How to Structure a Swim Workout – Issue #74

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How to Structure a Swim Workout Newsletter

Dear Friend,

It’s Halloween today and for many, the end or near the end of the triathlon season.

The off-season is a great time to really focus on technique. Drills and workouts structured around a specific focus are the way to go.

Today I will go through the structure of a workout and how I arrive at my formula for the workouts in The Complete Guide.


“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.”
– Henry J. Kaiser

For over 120 workouts and the Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming, click here to go to

Newsletters updated on website

The newsletter archive has been updated and I added a new feature! You can now see the topic of each newsletter on the archives page. Just go to NEWSLETTER ARCHIVES to browse past newsletters and find the topic that may be most helpful to you.

How to Structure a Tri Swim Workout

Whether or not you have my training guide for triathlon swimming, you may need some help structuring your workouts or just need more background on how the workouts in my book are formulated.

Let’s look at a typical workout and disect it.

300 Warm Up
300 yards or meters. 12 lengths in a 25 yard or meter pool.
During a warm up, you should be going at a moderate pace, working on bilateral breathing, mixing in strokes other than freestyle, and really stretching out your stroke.

Odds: K/Fist/Swim
Evens: Stroke
This means 3 lengths 6 times. Rest :10-:15 after each 75-yard swim. Odd number 75’s (#’s 1, 3, 5) will be Kicking on your side on the first length (K), then swimming with your fists on the second length, followed by a length of freestyle. Even number 75’s (#2, 4, 6) will be a stroke other than freestyle. You may use fins on the odd number 75’s, but make sure they are the shorter kind, like Zoomers.

#1-5) on Cruise
#6-10) on Cruise-:05
#11-15) on Cruise +:05
15 100-yard or meter swims on an interval. “Cruise” means an interval you can make 100’s on with about 5-10 seconds rest in between each. For example, if you did your 100’s on 1:50, and your time on the 100 was 1:40, you get 10 seconds rest. “Cruise -:05” means to take 5 seconds off your interval. In the example above, you would be doing the middle set of 100’s on 1:45, and the last set on 1:55.

6×50’s Free Golf Rest=:20
Swim a 50 free and count your strokes. Also, check your time on the pace clock when you finish. Add those 2 numbers together to get your “score”. For each 50, try to lower that score by making your stroke more efficient (and faster). For example, if I did a 50 in 35 seconds and it took me 38 strokes, my score would be (35+38)= 73. Shoot for 72 on the next round by gliding a little more, focusing on hip rotation, without losing speed. Keep dropping your score as far as you can go, and don’t be tempted to just kick harder to bring your score down!

Warm Down: 200
Start out your warm down at about 75% effort and drop down from there. Warm downs are a good chance for you to again practice bilateral breathing and stretch out your stroke, focusing on technique, and lowering the lactic acid content in your muscles.