Swimming terminology: Explained!

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Swimming Terminology

Swimming WorkoutMany of you have been asking us what does “Zone 2” mean or what is “tempo pace” when we specify them in workouts. To clear up some of this language confusion I have compiled a list of the eight most common terms that I use in my workouts and posts:

  1. Zone 2: I stole this term from cycling and running, both of which define it as about 65-70% of your max heart rate. Unfortunately there is no accurate heart rate monitor for swimming (yet), so we are left to educated guess work and feel. Zone 2 is a pace that you feel you can hold all day. It is not EASY like a warmup but rather a sustainable and relaxed pace. Some like to call this Ironman swim pace. You should be able to bilateral breath.
  2. Tempo pace: Tempo is faster than zone 2 but is not an all out sprint. You should be breathing harder maybe even breathing every other stroke. Consider it just above mile pace. This is “moderate” pace.
  3. Threshold: One step above tempo pace or a “hard” effort.
  4. Race pace: the pace you want to hold in your goal race.
  5. TT pace: While it means “time trial” or all out effort over a set distance, the actual time and effort is dependent upon you and what your goals are. TT could refer to your pace for a 100, 500, 1000, 1650, 4000k, or 10k effort. However, nearly always TT means a hard effort above race pace.
  6. 8/3/8: One of my favorite drills where you take 8 kicks to one side with your belly button pointing to the wall, one arm extended, head down, chin tucked and looking down at the bottom of the pool. Then take 3 fast strokes and take 8 kicks to the other side after which you take 3 strokes, and repeat.
  7. Fist: swim normally with clenched fists or you can hold tennis balls so that you do not cheat
  8. Catch-up: No this does not mean what you put on burgers. It is a slowed down swim stroke drill where you are focusing on one arm at a time. Take one stroke focusing on a high elbow catch, quick pull, then shallow entry. Pause once one stroke is complete and then do the same on the other side.

Now different coaches will use the same term to refer to something completely different, so be careful translating these term in masters’ swim practices or magazine articles. Consider this your Tri Swim Coach dictionary so you may want to bookmark this post for future reference.

Need any other terms clarified? Send us an email!