Back to Basics: Adjustable Swim Workout Sets For Triathletes

Many triathletes understand the basic formula for run and bike training, but are a bit uncertain on how to approach their swim workouts. With the innate technicality of freestyle and the obvious variables of the open water, a precise and purposeful workout progression is demanded for triathlon swim training.

Each swim workout should achieve a particular training effect. It's necessary for you to push past your perceived thresholds in the pool to stress your body appropriately and build greater fitness and swimming mechanics.

More: Four Focused Swim Workouts

For the sake of simplicity, the weekly workout progression includes three different types of swim sets that can be adjusted according to the specific race you're training for. Each workout is broken into a warm-up and drills section, comprising 25 to 30 percent of the total distance, plus 2 to 3 main workout sets and a warm-down to stretch out and unwind. Each can be adjusted in distance proportionally, but make sure to progress in a comprehensive fashion that will challenge you to get out or your comfort zone.

Basic terminology:
w/u – Warm-up! Easy swimming to get a feel for the water before drills.
:15r - This is your rest interval. 15 seconds of rest between each repeat.
Drills of choice - Specific drills to focus on critical/problematic elements of your freestyle.
Kick - A kicking only set that can be done on your side or your belly, with or without fins or a board.
Form focused - Easy freestyle that allows you to maintain your best form, perhaps focusing on a particular element of your stroke that you drilled on.
Build - Within each repeat, the goal is to start at your slowest speed and finish into the final wall at your fastest speed. This will help you find different swim "gears" and what each of those feel like.
MAX - Literally your max effort, 100 percent redline. This will feel uncomfortable, which is why you will always have a long rest interval following each repeat.
Mod - A moderate effort that you can sustain for a long, aerobic set.
Send off: The time that you will send off the following repeat on, regardless of how long it takes to complete the repeat.
w/d – Warm-down. Stretch out, loosen up and enjoy the feeling of a freshly fatigued body.

More: 30-Minute Swim Workouts for Triathletes

#1: Mechanics and Speed

- 200 w/u, :20r
- 6x50 3 drills of choice, :15r
- 100 kick (on side with fins, or with a board), :15r
- 100 form focused
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- 8x50 build, :20r
- 100 form, :15r
- 8x25 MAX, :30r
- 100 form, :15r
- 4x100 mod, :20r
- 200 w/d

TOTAL: 2,100 m

#2: Mechanics and Pacing

- 200 w/u, :20r
- 6x50 3 drills of choice, :15r
- 100 form, :30r
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- 6x100, 1:30 send off (use whatever pace is appropriate for you)
- 100 form, 1:45 send off
- 6x75 (50 build, 25 form), 1:10 send off
- 100 form, 1:45 send off
- 6x25 MAX, :45 send off
- 200 w/d

TOTAL: 2,200 m

#3: Endurance

- 300 w/u, :20r
- 6x50 3 drills of choice, :15r
- 100 kick, :15r
- 100 form, :30r
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- 6x100 (50 build, 50 build), :20r
- 100 form, :15r
- 3x200 (sprint the last 25 of each 100 within the 200's) :10r
- 100 form, :30r
- 800 mod, :30r
- 300 w/d

TOTAL: 3,300 m

About the Author

Bryan Mineo

Los Angeles-based stroke mechanic Bryan Mineo has created a unique approach to coaching clients in and out of the water. Through a Physical Therapy and biomechanics-based approach, he helps swimmers move more efficiently through the water, aligning their posture and breath to allow them to work with the water. Bryan's swim coaching business, Mineo Athletics, works with a broad spectrum of athletes from pros to weekend warriors in both Dallas and Los Angeles. Seven days a week Bryan can be found in the ocean working with clients or personally training to swim the English Channel.

Los Angeles-based stroke mechanic Bryan Mineo has created a unique approach to coaching clients in and out of the water. Through a Physical Therapy and biomechanics-based approach, he helps swimmers move more efficiently through the water, aligning their posture and breath to allow them to work with the water. Bryan's swim coaching business, Mineo Athletics, works with a broad spectrum of athletes from pros to weekend warriors in both Dallas and Los Angeles. Seven days a week Bryan can be found in the ocean working with clients or personally training to swim the English Channel.

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