5 tips to optimize your swim training – don’t waste your time

One of the hardest parts about training for an event whether it be an open water swim, a triathlon or Ironman is finding the time to put in the amount of training you want.

For a full time working busy individual the last thing you want is to be wasting your time on unproductive training. Check out our tips below for optimizing your swim training time.


1. Do not count your distance, make your distance count


Do not just jump in the pool and swim up and down mindlessly at an easy pace to hit a distance target – you will get really good at swimming slow. Structure your workout to work on specific parts of your swimming. Start with a warm up to get everything working, include a main set with a focus, include some speed and drills.


For example, let’s say you are training for a half Ironman swim of 1.9km and you do 3 swim sessions a week.


Session 1:

Warm up – 400m easy freestyle

Main set – 12 x 100m freestyle rest 15 seconds after each 100m, trying to hold 2 seconds under race pace.

Speed – 8 x 50m rest 15 seconds after each 50m, sprint first 6 strokes of each 50m as fast as you can.

Drill – 6 x 50m rest 15 seconds after each 50m, alternating 1 – sight every 6 strokes, 2 – single arm freestyle


Session 2:

Warm up – 300m easy freestyle

Main set – 5 x 200m freestyle rest 20 seconds after each 200m, 1st 50m of each 200m swim fast to spike your heart rate, then try to hold a medium pace for 150m without dropping down to swimming easy. This set focuses on training your body to recover fast after a swim start.

Speed – 4 x 25m on 1min as fast as you can swim

Drill – 8 x 50m rest 10 seconds after each 50m, swum as 25m head up freestyle, 25m front scull


Session 3:

Warm up – 400m easy freestyle

Main set – 10 x 50m freestyle rest 10 seconds after each 50m, focus on catching the water with good technique

Speed – 6 x 25m freestyle on 1min, 1st 12.5m as fast as you can swim – from a floating start (no pushing off the wall or ground)

Drill – 400m freestyle swum as 50m sighting every 6 strokes, 50m good technique


2. Have clear goals


Know what your goals are and know what you need to reach those goals. For example, your goal may be to swim your Ironman leg of 3.8km under 1hr, work out what pace is needed to do this to give you more focus in training. Going under 1hr would require you to hold 1min 34 seconds or better per 100m, knowing this makes it easy to target times in main sets.


3. Enter an event


Don’t just wait to see how training goes before you enter an event, enter an event to train for! It can be easy to coast along keeping fit with the intention of entering an event if training goes well. Without the added focus of knowing exactly what event to train for motivation can be low and you may find that your training never gets to the point of “going well”


4. Get a training buddy


Swimming with someone else or in a squad keeps you honest and generally will make you swim faster. Having a training buddy or swimming in a group will take away the option of stopping early, taking it easy, and giving up.


5. Get a coach


Having a coach will ensure you are doing the right training towards your goal and will keep you accountable. These days it is easy to be coached from a distance or online, this is a good option for busy people – fitting in swim training whenever they can.


Don’t waste your precious time on pointless training – always have a focus in mind and you will be well on your way to improving your swimming!


Carl is head coach at Swim360 Coach, a former Olympian and national champion freestyler. Carl now uses his skills and passion for coaching and competing in the open water.