One-Hour Workout: Swim-Bike Race Prep

As triathletes, we often love to crank out bike-to-run workouts but tend to overlook the just-as-important swim-to-bike training.

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Here’s a swim-bike race prep session that’ll help develop your capacity to transition from the water to two wheels. This session begins in the water with a 40-minute swim workout that flows right into a 20-minute hard bike set. It takes a little more planning than most sessions, as you’ll want to have your bike trainer set up on poolside. If you’re part of a tri team or club then that shouldn’t be too challenging to achieve and it’s really fun to get a good group of people together to do this. Ensure your bike, trainer, and bike gear is all set up and ready to go as soon as you exit the water. This is also a great opportunity for some transition/race practice, especially if you opt to wear your wetsuit or swimskin for the swim section of this workout.

The swim workout involves a mix of aerobic work as well as some “spicier” efforts toward the end, right before you exit to hit the bike. We are looking to elevate heart rate coming out of the water, exactly as you would experience in a race. It is uncomfortable, there’s no denying that—but it’s better to experience this in training and adapt accordingly than encounter it for the first time in a race.

The bike workout allows you a little time to “transition” and find your cycling legs, before hitting you hard with some maximal effort work.

When you’re done with the bike workout, if time allows, jump back into the pool to cool down. It’ll help bring down your core temperature and kickstart recovery from what is an undeniably tough session. Enjoy!

Swim-Bike Race Prep



8-10 minutes easy relaxed swimming. Mix in some backstroke, as well as freestyle.

Main set

12 x 25, progress effort 1 to 4, three times through, so lap 1 is easy, lap 2 is moderate, lap 3 is moderate-hard, lap 4 is hard. Rest 5-10 seconds between each lap.

6 x 100 as 2 @ 80% effort, 1 hard, twice through. Do on an interval that gives ~5 seconds rest for the 80% efforts, 15-20 seconds rest for the hard one.

6 x 25 FAST! 5-10 seconds rest between each.

4 x 100 as 1 @ 80% effort, 1 hard, twice through. Intervals as above.

4 x 25 FAST! 5-10 seconds rest between each and then:

Transition to bike



Jump onto your bike and get pedaling as quickly as possible. No need for a warm-up as such (you should be well warmed up already!), but take 2-3 minutes to find your cycling legs, focusing on smooth, fluid pedaling, and regulate your breathing.

Main set

5 x 30 seconds maximum effort, 30 seconds easy spin recovery.

5 x 90 seconds above race intensity (think 85-90% effort); these intervals should be uncomfortable and, if on your tri bike, done in the TT bars.
60 seconds recovery between each, drop effort, increase cadence to flush legs before next interval.


3-5 minutes easy pedaling (longer if time allows) and/or dive back into the pool for a relaxed few minutes of easy swimming.

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