 2018|

The Swimovate story

It’s been a long time since we told out story, here’s video of Jim and I telling our tale, from idea to prototype to reality.

Hope you enjoy, Lisa


By |2018-05-31T13:36:35+00:00May 31st, 2018|

How swim trackers can help you

How swimming with a PoolMate watch can help you.

PoolMate swim tracking  watches offer functionality and features that can really help you improve your motivation in the water and reap the rewards. Even if you once or twice a week for fitness or weight loss, benefits can be had in a short time.

It’s all about you

There’s nowhere to hide when you track each swim. A PoolMate a great motivational tool, whether your goal is to swim a little bit further or little bit faster, you can build it up and compete against yourself every swim. No one wants to have a poor session staring them in the face each time they view their data- so they can help keep you focused and your training on track.

See your progress

PoolMate watches can help you achieve a greater understanding of your training progress in order to get the most out of each session and improve going forward.  Downloadable versions especially make it very easy to track your progress visually.

Brighten up solo training

So you don’t have a coach to push you, time you or motivate you. PoolMates monitor the same things a coach would do whenever and wherever you swim.

Warn against overtraining

Swim times not that good this week? Feeling tired? May be you are overdoing things, take it a bit easier or drop a session this week. By tracking your sessions you can sport this sort of trend.

Turn your attention to your stroke

As any swimmer knows, it’s easy to forget your lap count when concentrating or if the mind wanders. Let the your PoolMate do this and you can maximize your swim efficiency by being able to focus more on technique and less on counting laps.

By |2018-02-27T17:23:29+00:00February 27th, 2018|

Swim Inventions

Patents are important to protecting your invention, we know that, we patented our PoolMate swim algorithms before we launched.

It’s always been important to have good diagrams and drawings to explain your idea. We’ve been trawling through some old patents and have picked out the most amazing inventions with fabulously detailed drawings from the world of swimming.

Swimming was so important back in 1874 that W Redfearn designed this huge (and hugely complicated) swim teaching apparatus and documented it in US patent 149249

1881 brought about a fetching webbed swimsuit design from William Beeston, William claimed the webbed parts increased propulsion.

We particularly liked the hood design. Which the designer in this photo from the Manchester Science Museum seems to have picked up on too.

Speaking of designer swim wear, check out this cork swimsuit from just a year later in 1882. Designed not to impede arm and leg motions this offered buoyancy and safety, especially for feeble swimmers.

Things moved on in 1910 to artificially aided swim devices with this elaborate swimming hand cycle.

“This invention relates to improvements in means for navigating the waters and particularly to a means for permitting persons
who are unable to swim’to readily propel ‘themselves through the water, either for pleasure or for necessity, as for instance, when shipwrecked or the like.” Very useful.

Finally an eye-catching design from 1924. Designed to be made from flexible rubber this “tail” was supposed to be flexed by moving the feet. Perhaps a forerunner of the modern swim fin, this looks like it would seriously work those leg muscles. Maybe we should bring it into production……

By |2018-02-12T15:39:48+00:00February 12th, 2018|

Lost without my poolmate

Are you lost without your PoolMate?

We get so many swimmers saying they are completely lost if they forget to take their PoolMate to the pool. I know I am, it’s surprising how much of an effort it is to remember your lap count when you are used to the PoolMate doing it for you.

To celebrate our new website we are looking for some special people to be a case study for our website.

You get a FREE T Shirt and exclusive discounts for you and 5 of your friends

Just email us at info@swimovate.com with the subject CASE STUDY and how your PoolMate has helped you.

If successful we will email you back with a few questions and ask for your best swimming related photo. When we get the answers and photo we will send you your goodies!

It’s been 8 1/2 years since we launched the first PoolMate and we have users of all ages all over the world. We’ve a lot planned for this year so sign up for our mailing list or follow us on twitter or facebook to keep in touch.

By |2018-02-07T14:10:55+00:00February 7th, 2018|