12-Week Swim Workout Plan for Sprint Triathlons

For non-swimmers, it is the swim portion of a triathlon that causes tri-newbies the most hand wringing.

If you are currently a non-swimmer, but you have your eye on a triathlon next summer and wonder how to go about assembling yourself a swim training plan, I'm here to help.

You can use this training plan as a stand-alone swim plan or integrate it into one of the sprint triathlon plans on Active Trainer. To save some column space, I will use the same intensity descriptions in this column that are described in the free downloadable documents "Training Intensities" and "Swimming Instructions" on the lower right-hand side of my Active Trainer page.

The workouts will be numbered 1 through 24 and the plan assumes you will do two workouts per week. You can put the swim workouts anywhere in the week that suits your schedule, but try to separate them by at least 24 hours.

Weeks 1 Through 6

For the first six weeks, the two workouts per week are the same, except you will change the intensity of the workout. Make the odd-numbered workouts faster than the even-numbered ones. At that, keep the intensity for both relatively low. While the odd-numbered workouts should be the fastest of the week, the intensity should only be in the Zone 1 to 2 range. No higher. Even-numbered workouts are Zone 1 effort and should feel easier.

Only the main set of the workout is displayed in the column. If you are have some swim experience and want to add an additional warm-up or cool-down set or form drills, feel free to do so.

Week 1 - Workouts 1 and 2: This plan assumes you can swim down and back (50 yards or meters) in a standard pool. Although "yards" is used in each description, yards and meters are exchangeable. The first workout is simply swimming 10 x 50 yards, resting about 45 seconds between each 50. You may have to rest an entire minute between each 50 and that is okay. If you do not use a specific warm-up or cool-down, make the first and last couple of 50s very easy.

Week 2 - Workouts 3 and 4: Swim 10 x 50 yards, take 30 to 45 seconds of rest between each 50.

Week 3 - Workout 5 and 6: Swim 10 x 50 yards, take 20 to 30 seconds of rest between each 50.

Week 4 - Workouts 7 and 8: Bump the distance up a bit to 8 x 75 yards, with 30 seconds between each 75 yards.

By now, you are building some endurance in the pool. If you would like to swim a bit longer, add a few yards of warm-up before the 8 x 75 and/or add a few yards after the main set. In the weeks to come, you can add warm-up, cool-down and a few yards of kicking to any day that you have the time and energy to do so.

Week 5 - Workouts 9 and 10: Swim 8 x 75 yards, with 20 seconds between each 75-yard swim.

Week 6 - Workouts 11 and 12: Swim 8 x 75 yards, with 10 seconds between each 75-yard swim.

Weeks 7 - Through 12

For Weeks 7 through 12, make the odd-numbered swims Zones 1 to 3 intensity and the even-numbered swims Zone 1 to 2 intensity. For this training block, include warm-up yards before the main set and cool down with at least 100 yards of easy swimming at the end of the workout.

If you have time and energy, it is fine to add a few yards after the main set and before your cool-down, swimming up to 30 minutes total.

Week 7 - Workouts 13 and 14: Swim 5 x 100 yards, with 20 seconds between each 100-yard swim.

Week 8 - Workouts 15 and 16: Swim 5 x 100 yards, with 10 seconds between each 100.

Week 9 - Workouts 17 and 18: After a few minutes of warm-up in the pool, swim 500 yards nonstop and take note of your time. As you continue your triathlon journey past this first race, your 500 time should improve with training.

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