One-Hour Workout: Mixed-Energy Pyramid Swim Set

This do-it-all swim set works different types of systems to help with race-day preparedness.

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This do-it-all swim set works different types of systems to help with race-day preparedness.

This week’s workout is considered a race-day swim prep workout because it focuses on different speeds, different distances, and an array of recovery times—alongside a few open-water-specific moves. Because triathlon swims require an ability to adapt to changing conditions, interruptions in your stroke, and the unpredictable nature of dozens of fellow racers, it’s important to prepare yourself accordingly. In regular pool swimming, races take place essentially unencumbered by outside forces: You get your own lane, and when you’re done, you’re done. In tri, there will likely be bodies all over you, changes in pace, and you still have to climb out of the water, bike, and then run. It doesn’t make sense to show up to the start, hoping to figure it out when the gun goes off, so use this set as practice for the adaptations that you’ll have to make come race day.

This set is best done after at least a few weeks of base phase because it requires some aerobic conditioning and solid technique. You can also do this workout as close as two weeks before a key event without expecting it to impact your upcoming race. Be sure to take the easy sections easy and work the hard sections hard—this workout isn’t as effective if the changes in pace are minimal. Also, it’s important to avoid any serious strength workouts in the day before this set, and plan on taking the next day in the water easy. Advanced swimmers or those later into their season should do two-three main sets, while beginner triathlete-swimmers or those at the beginning of their season should begin with one.

200 easy
4 x 100 as 50 drill/50 swim
4 x 50 as 25 fast/25 easy
2 x 100 build by 25 to a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 8/10

Main Set
2 x 150 as (50 @ 8/10, 50 @ 5/10, 50 @ 8/10); no wall at the start; 20 sec rest
2 x 100 @ 7/10, sight every fifth stroke; 25 sec rest
2 x 50 @ 8/10, sight every third stroke; 20 sec rest
4 x 25 @ 9/10, heads-up swimming; 15 sec rest
300 pull buoy, paddles, easy; 15 sec rest

Beginners: Do one round of the above set (take out the 300 if this is the beginning of your season)
Intermediate: Two rounds
Advanced: Three rounds

200 easy swim
200 easy kick

Total: Beginner – 2,400; Intermediate – 3,400; Advanced – 4,400

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