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Swim Workouts for Triathletes

Parul Solanki Nov 3, 2018
Swimming can be the most daunting part of a triathlon, for those athletes, who are new to the sport. Here are a few swim workouts for triathletes, that will help them build up their fitness levels while improving the technique.
Swimming is a challenging sport for those athletes who are new to a triathlon. Since most of the triathletes come from an endurance sport background, running and cycling come naturally to them.
However, swimming is considerably a more intimidating sport. Yes, we all played in the swimming pool splashing water at each other, but efficient swimming, lap after lap, while maintaining the timing can be a real tough task. As a matter of fact, swimming is not just about endurance.
Although it does have its part to play, the most integral element of swimming is the technique. That is also the most common mistake that most triathletes make due to their conditioning and established view on how to get better at cycling and running.
While in those sports, the longer you go the better, swimming is more about how technically sound you are. The arm strokes, leg kicks, and breathing patterns do not just get better if you do it longer. The right technique is to include a combination of technique drills and interval training.

Triathlon Swim Workouts

If swimming is your Achilles heel in a triathlon, then it is most probably because of the poor technique. However, here are some swimming workout, which make it quite easy to learn the right technique.


Requiring plenty of concentration, the goal of this swim workout is to maintain a steady pace, while achieving high technical proficiency. It may sound simple but maintaining a steady, sustainable, non-stop effort throughout the distance can be a challenging task.
While initially it may be difficult to achieve, but the target speed is race pace or slower, while maintaining the same speed over the distance.
Sample Workout
Try for non-stop, steady sustainable effort for a 750-meter swim, done every 2 to 3 weeks. Initially try to restrict these efforts for short distances.
You will see that as your fitness levels increase, you will feel stronger at the end of the swim, even though your time remains the same. This is an indication of an increase in technical proficiency so needed in a triathlon. With time, you can add 100m to 300m to these swims.

Technique Golf

The technique golf workout routine helps in reducing the stroke count by varying the speeds from slower to faster than race pace, while you experiment with stroke rates and stroke distances. It is a fun way to improve your swimming. With time and experience, triathletes usually move to a narrower stroke range and towards race pace.
Sample Workout
This has to be done every week and involves swimming for 10 X 25 meters and a 15-30 seconds rest in between. Athletes need to count stroke for each length and add stroke count and time in seconds. The aim is to decrease total time for each 25 or 50 meters within a workouts.

Race Simulation

This workout is designed to stimulate a rapid race start, a moderate tempo during the middle meters, followed by a slightly higher pace at the end.
Sample Workout
Done every 4-6 weeks, the workout involves keying in varied efforts to simulate the early, mid, and late portions of the race. While the first 50 strokes should be at a moderate to high level, the mid-portion involves maintaining a moderate, sustainable level. At the end sections, the efforts should be at a moderate to moderately higher level.
At the end of each swim, you need to check the heart rate. With increase in the fitness levels, heart rate should go down faster and your total swim time will get faster.

Sustainable Pace

Designed to keep your fitness levels up at the close of your swim leg, this workout involves maintaining average race pace with variations in between.
Sample Workout
The race distance is divided into two segments. The first segment involves swimming, while putting in an easy to moderate effort. This results in slower time for segment two.
Rest for 60 seconds and check your heart rate at 0s, 20s, and 40s to check if it is not going down. If not, then continue resting and check every 20 seconds, until it starts to go down. Then wait an additional 20 seconds before swimming segment two. Put in a moderate effort, so that it results in a time faster than part one.
Over time, with increasing levels of fitness, the time and pace for each part should be equal without slowing down the time for the second segment. Once you have achieved this, attempt to decrease the rest between segments. However, try to do both at the same time.
Focus on increasing the pace for segment one first and once the speed for segment one is about the same as segment two, you should be able to decrease the rest time between the segments.


The target for this swim workout is to achieve average race pace while starting below race pace and ends faster than race pace. With experience the variance slowly narrows down.
Sample workout
Athletes need to swim 1900 meters divided into 500, 400, 300, 200, and 100 meters. Between each segment rest 10 to 20 seconds. The aim is to go faster as the segments get shorter, thus decreasing total swim time. This workout has to be done every four to six weeks.
Remember that before workouts, you need to include 5-10 minutes of easy swimming and kicking to warm-up, 5-10 minutes of technique work, and the same time for easy swimming. However, the technique for cooling down may take some time.
As you make these triathlon swim workouts a part of your regular routine, not only will your technique considerably improve, but it will give you greater confidence and comfort in open water.