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Training

Not For Beginners: One Tough Swim Workout

This 45-minute workout is designed for top-notch swimmers.

This 45-minute workout is designed for top-notch swimmers.

Written by: Chris Summers

Let’s gear up for a tough ladder workout. The purpose of the workout is to link back-to-back max effort distances with a decreasing amount of rest between intervals. All of my workouts begin and end with several minutes of light warm-up/cool-down and stretching. If you have not yet incorporated stretching into your routine, now is the time to begin.

Many recent medical studies have shown significant and dramatic correlation between flexibility and maintaining physical health and independence much later in life.

This is a 45-minute 2300m workout. The intervals assume an average 100m pace of 1:20-1:30. If this is not your pace, you can adjust the rest intervals on the main set accordingly. The point of the main set as previously mentioned is to link maximal effort sets together with increasing distance and decreasing rest. At the top of the ladder you should have at most about five seconds rest before the next set.

After about five minutes of stretching and foam rolling, jump in the pool for the warm-up kick set. I strongly recommend training without a kickboard as they put the body into a non-streamlined position. Kicking without using boards will allow you to practice your quick scull hand entry when you raise your head to breathe.

Kick Set (200m total)

25m underwater kick, 25m back, 25m breast, 25m free, 25m fly, 25m back, 25m breast, 25m free

Pull Drills (300m total)

This set focuses on bilateral breathing and training with slight oxygen debt. It is also beneficial for open-water confidence—with all the thrashing about in a mass start, you don’t really need to breathe every stroke. You can skip a few to avoid waves or to navigate and still be fine.

50m free catch-up—breathe at three strokes; 50m free fingertip drag—breathe at five strokes

Catch-up: Begin pull when recovery hand touches glide hand out front. Underwater turnover is quick.

Fingertip drag: Recovery arm exits with high elbow while you roll on your side to get full extension with glide hand. Recovery hand’s fingertips drag along the surface of water until entry point. Underwater turnover is moderate.

100M free with paddles (no kick); 100M free

Unless you are just starting, I do not recommend leg buoys for pull sets. While they do help elevate your legs into a more streamlined position, your arm turnover should be sufficient (with a shallow two beat kick, if at all) to pull your legs up behind your body so they don’t drag the bottom of the pool.

Paddles will accentuate hand placement on entry, pull, push and exit. If it feels funny, your positions may need correction.

Main Set (1600M total)

Here is where you build your endurance. The goal is to start fast with a long rest before the next interval. As the distance increases, the rest between intervals drops. The rest you get is until the next interval starts.

50m on 1:00
100m on 1:45
150m on 2:40
200m on 3:10
300m on 4:30
200m on 3:10
150m on 2:40
100m on 1:45
50m on 1:00
3x100m on 1:30

Cool Down and Stretch (200m)

Swimmers choice: back or breaststroke

Christopher Summers is president of Summers Enterprises, founded in 1998. He has published many articles on triathlon, fitness, nutrition, stretching and flexibility. He grew up as a gymnast and competed for University of Illinois, Chicago. Summers “tumbled” into triathlons after 10 years of competitive gymnastics. In 1983, he began his triathlon journey and began producing races in 1986, and coaching in 1991. Summers has completed over 100 triathlons from super sprints to Ironman Australia. He is an NASM certified personal trainer, USAT Level 1 Coach and has coached the USAT Junior Nationals training camp for three years, and is a Level 3 USA Cycling coach.