One-Hour Workout: Build and Boost Swim

We're all trying to rekindle our swim fitness—and this workout will help you do exactly that.

After a lengthy spell out of the water due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not uncommon to hear triathletes struggling with their swim fitness. But don’t despair—you’re not alone, and with a little patience and the right approach to training, you’ll soon be feeling good in the water again. This one-hour workout is designed to help you do just that and is inspired by the three-week workout plan that triathlon swim coach Gerry Rodrigues set out for us last month when pools began to reopen. (You can catch Gerry on our Triathlete Live show today, July 1, at 3 p.m. MST where he’ll be answering your questions on all things swimming).

This swim session begins with a 10-minute easy warm-up, where you’ll gradually build the effort, bringing it to a 6/10 RPE (rate of perceived exertion) by the end of the warm-up. There’s then a prep set of 8 x 50, progressing effort one through four then five through eight (so the first 50 is 6/10, the second is 7/10, the third is 8/10, the fourth is 9/10, and then repeat that pattern for five through eight). This helps “open your engine” for the main set.

It’s important to always build a variety of intensities into your swimming and this main set incorporates effort levels from 7/10 RPE to 10/10 RPE. You’ll swim three rounds of 200 at 7-8/10 RPE followed by 4 x 50 progressing effort from 7/10 RPE to 10/10 RPE. Before beginning the next section you can swim a 50 or 100 easy backstroke (optional) before hitting three rounds of 100 at 8/10 RPE followed by 2 x 50, one at 9/10 RPE, the second at 10/10 RPE. You’ll see there are plenty of opportunities to “enjoy” some higher intensity swimming here—and it’s this variation in intensity that will help bring your swim speed and fitness back around.

Wrap it up with 200-300 easy swim cool down.

One-Hour Workout: Build and Boost Swim


10 min. easy swim, building to RPE 6/10

Prep Set

8 x 50, building 1-4, 5-8, taking 10 sec. rest between each 50

Main Set

3 rounds of: 1 x 200 @ 7-8/10 RPE, 20-30 sec. rest, followed by 4 x 50, building effort 1-4, 10-15 sec. rest between each 50

Optional 50-100 easy backstroke

3 rounds of: 1 x 100 @ 8/10 RPE, 10-15 sec. rest, followed by 2 x 50, #1 @ 9/10 RPE, #2 @ 10/10 RPE


200-300 easy swim