One-Hour Workout: Starts and Stops Swim Set

Train for the inevitable with this open-water-focused swim workout.

Photo: Getty Images

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Unlike in pool swimming, the open water of a tri doesn’t take place in a vacuum. As triathletes, we’re not alone in a lane, racing against the clock, trying to get into a manageable rhythm unhindered by competitors. In tri, the gun goes off, and it’s basically bedlam. You swim hard to get some space, then you run into someone treading water. You finally find a rhythm, then you round a buoy and hit traffic. You finish up the swim leg, and the race is far from over—you still have a bike and run ahead.

RELATED: Slay the Swim Start

This week’s workout is meant to simulate the changing paces and rhythms you’ll encounter during any crowded swim. Be sure to visualize what it’ll feel like on race day, having to do these adjustments with other swimmers around you. In fact, if you can do this swim with two or three training partners in the lane at the same time, all starting the 25s together side-by-side—even better. If you have access to a long-course 50-meter pool, tread water on the 25s and start together to simulate the chaos of an in-water start.

Be sure not to try this workout for the first time the week before a key race, and for best results, do this workout at least three times before the most important race of your season.

RELATED: A Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming

One-Hour Workout: Starts and Stops Swim Set


200 easy free
4 x 100 as 50 drill/50 swim, 15 seconds rest
4 x 50 build 1-4 to 8/10 Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), 10 seconds rest

Main Set

4 x 100 at race pace (~8/10 RPE), 25 seconds rest, no wall push-off at start
4 x (25 at 9/10 RPE, no walls push-off at start, 10 seconds rest
200 swim at 7/10, a few seconds slower than race pace, 20 seconds rest)
400 pull buoy, band


200 swim easy

Total: 2,700

More One-Hour Workouts

Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.