For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
Here are three key workouts to improve your swimming this winter.
Sprinkle these three workouts throughout your indoor training program this winter to become a better swimmer come spring:
The following intervals are based on the fastest average pace you can hold for 10x 100-yards freestyle (FAP). For instance, if your FAP is 1:30 and an interval calls for 5x 100 free at FAP + :15, your pace for the set is 1:45. If you’re fortunate enough to swim in a long course pool all winter just add 15 seconds to every interval.
“No Minds” are horrible, painful and completely joyless. Nonetheless, this set is a great way to gauge your swim fitness and to boost your lactate threshold. The set is quite simple to do, but if it’s done right, you arms should feel like watery Jell-O afterward.
After an easy warm-up of about 1,000 yards, do 5x 50-yards freestyle at race pace to pick your heart rate up. The main set is 5x 100-freestyle on a 4-minute interval. Sure, it sounds easy, but the goal of the set is to sprint all five repeats. Your leg and arm muscles should be on fire at the end of each 100. You should focus on completing each repeat as fast as possible—do not hold back so that you have something left for the next repeat. If done correctly, each successive 100 should be slower (and harder) than the previous one.
Record your time for each 100 and then compute the average pace afterward. We recommend performing this set once every three weeks, and, of course, your goal should be to improve on your average pace each time around.
Mass Start 100s
This set can be done solo, but to achieve the desired effect, it’s best to do with a partner. The focus is to train your body to settle into a comfortable rhythm after sprinting for position at the start of a race. Start by splitting a lane with a swimmer of similar ability. Starting at the same time, have you and your lane-mate sprint 25 yards at an almost-all-out pace. Once you hit the wall go right into a 50-yard swim at slightly slower than race pace. Immediately do one more length, building into a sprint finish. So, the four lengths of each 100 should be done as sprint, cruise, cruise, build. Try 8x 100 yards (freestyle, of course) on a FAP + :30 interval. Try this set whenever you need to add some fun to the doldrums of the pool.
Most triathletes we know rarely swim more than 200 yards without stopping, which isn’t exactly the best way to train for a swim of between 750 meters to 2.4 miles. This set is about as boring as they come, but as any fast swimmer will tell you, boring sets are a must-do. The goal of this set is to maintain form and rhythm as your body creeps closer and closer to lactate threshold. After an easy warm-up of at least 800 yards, perform the following set (all intervals are freestyle):
• 1x 500 @ FAP + :5 (e.g., a swimmer with a FAP of 1:30 would have a 7:55 interval)
• 1x 400 @ FAP (e.g., a swimmer with a FAP of 1:30 would have a 6:00 interval)
• 1x 300 @ FAP – :5 (e.g., a swimmer with a FAP of 1:30 would have a 4:15 interval)
• 1x 200 @ FAP – :10 (e.g., a swimmer with a FAP of 1:30 would have a 2:40 interval)
• 1x 100 @ FAP – :20 (e.g., a swimmer with a FAP of 1:30 should aim to complete the 100 in 1:10 or faster).