Winter Swimming

By Mark Henricks – December 1, 2015
photography by Jenny Sathngam

As seasons change and temperatures drop, so do opportunities to get in a swimming workout. Most City of Austin public pools, for instance, close when school starts in the fall and stay locked up through winter and spring.

That’s a problem for triathletes preparing for spring races or any competitive swimmer who participates in year-round events. But if you know where to go, you can keep swim-fit all winter. Austin has a rich selection of indoor and outdoor pools, including public and private as well as heated and unheated. A variety of programs cater to the full range of athletes, from serious swimmers to the occasional drop-in. And there is likely a convenient location no matter where you are in the city.

Winter Swim Tips

1. Don’t wait poolside. Get in the water and start swimming.
2. Don’t stand around after you get out either.
3. Wear sandals to the edge of the pool and don them quickly when getting out to reduce heat loss through your feet.
4. Wear a swim cap in the water to reduce heat loss through your head.
5. A long swimming parka over your suit lets you quickly expose or cover your entire body to minimize exposure to winter breezes.
6. Consider a wetsuit when water temperature drops below 78 degrees.
7. Never swim alone.

Austin’s Top Winter Swimming Spots

Barton Springs
2201 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78704
The downtown heart of Austin swimming stays open year-round 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily except Thursdays. Underground springs keep the water at about 69 degrees, so in winter it’s warmer than unheated outdoor pools whether natural or man-made. Adult Austin residents pay $3 for day passes April to October. It’s free other times, and every day from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. Bartholomew, Big Stacy and Deep Eddy pools are also open year-round on varying schedules.

Texas Swimming Center
1900 Red River St.
Austin, TX 78712
The Longhorn Aquatics masters program holds 11 coached workouts per week year-round mornings and afternoons at the heated indoor pool on the University of Texas campus. Members pay $85 a month—$80 for faculty and staff—or $110 for 10 drop-in sessions. Masters participants have to be over 18 and some are beginners, but the pool may also host UT varsity athletes. “It’s kind of awesome to be sharing lanes with NCAA champion guys,” says Whitney Hedgepeth, the Longhorn Aquatics masters head coach, who won three NCAA championships herself as a UT swimmer.

Circle C Aquatics
5919 La Crosse Ave #100
Austin, TX 78739
Way down south, the Olympic-sized Circle C community pool hosts a masters swimming program year-round with workouts on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. Non-residents of neighborhood pay $75 a month to train with a certified masters coach. There are two levels, one for experienced swimmers and one for beginners, and each group has only a half-dozen or so regular participants, says coordinator Amanda Hartman. Although the pool is outdoors, the water’s always fine. “We keep it at 81 degrees,” says Hartman. 

El Salido Pool
11500 El Salido Parkway
Austin, TX 78750
On the northwest side of town, El Salido Pool stays open during the school year weekdays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for adult swim. It’s open for general swim 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Residents outside the local Anderson Mill district can get yearly memberships for $180, or pay $5 drop-in fees. The outdoor pool is heated and lap lanes are always available, says Melinda White, pool manager.

Pure Austin
4210 W. Braker Lane
Austin, TX 78759
The Pure Austin private fitness facility in North Austin offers coached training two days a week in a heated, covered outdoor pool year-round. Non-members pay $125 a month for the coached masters group workouts or $20 for a one-day pass to swim on their own. Most participants in the masters program are triathletes staying in shape for spring races, says PureTri Coach Peri Kowal. “It’s for all abilities,” she adds. “But we like for people to be able to swim about 200 yards without stopping.” In addition to the 25-yard pool, some swim in open-water Quarry Lake through winter, although lake temperatures fall below Barton Springs levels by about November, Kowal says.

TeamTexas Masters
Great Hills Country Club
5914 Lost Horizon Drive
Austin, TX 78759
TeamTexas Masters holds morning workouts Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the winter at Great Hills Country Club. The monthly training fee is $100. Great Hills Country Club also has its own year-round swimming programs held in the 25-meter outdoor pool, which is heated during the winter months. Cold weather should not be a problem for year-round athletes, as long as they stay in the water, says Sandy Neilson, coach of TeamTexas Masters. “We swim a lot when it’s sub-32,” she says. “The coach gets colder than the swimmers.” 



Related Articles

Learn More