Free Training Plan - Six weeks to your fastest swim

Free Training Plan - Six weeks to your fastest swim

Having confidence and speed in the swim kicks off your race in a positive direction. Instead of playing catch-up once you get out of the water, this six-week programme will help you supercharge your freestyle stroke so you can ride and run with the best of them. This plan should work as complement to your bike and run training. Identify the key swim workouts and plan your other training to not leave you excessively fatigued for the key swim days. Swim as your first workout of the day whenever possible so you are fresh and get the most out of the session.

About the programme

Swims listed are 2000–3000 in length. Before beginning this programme, you should already be comfortable swimming three times per week, 2000–3000 per practice. During most weeks, there are five workouts listed. If you need to swim less or more, increase or decrease the main set up to 30 per cent. It is important that you plan for the proper warm-up and cool-down—don’t cut corners there. If you need one fewer swimming day, take Monday off . Also, if you have shoulder issues, avoid using paddles. Weeks three and six are lower volume to allow for some recovery. You should coordinate these weeks with your bike and run recovery week as well. 

Pacing goals for the swim sets are based on your goal 1500 pace (to approximate an Olympic-distance triathlon swim). If you are unsure of your goal pace, swim a 1500 for time, pacing it out at your very best effort. Set a training goal to swim 30 seconds to one minute faster than this. Calculate what your average pace per 100 would be to achieve your 1500 goal (i.e., if you swim 31:00, set a goal of 30:00, or 2:00/100 metres). In week three, when you swim an 800 time trial, you may reassess that goal if you have improved significantly.

This programme emphasises six kinds of swims:

  1. Technique/recovery: On Monday, which is a classic recovery day, the focus is on technique and easy, efficient swimming.
  2. Pace work: This swim works primarily on achieving your goal 1500 time. You gradually work toward more volume at goal pace. This is useful for learning even pacing.
  3. DPS/technique: DPS is “distance per stroke.” Reducing the number of strokes per length means you are pulling more water and gliding more efficiently.
  4. Aerobic power: These are sustained sets of aerobic  swimming that build endurance. Swimming is slightly slower than goal 1500 pace, but still at a firm, steady rhythm and challenging effort level.
  5. Strength and open-water swim skills: This can be done in open water or in the pool, ideally with training partners. Incorporate wetsuit swimming, open-water skills and pull buoy and paddle swimming.
  6. Time trial: Practise your “race warm-up” and then swim time trials to build fitness, learn pacing and gauge progress. There are some 400 time trials associated with the aerobic power days, and longer time trials on your lowerv olume weeks to take advantage of a rested body.

Pool drills listed in the programme:

  • Six Kick: Without a kick-board, kick on your side with your lead hand forward in a glide position, and opposite hand at your side by your thigh. After six kicks, take a stroke and switch sides. Repeat. This drill works on body rotation, alignment and balance. Keep your body in line and the palm of your hand  lat muscle and hip toward the bottom of the pool. Try not to turn your head more than necessary when breathing.
  • Corkscrew: Alternating freestyle and backstroke for the indicated number of strokes—for instance, “free 6/backstroke 5.” Feel the stretch and strong arm pull as you propel yourself from your front (freestyle) onto your back (into backstroke) and when you go from back to front again. Try to be tall and aligned as you rotate from front to back to front.
  • Single Arm: Swim freestyle with only one arm. There are two options here: The non-swimming arm is either at your hip (advanced), or stays extended at the front in a glide position (beginner). Alternate 25 left arm, 25 right arm.
  • Closed Fist: Swim regular freestyle but close both hands into a fist. This forces you to use your forearm and inside bicep as a paddle rather than relying only on your hands. 
  • Pause 1, Pause 3, Pause 5: With these drills you pause at the finish or push phase of your stroke for approximately ½- ¾ second with your hand by your upper thigh. This makes sure you are fully finishing the push phase of your stroke and gives you time to rotate into a proper extended glide position, which you can then try to emulate within your regular freestyle. Pause1 has a split-second pause every stroke, while Pause 3 is every third stroke, and Pause5 is every fifth.
  • Pause 1 with Closed Fist: This combines Closed Fist Drill with Pause 1. *Some less experienced athletes may need fins for these drills.

Build open water skills

Sighting: Do some “head-up freestyle” in the pool, lifting your goggles, nose and then chin for up to a 50. Increase your kick slightly as you sight. 

Starts: In the pool, try timed 50s with a deep-water, or floating, start with no push off the wall. Position your body horizontally with your feet near the surface while floating on your stomach; this will help to give you maximum acceleration. When practising a beach  start, lift your feet and knees above the water as you run. Think about how the trailing leg of a hurdler clears a hurdle. When you dive into the water,create a streamlined position and break the surface with 10–15 strokes of a quick sprint, keeping your head low.

Exits: Swim until you can touch the bottom, or if possible, utilise dolphin dives until the water is just above your knees then run to exit the wa ter. Initially, try this alone at 80 per cent of maximum speed, then work up to doing it at 100 per cent.

Drafting: Drafting in open water will eliminate drag by 20–30 per cent. In the pool, experiment with swimming on someone’s hip or feet (just be sure to ask them first!). Try to have a couple of simple technical reminders that bring your focus back to key elements of your stroke.

Your race warm up

If possible, get in the water for 10–15 minutes before your race. Start out with a nice, easy three to four minutes of swimming. Do two or three sets of 20 to 30 strokes of drills followed by some pick-ups to engage your muscles in a race-specific range of motion, and to get your blood pumping. 

You should also use this time to familiarise yourself with the course. What are you going to be looking for toward the water exit? Is there a large buoy that is easy to see, or a tall building or tree that would be better for sighting purposes? Finish your warm-up with a few good exhales and some confidence-building thoughts.


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