A Speed-Building Workout for the Ironman Swim

Swimming 2.4 miles in an Ironman seemingly requires a lot of long-distance freestyle workouts. But those who wish to be competitive often throw in some fast-pace, high-intensity sprints to balance out their pool training regime.

The ability to shift gears from medium pace to a faster pace can help you get around a turn buoy faster, separate yourself from a large pack, or catch a wave at the end of the swim.

The workout below is relatively short at 2,100 total yards and provides plenty of opportunities to swim moderately, but going all out on the hard swims is the entire purpose of this workout. The goal is to swim as fast as you can on the hard swims, raising your heart rate with fast arm turnover and 6-beat kick.

More: How to Excel at the Ironman Swim

For the first half of the set (25s), the base interval should be about 5 to 7 seconds slower than your fastest sprint 25, pushing off from the wall. That is, if you can swim a 15-second, 25-yard freestyle, then your interval should be 20 seconds on the 25s. If you can swim next to a teammate of comparable speed in your same lane, the competitive juices may start flowing more easily.

  • 1 x 25 hard + 1 x 25 easy
  • 1 x 25 hard + 2 x 25 easy
  • 1 x 25 hard + 3 x 25 easy
  • 1 x 25 hard + 4 x 25 easy
  • 4 x 25 hard + 1 x 25 easy
  • 3 x 25 hard + 1 x 25 easy
  • 2 x 25 hard + 1 x 25 easy
  • 1 x 25 hard + 1 x 25 easy

For the second half of the set (50s), the base interval should be between 10 to 15 seconds slower than your fastest sprint 50, pushing off from the wall. That is, if you can swim a 40-second 50-yard freestyle, then your interval should be 55 seconds on the 50s.

  • 1 x 50 hard + 1 x 50 easy
  • 1 x 50 hard + 2 x 50 easy
  • 1 x 50 hard + 3 x 50 easy
  • 1 x 50 hard + 4 x 50 easy
  • 4 x 50 hard + 1 x 50 easy
  • 3 x 50 hard + 1 x 50 easy
  • 2 x 50 hard + 1 x 50 easy
  • 1 x 50 hard + 1 x 50 easy

More: Video: Secrets to a Successful Ironman Swim

For triathletes and open water swimmers who wish to practice their finishes, each of the hard 25s can be followed by a deck-up in which you pull yourself out of the water and onto the pool deck. Dive back in the water for the next 25. This extra "finish" will place significant stress on your heart and shoulders as you move from a horizontal to vertical body position. You may have to adjust the interval to accommodate the addition of the deck-ups.

  • 1 x 25 hard + 1 x 25 easy
  • 1 x 25 hard + 2 x 25 easy
  • 1 x 25 hard + 3 x 25 easy
  • 1 x 25 hard + 4 x 25 easy
  • 4 x 25 hard + 1 x 25 easy
  • 3 x 25 hard + 1 x 25 easy
  • 2 x 25 hard + 1 x 25 easy
  • 1 x 25 hard + 1 x 25 easy

More: 2 Top Swim Workouts for Triathletes

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