Three Awesome Swim Workouts | Triathlon Training

Over the past few years, I’ve met very few athletes who love or even just enjoy swimming. I was out on a group ride Sunday and ended up talking to someone on the Canadian National Team in Duathlon who just gave up on swimming altogether. Just one day prior I was swimming with a guy from the Czech Republic who has a slight fear of the ocean but took on a chest high swell and cheered when he got back to dry land. For me, swimming has never been formal but just a part of life. Before I could swim, I was holding onto my dad’s neck as he glided across the bottom of our pool.

Even after a lifetime of loving the water, 2018 is the year I finally got serious about becoming a shark in the water. The first step to this is really finding a good pool. I have an amazing facility that I go to close to the office with a great group of regulars. Beyond that, some structure in my training and an increase in frequency are two main pieces of advice I’d give anyone. Conventional swim wisdom is that if you swim twice a week you’ll maintain fitness, three times and you’ll improve, and if you only swim once, you’ll decline.

2017 Swim Stats
2018 Swim Stats

As you can see from the numbers above, I’ve swam nearly three times as many times as the previous year and knocked over three minutes off of my average mile pace. This was even more dramatic in the improvement I made comparing this year and last year’s Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier open water race where I finished 23 minutes faster over a two-mile course!

So today I’m sharing three of my favorite swim routines. Feel free to modify to fit your focus or skill level.

200s on the 4:

Sometime in March, a recent college grad joined the pool and instantly turned heads when he pulled on his Dartmouth Swim Team cap. Keep in mind, I mostly share lanes with masters-level swimmers, but not D1 swim team athletes. We became friends and after a couple weeks came up with this routine: Every 4 minutes, we swim 200 yards (which usually takes 2:30-2:40). The extra time is rest until the clock hits 4 minutes and we’d go again. We’d group these into sets of 5, then 4, then 3, then 2, then 1 so by the end we had completed 15x200yd. The idea behind this workout is to minimize recovery time, the first five are easy, but having no rest as you count down the next set of four, then three, it gets harder and harder to be consistent with your pace. Since starting this workout, I now do 250s on the 4, but you can modify it to match whatever meets your skill.

Lap Swim 500s:

It’s not lost on me that 500 is a long way to swim for many people. This could realistically be any number, but for me it’s a good unit of measure that allows me to get into my flow but is easily repeatable. It’s also a nice block that can be stacked in a race. If you’re racing an Olympic Triathlon for instance, stack three of these and you’re more or less there! Think: only one more 500, psh, I do reps of those in practice! See?

Most days I’ll warm up (with 250 yards casual), then do 5×500 sets and then cool down (with another 250). When I started the year, my aim was to keep the 500s under 7:00 each. I’m now generally closer to 6:35-40 for each of them. As you can see below, I also like to mix in two sets of 75yds where you do 25yds easy, then 25yds sprint, then 25yds easy, rest and repeat. These quick sprints are like doing “strides” for running, they work you hard and challenge your ability to move quick in the water. They also prep you better for races, because there will be moments where you break from your casual pace and need to quickly move past an obstacle.


The Race Sim:

When I raced the Dwight Crum in 2017, I had only ever swam 2-miles twice before in my life. In reflection, I realized I hadn’t prepared my mind as well as I could’ve for that distance and so this year I set out to swim a race distance set every Friday for the entire year leading up to the August race. With a few exceptions, I managed to do exactly that. Regardless of how I felt when I dipped in the pool, I got in and swam my race distance set. Now, not every race is 2-miles, but it’s a good training session to pull off, that way on race day you know exactly where you should be at. Your mind is ready, and no matter what happens you’ll know in your heart and in your head that: YOU CAN DO THIS!

So what do you think? Could any of these swim routines help your training? Would you like more content like this?

If you’re new to swimming but looking for some recommendations on gear, check out the below items. Each of them I use every time I go to the pool!

Goggles Swimsuit SIM Shorts Tracking Device
Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 Speedo Endurance+ Jammers ROKA Sim Pro II Garmin 735xt Watch

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