One-Hour Workout: Kitchen Sink Swim

This swim session features a little bit of everything to help body—and brain—fully engaged.

This time of year we’re typically focusing on building (or maybe re-building) our aerobic base. This also means it’s a great time to focus on swim technique and shore up your stroke efficiency prior to boosting endurance and building speed. At the same time, you don’t want to completely ignore your range of gears and just swim at one pace.

This swim workout provides a little bit of everything (hence the name, kitchen sink!): aerobic endurance, muscular endurance (grab your paddles), swim drills, and some short speed intervals, all of which helps make the laps go by quickly. Execute the workout at effort levels you can comfortably sustain while maintaining good form. Remember, it’s not “practice makes perfect” so much as “perfect practice makes perfect.”

The workout is scaled for three different ability levels: A – beginners, B – intermediates, and C – advanced. If you can comfortably cover 3,000 yards/meters in an hour then please tackle the C workout. If 2,500 is more your level then the B workout is for you. And for those looking to cover 2,000 yards/meters then the A workout is all yours. The workout is prescribed using RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) on a scale of one to 10, where 1 is super easy and 10 is maximal effort.

One-Hour Workout: Kitchen Sink Swim

Total distance: 2,000 (A); 2,500 (B); 3,000 (C)


200 (A) / 400 (B&C) – all easy, RPE 3/10

Drill Set #1:

4 x 50 on 10 sec. rest, swimming the first 25 of each 50 as Catch-Up Drill (as each arm finishes the stroke, one hand meets the other before starting the next stroke) and the 2nd 25 of each 50 as 3/4 Catch-Up Drill (begin each stroke as the other hand enters the water)

Muscular Endurance Set #1:

Twice through with paddles (no buoy), on 10 sec. rest

150 swum as 125 Moderate @ RPE 4, 2-3 sec. rest, then 25 Hard/RPE 8

100 swim as 75 Moderate/RPE 4, 2-3 sec. rest, then 25 Hard/RPE 8

Mixed Pace Set #1:

Repeat as follows:
A workout – 4 x rounds; B workout – 6 x rounds; C workout – 8 x rounds – all on 10 sec. rest

50 Strong/RPE 7

50 Moderate/RPE 4

Drill Set #2:

4 x 50 on 10 sec. rest, swum as 25 free off-side breathing, 25 double-arm backstroke

Muscular Endurance Set #2:

2 x 150 (A) / 2 x 200 (B) / 2 x 250 (C)

#1 with paddles (no buoy) @ moderate effort / RPE 4, 10 sec. rest

#2 without paddles @ moderate effort / RPE 4, 10 sec. rest

Mixed Pace Set #2:

2 x rounds (A&B) / 4 x rounds (C), on 5 sec. rest

25 Strong / RPE 7

25 Hard / RPE 8

25 Easy / RPE 3


50 (A&B) / 100 (C)

All easy, RPE 3, mixed strokes

Alison Freeman is a co-founder of and triathlon coach with NYX Endurance in Boulder, Colorado. She works with a wide range of age-group athletes, but athletes new to triathlon are her favorites because there is no such thing as too many questions.