A 30-minute swim session will give you plenty of time to work on speed, technique and endurance. Here are 15 varied sets for boosting your triathlon swim
1 200 TESTS
Complete a testing session to give yourself some baseline figures. Execute multiple 200m efforts as hard as possible allowing 1min rest between sets; you should complete as many as appropriate for your chosen racing distance. Work out your average pace per 100m and call this your Test Pace (TP). Repeat each 4-6wks.
2 CAN I KICK IT?
Look to improve your poor and ineffective leg kick by including it as part of a bigger set. This’ll help with improving body position and also for changes in pace. Complete 8 x 200m sets with the final 50m of each 200m using a kickboard and working hard kicking from the hips and glutes. Take 30secs rest between sets.
3 DESCENDING 100S
This is a simple but effective 1,500m main set that works on endurance and a change in swim pace. Start at 500m and reduce by 100m each set, i.e. 500/400/300/200/100. As you decrease the distance, aim to increase your pace by 2-3secs per 100m each time. 30secs rest after each set.
4 ZONE OUT
Sometimes it’s okay to simply get in the pool and have a recovery swim without any specific objective of time or pace. Use this kind of session to think about your technique. If you’ve had a very tough week of training this can be very useful as an active recovery session. Just don’t make every session like this!
5 100S OFF
This is possibly the most common – yet easy and effective session – for any triathlete in the pool. Set a target time for your 100s based on your TP time (see swim session 1) and add 10-15secs for recovery. This becomes your combined ‘OFF’ time. For example, 15 x 100m OFF 2:10mins. The faster you swim, the more recovery time you’ll get.
Look like a ‘real’ swimmer by practising tumble turns in a main set (it helps if the pool is quiet when you do this session). Swim a steady pace 300m and then include a tumble turn on the next four lengths making it a 400m set. Repeat 4 x more sets of the 400m block to give you a great 2km.
7 MIX & MEDLEY
Great swimmers use all strokes and you should too… even butterfly! If you can do fly, it’s
“If you’ve had a tough week of training, then a recovery swim can be very useful”
a great stroke for highlighting a propulsive pull phase. Breakdown a continuous 250m block into 100m crawl/75m breast/50m back/25m fly. Take 1min rest at the end of the fly… you might need it!
8 1,600M IN 400S
A simple way to break up a 1,600m swim is to drop it down into 400s with 90secs rest between. But to keep it interesting, work at different paces and make each 400m different. Try 400m easy; 2 x 200m moderate; 4 x 100m vigorous; and finally 8 x 50m max effort. Take no more than 20secs rest in between the intervals. And really focus on the fast 50s.
9 PULL FOR TECHNIQUE
The most commonly used swim toy has to be the pull buoy, which is great for helping body position and working on technique. Complete a 2km set as 4 sets of 3 x 100m, with a pull buoy
placed between the tops of your thighs followed by an easy 200m. Each block of 3 x 100m could have a different technique focus.
10 PACE PYRAMID
Work up and down a pyramid of distance changing the intensity each interval. Do 2km as: 4 x 50m max effort; 3 x 100m vigorous; 2 x 150m moderate; 1 x 400m easy; 2 x 150m moderate; 3 x 100m vigorous; 4 x 50m max effort. Take 20secs rest between sets.
11 BUDDY UP
Pair up with a swimmer of equal ability to make your swim sessions more productive. Practise open-water skills such as drafting by swimming just to their side and being comfortable close to others. Also, include some 25m sprints against each other. The loser buys the post-swim coffee!
13 TIMED 30
A really simple endurance session is swimming a continuous 30mins aiming to complete as many lengths as possible. Keep a record of your distance covered. If 30mins is too long to begin with, start with 15mins and build from there. Aim to keep consistent pacing per 100m.
14 TRICEP TERROR
This is a fun but killer session for boosting upper-body strength. Complete a steady paced 10 x 150m, but at the end of each 150m you lift yourself out of the water and perform 10 tricep dips off the side of the pool, or change it up for press-ups to make it more fun. There’s no rest during this session.
15 NEGATIVE SPLITS
These are perfect for feeling a change in your swim pace. Complete 6 x 300m efforts with a change in pace halfway through, i.e. first 150m moderate; second 150m hard. Aim to change your pace per 100m by at least 3-5secs. This session is great for working aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.