In tandem with the Triathlete Challenge, this month’s One-Hour Workouts will run you through the basics of baseline testing in each discipline. First up, swim testing!

This swim fitness test will help you gauge your current speed and set goals for your training going forward. It’s impossible to stay on track if you don’t have a clear understanding of your current fitness, so this test will help you do just that. It’s important to undertake tests at fairly regular intervals throughout your season so you can see where you’re at, monitor your progress and make changes to your training if you’re not progressing as you’d expect. This ties in perfectly with the Triathlete Challenge—we’re on Day 7 today—and it’s never too late to join!

This swim fitness test is from Barb Lindquist, Olympian, coach, and former head of the USAT Collegiate Recruitment Program. It can be scaled according to fitness/experience level and, as you’ll see, there are two versions of the main set—one for beginners, one for intermediate/advanced swimmers.

The key to getting accurate results is undertaking a thorough warm-up; you definitely don’t want to just dive in and attempt to swim at top speed. This warm-up is designed to build intensity and introduces some faster swimming so that the main set doesn’t come as a shock to the system and you’re ready to go.

The main set is test time, so hit it at all out speed and intensity—think 10/10 RPE (rate of perceived exertion). Be sure to record your times, so you can compare results next time you undertake this swim fitness test and can monitor progress accordingly.

Once the hard work is all done, cool down for at least 10 minutes, including plenty of backstroke to help open up your chest after working hard.

The benefits of a swim fitness test like this is that it can be repeated fairly frequently without disrupting your training. Lindquist recommends doing it once a month.

One-Hour Workout: Swim Fitness Test


10 minutes of relaxed swimming

8 x 50 progress 1-4, as easy, easy/moderate, moderate/fast, fast – 10/15 seconds rest between

8 x 25 as 5 strokes fast, 5 easy (odds); all fast (evens) – 10/15 seconds rest between

200 easy


Main Set


50 all out, 10/10 RPE

1 min rest

200 all out, 10/10 RPE

Record your times

100 all out, 10/10 RPE

1 min rest

500 all out, 10/10 RPE

Record your times



10 minutes easy swimming, including some backstroke


Part of this article also appears in our January/February print issue, which goes on sale today.