Improve your swim times

Improve your Swim Times:

Tinman Series Triathlon, Suncoast Beach, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, 17th April 2016.

Tinman Series Triathlon, Suncoast Beach, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, 17th April 2016.


With the season about to start and many of the best race events coming up soon, it’s time to start thinking about upping your training with specific emphasis on the swim discipline as we start aiming towards the bigger events you will be targeting. Hopefully you have kept up the swim mileage training over the off season and should have a large base from which to work off? We still have plenty of time to get ready for an assault on an open water swim event totalling 1.5-2km in length.





We are going to divide the swim training up into 3 period cycles over the next few weeks. Period 1 will be dedicated to going really long (but slow). Period 2 will be short and sharp and period 3 will be a combination of both with some rest days thrown in between. We need to complete at least 3 to 4 of these periods to give ourselves a shot at going well over the half ironman swim distance.


Strength Work


To get the best performance out of your swimming, we will also dedicate 3 x 30 minute gym sessions per week to be included in our build-up to peaking for the targeted event.. A combo of some specific weight training and swimming during your peak training periods, will no doubt help you swim faster and better.


The below mentioned programs are geared towards a more intermediate/strong age group type swimmer who has a suitable amount of training km’s under the belt. The program can be easily adapted to both novice and the more ‘elite” swimmer by simply decreasing or increasing total distance from between 15 – 20%. We can also lower and increase recovery time between sets to make the program truly work for you.


Period 1 (LSD -long slow distance)




Swim drills:

400m catch-up drills with bilateral breathing (every 3rd stroke) slow warm-up

400m kick easy Z2 Zoomer fins (kickboard only if you don’t), do a butterfly kick very 4th 25m or 50m depending on which pool facility you have access to.


Main set:

3 x 800m swims, rest 1 min after each one (middle 800m will be freestyler paddles pulling with paddles) pace is slow but try and drop time by 20 seconds per each one


Cool down:

6 x 50m moderate skull paddle swim, rest 15 seconds after each one


Total = 3500m





If you don’t have access to gym with weight facilities, there are a number of dry land exercises which one can do, to compliment the swim stroke action. Your best and cheapest form of weight training outside a gym environment would be a pair of stretch cords. A couple of hundred pulls on these cords (done with the proper arm action) will be worth its weight in gold come race time. I am more than happy to send you some ideas on what to do, should you be looking for other alternatives.


The maximum amount of time spent in the gym during your heavy training phase, should last no longer than 25-30 minutes. Well equipped gyms provide a super circuit which give you an all-round body workout in a short space of time.

Concentrate on upper body strength and include sets of 3 x 12 reps each. Lateral pull downs, shoulder raises, bicep curls and tricep pushdowns are the most beneficial when it comes to swim specific exercises. If at all possible, combine the swim and gym program into 1 visit with the weights preceding the swim portion.




25 minutes gym before you hit the water, same as per Monday’s gym program. Keep it simple, fast and not too heavy.


Swim Set:


Swim 3km straight, no rest, pace is relaxed. I love this workout and if done on a weekly basis with the time taken each week, it will do wonders for your race times. Make sure you accurately record each and every one of these swim times for future reference.


Cool down:

16 x 25m Finis Foam Pull buoy on 40 seconds, breathing every 5th stroke only, pace moderate once again


Total = 3400m





No gym for this day.



10 x 100m freestyler paddles pulling (choice of finis foam pull buoys or freestyler paddles) resting 15-20 secs after each one


Main set

6 x 400m descending in overall time from 1thru 6 Start real slow but drop 5-10 secs per each 400m making your last the fastest one


Cool down

4 x 50m swim using PT Paddles going moderate on 60 seconds


Total = 3600m

Saturday or Sunday

(Your choice depending on what you have planned for both cycle and run disciplines)


30 minutes gym preceding the swim


Swim set:

If you have access to open water that is warm enough, do a 45-50 minute wetsuit swim. First half would be used to warm-up while second half would include some race pace efforts over short distances (fartlek with intervals over 100-200m metres in length)


If you cannot swim in the open water, then head for the pool and do


4 x 1km sets resting a full 2 minutes between each set (1 and 3 are swim only, 2 and 4 are choice of fulcrum paddle or finis foam pull buoy)

(1 and 3 are swim only, 2 and 4 are choice of paddle or pull buoy)


Total = 4000m




Period 2 (SF – short and fast)





Cut the gym down to a maximum of 20 minutes, sets of 2 x 15 reps only and do as many different exercises as you can, working within this time limit



8 x 25m bolster paddles on 35 seconds, pace moderate


Main set

30 x 50m resting 15 secs only (on 60 seconds if you can manage the pace)

(25m is build-up with the last 25m of each 50m being hard and fast)


1 x 400m max at race pace (threshold)


Cool down

400m pulling easy for recovery


Total = 2500m



No gym



16 x 25m on 35 secs (1 easy, 1 moderate)


Main set

20 x 100m rest 10 seconds only after each one but resting 1 minute after each 4 completed.

(format = 25m easy, 25m hard, 25m stroke drill, 25m fast)


Cool down

2 x 200m swim, pace relaxed


Total = 2900m





400m easy swim


Main set

10 x (50m hard, rest 10 secs, 25m butterfly, rest 15 secs, 50m easy crawl, rest 10 secs, 75m hard crawl) that makes up a distance of 200m repeated 10 times over. Rest 1 minute after each set completed.


Cool down

100m anything goes


Total = 2500m


Do stretch cords in the late afternoon for 20 minutes to complete the days work






Period 3 (combination of speed and endurance)





400m easy swim pull


Main set

3km straight swim ( try and swim faster than 1st one done during phase 1)

16 x 25m on 35 secs, 1 hard 1 easy


Cool down

200m easy


Total = 4000m




30 minutes gym work, upper body only, sets of 3 x 20 each. Work within time restriction



4 x 200m freestyler paddles pulling easy rest 1 minute after each


Main set

40 x 50m swim on 60 seconds (25m hard, 25m easy) leave on same time each 50m

2 x 100m maximum efforts rest 2 minutes after each


Cool down

200m foam pull buoy


Total = 3200m





30 minutes gym for this day, go heavier with sets of 4 x 8 only each


Main Set:

3 x 1500m swims (rest a full 2 minute after each one, pace is slow for all 3)

Choice of swim only, swim with fins, paddles and pull buoy combined)


Total = 4500m




No gym



100m Zoomer Fins kick, 200m foam pulling, 200m swim freestyler paddles

Do this 4 times


Main set

40 x 25m rest 10 secs after each one, resting 1 minute after each 10

(Every 4th 25m is butterfly) pace is fast


Cool down

100m choice stroke drills using bolster paddles if you have available


Total = 3100m



Good Swim performances come from consistency. If you can consistently put together a string of 3 to 4 of these period cycles, you will definitely start to feel the benefits and ultimately, swim faster. Good Luck!