Can You Swim In A Garden Pool? (A full setup guide)

Garden pools, also known as above-ground backyard pools, have grown in popularity during the 2020 global pandemic.

With most of the world’s swimming pools on lockdown, we’ve had to find more creative ways to swim.

Personally, I invested in an above-ground garden pool and it worked really well, allowing me to swim at home in my garden and in my own time. In fact, it has worked so well; I have not returned to the public pool since.

It is possible to swim and train in a small garden pool by using a swimming harness. This piece of kit allows the swimmer to take full swim strokes without moving forward. An average-sized adult can set up a suitable garden pool with the needed accessories, including a swimming harness for less than £300 overall.

If you would like to add extras such as a pool heater, this basic setup cost will increase to between £450 and £550, depending on how much you pay for your pool heater.

In this article, I will document all the things I needed to know when setting up my garden pool, including:

  • What is tethered swimming?
  • What size should my pool be? (Including water depth)
  • What kit do I need to set up a garden pool?

What Is Tethered Swimming?

Tethered swimming is the secret to converting your small garden pool into a training pool where you can swim fully.

Tethered swimming means to be anchored or “tethered” by a bungee cord while you swim, allowing you to take full swim strokes, but remain in place.

This elasticated rope is often referred to as:

Here is a video showing an example of tethered swimming. In this video, we can see the swimmer is tethered by an elasticated bungee cord.

At first, it might seem a little strange being tethered, but once you manage a full stroke, within minutes you will have adapted and will be amazed by how well and freely you can swim.

Typically, there are two ways to be tethered:

  • A harness attached to your waist
  • A harness attached to your feet.

Which option you prefer will depend on personal taste. I have opted for a waist tether and I find it works really well.

At first, you may need to adjust the height of the tether or how strong the cord pulls on you, for example, if your tether is too stiff you might find it difficult to swim for a long period as the resistance is too high to swim against.

Personally, I like a medium-strength tether that is strong enough to keep me anchored, but elasticated enough to give me some extra movement in the water.

Unfortunately, retailers rarely provide clear details on the strength levels of the bungee cords used in their swimming harnesses. But a good brand, such as the TYR Aquatic Resistance Belt, offers a perfect balance of strength, yet flexibility.

To learn more about swim tethering and the kit needed, check out my detailed article, “What Is A Swim Harness?” (Examples Included)

What Size Should My Pool Be?

Getting the right size pool for your body size and garden is essential.

Minimum Length Of Pool

Standing on your tip-toes, with your arms stretched above your head, the pool must be long enough to accommodate your full height, from the tips of your toes to the tips of your fingers.

Personally, I would add at least a couple of feet to this measurement to ensure you have enough space and your fingers are not hitting the wall of the pool as you swim.

If you have the space, always go bigger to be safe.

Personally, I have a tiny garden so had to get the minimum sized pool, but as I measured my full height stretched out in advance, I know exactly what I needed and it worked perfectly!

Minimum Depth Of Pool

The average depth of the shallow end in public UK swimming pools is around 0.9m (3 feet).

Most adult swimmers are comfortable doing full swim strokes in 3 feet of water, however, it is possible to swim in shallower water.

I must admit, I was very lucky with my garden pool as I am very short with a small wingspan, so I can swim perfectly well in 0.6m (2 feet) of water, however, most adults should go for a deeper depth of between 0.75m and 0.9m.

If you go for a shallower depth of water, for example, 0.75m, there is the possibility that your fingers will touch the bottom of the pool while you swim.

From my personal experience, I would always recommend going deeper and getting a larger pool than the absolute minimum to be on the safe side. However, I appreciate that cost and garden size is a real-world limiting factor for most of us.

The following article covers how to measure your wingspan and ensure you buy a pool that is deep enough if you are restricted on pool size and need to calculate the minimum depth pool you need for your height.

What Kit Do I Need To Set Up A Garden Pool?

Although the above-ground steel frame pools from Intex and Bestway are fantastic and very affordable, there are necessary extra accessories that must be purchased in addition to the pool to keep the water safe and clean.

These essential extra accessories can drive up the cost of the pool setup. For example, a pool filter pump is essential to have in order to run your pool. This will filter your pool water, keeping it moving and filtering out debris.

When setting up my pool, I did not realise that I would need all these little extras.

These extras are affordable independently, but when you add them all up, they can get expensive if you have not planned for them.

Below, I have listed all the pool extras I had to purchase to run my garden pool, maintain it, and keep the water clean and safe.

From my experience, I change my pool water every 8 weeks.

Perhaps I do not need to change the water this often as it is usually in excellent condition, but that is my preference. I could probably get through a full summer season without a change, but I like to change my pool water every 8 weeks as it is a small pool.

A Full Swimming Pool Setup Kit:

ProductBrief DescriptionAverage Cost
The Pool3m x 2m x0.75m Pool£102.00
Pool Filter Pump Need to pump water and filter it£56.00
Pool Filters Needed to filter the water£9.00
Chlorine Tablets Needed to keep water clean£17.00
Chlorine Dispenser Needed to dispense chlorine tablets£6.00
Water Test Strips Needed to check water quality£5.00
Pool Net Good for cleaning small debris from pool£9.00
Pool Cover Needed to keep pool clean£24.00
Solar Cover Optional Extra£23
Water Thermometer Optional Extra £8
Pool Heater Optional Extra £288

1 – The Garden Pool

2 – Pool Filter Pump

We need this to pump the water through a filter to remove bugs and debris.

3 – Pool Filters

This is the filter that sits inside the filter pump. As water flows through your pump, debris and bugs are caught in the soft folds of the filter.

Filters do not always come with your filter pump, so you may need to be purchase these in addition to your filter pump.

They also need to be changed regularly, so they are a necessary ongoing purchase.

4. Chlorine Tablets

To keep your pool water safe, it is necessary to add chlorine to kill any bugs and bacteria.

I found chlorine tablets an effective and safe way to keep my pool water safe.

Again, this is a necessary ongoing purchase as you will need to add a tablet to your pool every so often to keep the chlorine levels high enough to kill bacteria.

5 . Chlorine Dispenser

The chlorine tablets should be placed in a chlorine dispenser, which helps the chlorine move around the pool.

It is not recommended to drop the chlorine tablets directly into the pool without a dispenser, as this will lead to a high concentration of chlorine in one area of the pool.

Plus, chlorine is a dangerous chemical if ingested. Placing the chlorine tablet in a dispenser will allow the tablet to dissolve safely and evenly around your pool.

6. Water Test Strips

To be sure your pool water is safe to swim in and that the chlorine levels are optimum, it is necessary to test your water regularly using water test strips.

These strips will show if the pH level of the water is safe and if the chlorine levels are OK.

7. A Pool Net

A pool net is an essential purchase for any outdoor swimming pool, regardless of size.

Typically, tiny bugs and debris will land on the pool’s surface, regardless of how well you covered it. I am always amazed at how tiny pieces of debris find their way into the water.

A pool net has a very fine mesh, which makes cleaning and collecting any tiny pieces of dirt or bugs from your pool really easy.

8. A Pool Cover

In order to prevent leaves, debris, bugs and even bird poop from getting into your pool, you will need a pool cover.

A pool cover will keep most of this dirt out of your pool. Pool covers will not keep your pool 100% free from debris however as little bugs always seem to find their way in! This is why a pool net and pool net and pool filter are still needed, even if you have your pool covered.

9. A Solar Cover (Optional)

A solar cover is not essential to run your pool, however, I have found it one of the best purchases I have made for my pool.

A solar cover is basically a “bubble” wrap type of material that sits on the surface of the pool water. As the sun heats the air in the bubble wrap, the top of the pool water is heated.

This is remarkably effective.

I also found the solar pool cover great for insulating the pool and keeping it warm, so when I run my electric pool heater, the water stays warmer for longer due to the insulating effect of the solar cover.

A hidden benefit of the solar cover is that it lies flat, in contact with the top of the water. This creates an excellent barrier, stopping all those little bugs from getting in the water as they cannot get around the solar cover.

Although not essential, this is a great buy.

10. A Water Thermometer (Optional)

A water thermometer is an optional extra.

If you buy a pool heater, often a water thermometer will be included with the purchase.

In addition, some floating chlorine dispensers have an inbuilt water thermometer.

Swimming in cold water can be dangerous, and it is good to know what temperature you are getting into. If my pool is colder than 15°C, I know I need a wetsuit.

If you are not used to swimming in temperatures colder than 15°C, you could experience a cold shock response. [source]

11. A Pool Heater (Optional)

A pool heater is an optional extra.

A pool heater is needed to extend your swimming season, and I purchased one so I can swim into November in the UK with a wetsuit on.

If you choose to get a pool heater, I recommend getting a solar pool cover too or a thermal pool blanket to insulate the pool and keep the water warmer for longer.

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Emma Moore

Hi, I am Emma, and I am obsessed with all watersports, from swimming to surfing and everything in between. I spend my free time in the water or preparing for my next water travel adventure.

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