Sprint Triathlon 8 Week Swim Plan

Hello all!  Here is a simple 8-week plan for a sprint triathlon that I wrote up for Lee from Pink of Condition.  She’s competing in her first triathlon and I thought it would be great to share with all of you, in case anybody is contemplating taking the leap into the triathlon world.  This is specifically designed for a newer swimmer that has a decent fitness level and grasp of freestyle/front crawl.  If you are really uncomfortable in the water, I highly suggest finding lessons.  Swimming is more technical than running and lessons will save you a lot of frustrations.  If your budget is tight buy a former swimmer lunch and ask them to give you pointers or search YouTube for videos.

First, I am going to assume that you’ve read my post, Swim Workout 101.    If you find yourself confused, reference that post.  If you still find yourself confused, please comment and I will clarify.

For other workout samples see Training at Race Pace, Swim Workout Installment #1, Swim Workout Installment #2, Swim Workout Installment #3 , and Swim Workout Switch Up.

Day 1

Goal = Find your 100 yard pace

I design all of my workouts based off this pace. For the sake of this post, I am basing everything off a 2:00 pace (2 minutes per 100 yards (4 lengths of a 25 yard pool).  This means you have 2 minutes to complete the 100 yards, if you complete it in 1 minute and 50 seconds you have 10 seconds rest.  Once you find your 100 yard pace simply replace all of my intervals with yours.  Easy right?!

Here are two ways  to find your 100 yard pace.  This pace should be steady and slightly challenging but not to the point of complete exhaustion.  You can choose one option or both.  That’s up to you.

Before anything, swim an easy 200-400 yard swim.  Then swim 6 x 25’s @ 10 seconds rest getting your heart rate up.

Option #1

4 x 100’s @ 30 seconds rest (doesn’t need to be exact, just don’t let your heart rate drop too much)

Take note of each 100 yard time and find your average pace.  Example- 1st 100 yards in 1:45, 2nd 100 yards in 1:47, 3rd in 1:50, 4th in 1:52.  Your average pace is about 1:50/100 yards…keep the pace simple by rounding to the nearest 5.  For this example, I would start your interval pace at 2:10 (20 seconds rest).  If you were able to hold 1:50/100 yards that would make your 400 meter time 8:01.  Use this pace calculator for help, keep in mind 100 yards is roughly 10 seconds slower than 100 meters.  Also, open water swims are generally slower than pool swims

Option #2

400 yard swim for time keeping a challenging but steady pace.  In other words…don’t go insane but push yourself.    

Find your average 100 yard pace by dividing the total 400 yards by 4 (Betcha didn’t know swimming involved so much math? Hehe) Example – 400 yards in 7:50 means you swam an average pace of 1:57/per 100 yards.  Remember to round so make it 2:00/100 yards for now.  You can always drop 5 seconds for your intervals later when you get faster.

After completing the warm-up and one or both of the options, swim a nice easy 200 yard cool-down and you’re done.

Now, here are workouts geared towards the .25 mile (400 meter) swim of a sprint triathlon broken down into 2 week segments for 8 weeks total.  Each 2 weeks you will see an increase in total yardage, increase in speed, or a combination of the two.  I’m taking a handful of simple workouts and rotating them through each day gradually building upon them.  If you get bored switch it up.  If you LOVE one of the workouts then swim it to your heart’s content!  Meghann has a few great posts where she changes what I originally wrote because it was either boring or too long.  She even accommodated a workout to fit multiple swim levels (I was SO proud of this one).  Lesson here: please be creative so that swimming becomes fun and challenging.

Week 1 and 2

Workout #1a

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set : Repeat one or two times through

3 x 50’s @ 1:10

3 x 100’s @ 2:15

1 x 200 yd for time (steady speed)

Cool-down set

8 x 25’s @ 10 seconds rest (alternate every other 25 yards going FAST and then easy focusing on technique)

Total yardage: 1150 yards if repeat once, 1800 yards if repeat twice

Workout #2b

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set (Repeat one or two times through)

3 x 100’s @ 2:15 (hold consistent pace here, Example -each 100 yards should be within 5 seconds of 2:00 pace)

1 x 300 yd for time (should be three times your 100 yard average from above set, Example – 2:00 per 100 yard average = 6:00 for 300 yards)

Cool-down set

4 x 50’s @ 20 sec rest (easy swimming, focus on technique)

Total yardage: 1,000 yards if repeat once, 1,600 if repeat twice

Workout #3a

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set (Repeat once)

1 x 100 @ 2:15 (Goal = 2:00 or faster)

1 x 200 @ 4:30 (Goal = 4:10 or faster)

1 x 300 @ 6:45 (Goal = 6:15 or faster)

1 x 400 @ 9:00 (Goal = 8:20 or faster)

Cool down

Grab a kickboard.

1 x 50 swim, 1 x 50 kick, 1 x 50 swim, 1 x 50 kick (all easy, no rest)

Total yardage: 1400 yards

EXAMPLES OF HOW TO GRADUALLY INCREASE YOUR SPEED AND DISTANCE. BE CREATIVE. 

Week 3 and 4

Workout #1a  (Increased distance, not speed)

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set: Repeat one or two times through

4 x 50’s @ 1:10

4x 100’s @ 2:15

1 x 200 yd for time (steady speed)

Cool-down set

12 x 25’s @ 10 seconds rest (alternate every other 25 yards going FAST and then easy focusing on technique)

Total yardage: 1400 yards if repeat once, 2100 yards if repeat twice

Workout #2b (Increased speed and  distance)

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set (Repeat one or two times through)

4 x 100’s @ 2:10 (hold consistent pace here, Example -each 100 yards should be within 5 seconds of 2:00 pace)

1 x 400 yd for time (should be three times your 100 yard average from above set, Example – 2:00 per 100 yard average = 6:00 for 300 yards)

Cool-down set

6 x 50’s @ 15 sec rest (easy swimming, focus on technique)

Total yardage: 1,300 yards if repeat once, 1,900 if repeat twice

Workout #3a  (Increased speed, not distance)

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set (Repeat once)

1 x 100 @ 2:10 (Goal = 1:55 or faster)

1 x 200 @ 4:20 (Goal = 4:00 or faster)

1 x 300 @ 6:30 (Goal = 6:05 or faster)

1 x 400 @ 8:45 (Goal = 8:10 or faster)

Cool down

Grab a kickboard.

1 x 50 swim, 1 x 50 kick, 1 x 50 swim, 1 x 50 kick (all easy, no rest)

Total yardage: 1400 yards

Week 5 and 6

Workout #1a  (Increased distance and speed)

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set: Repeat one time through

6x 50’s @ 1:05 (hold under 1:00)

6x 100’s @ 2:10 (hold under 2:00)

3 x 200 yd @ 3:20 (hold under 3:05)

Cool-down set

4 x 25’s @ 10 seconds rest (alternate every other 25 yards going FAST and then easy focusing on technique)

Total yardage: 1800 yards

Workout #2b (Increased  distance, not speed)

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set (Repeat two times through)

4 x 100’s @ 2:10 (hold consistent pace here, Example -each 100 yards should be within 5 seconds of 2:00 pace)

1 x 400 yd for time (should be three times your 100 yard average from above set, Example – 2:00 per 100 yard average = 6:00 for 300 yards)

Cool-down set

6 x 50’s @ 15 sec rest (easy swimming, focus on technique)

Total yardage: 1,900 yards

Workout #3a  (Increased distance, not speed)

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set (Repeat once)

4 x 100 @ 2:10 (Goal = 1:55 or faster)

2 x 200 @ 4:20 (Goal = 4:00 or faster)

4 x 100 @ 2:10  (Goal = 1:55 or faster)

1 x 400 @ 8:45 (Goal = 8:10 or faster)

Cool down

Grab a kickboard.

1 x 50 swim, 1 x 50 kick, 1 x 50 swim, 1 x 50 kick (all easy, no rest)

Total yardage: 2000 yards

 

Week 7 and 8

Workout #1a  (Increased speed, not distance)

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set: Repeat one time through

6x 50’s @ 1:00 (hold under :55)

6x 100’s @ 2:05 (hold under 1:55)

3 x 200 yd @ 3:10 (hold under 2:50)

Cool-down set

4 x 25’s @ 10 seconds rest (alternate every other 25 yards going FAST and then easy focusing on technique)

Total yardage: 1800 yards

Workout #2b (Increased speed, not distance)

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set (Repeat three times through)

3 x 100’s @ 2:00 (hold 1:55 or faster, be consistent)

1 x 200 yd for time, try to hold near 2:50

Cool-down

200 yard drill or focus technique

Total yardage: 1,900 yards

Workout #3a  (rest day)

200 yard warm-up, easy swimming

Main Set (Repeat twice)

8 x 25’s @ :55

4 x 50’s @ 2:05

2 x 100’s @ 3:10

Cool down

Grab a kickboard.

1 x 50 swim, 1 x 50 kick, 1 x 50 swim, 1 x 50 kick (all easy, no rest)

Total yardage: 1600 yards

Disclaimer:  I am not a certified USAT coach but I have 10 plus years of personal USA swimming experience and 5 years as a triathlete. I was certified as a USA swimming coach for 4 plus years, coached a club team and was trained through Red Cross to teach private and group swim lessons, which I have done for the past 8 years.  However, I am not writing this post as a professional; it is simply one triathlete helping another.  Also, please feel free to share but give me credit.

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17 Responses to Sprint Triathlon 8 Week Swim Plan

  1. You are the best!!! Thank you sooo much…I am starting the plan this week! I will let you know how it goes (that is, if I do not drown in the process)! 😉

  2. 321delish says:

    This is great! I always end up coming back to the same ladders and interval sets so this is perrrrfect!

  3. You are so generous with all the detailed training advice you give to your friends. Have you ever thought of becoming a tri coach? It sounds like you’d be great.

  4. Courtney says:

    I’m glad to help! I would love to coach tris one day but I still have a lot of learning. I still consider myself a newbie at times…so maybe in another 3-5 years 🙂 Thanks for the compliment though. Made me smile.

  5. love the help! careful or i might just send you a video of my swimming so you can help me fix my stroke! 🙂 i’ve finally put together my 1/2 IM plan and will be posting it shortly…i’m not sure i think it’s enough swimming so would love to hear your opinion.

  6. Danielle says:

    I am just checking out your blog for the first time and am loving your tips!! Bookmarking your page asap as a newbie to triathlon… thanks for your detailed advice!

    It’s hard going from doing laps in the pool for about 30 minutes (my current swim workout) to completing actual drills and learning swimming lingo… but hopefully with your tips I can find success 🙂

    • Courtney says:

      Thanks! Let me know if you have any specific things you’d like advice on….I’d love to help. Swimming is definitely the most difficult of the three sports to get used to and it can be really overwhelming at first. Keep it simple and build from there 🙂

      By the way, I love the design of your blog. I look forward to reading about your progress!

  7. Hi! Found your blog from Meghann (Meals&Miles), I want to get started swimming (at our gym) and wasn’t sure where to begin and Meghann suggested this post! Definitely going to use these tips! Thanks, girl!

  8. Emily says:

    Thanks for posting this! I have recently made the decision to get my rear in the pool and practice something that I haven’t done since childhood (swim!) and this will definitely help me get started! (Running is just not quite as nice in the 100+degree heat we’ve been getting here in Ohio!)

    • Courtney says:

      Good luck! Ease your way into it. There is no shame cutting my workouts in half if you need to…running fitness doesn’t translate directly to swim fitness. I totally agree with the running in the heat! 5-6 am is the only semi-decent time to run outside in Florida. Even then you start sweating after the first half mile.

  9. Feerlessfood says:

    Her Courtney- awesome blog! I love how you give both swim tips (I need them) as well fun posts about life and fun! Nice to meet you on the ride today

  10. Pingback: HIM Training: Week 11

  11. Hello, hello!! I just found your site and I am THRILLED! I am training for a sprint tri (300 yd swim) at the end of September, and I have just started getting back into the pool. I was a pretty good swimmer back in the day, and it feels good to get back in the swing of things! I just did some 100 yd sets and figured out my pace is about 1:30. So… to do your workouts above, do I subtract 30 seconds per 100 yd from your paces to get my target pace time? Ie, if part of the workout is to do a 6×100 at 2:05, then am I doing them at 1:35? Or if part of the workout is to do 2×200 @ 4:20 am I doing them at 3:20? Once you confirm, I am going to print these pages out, laminate them, and take them to the pool!! Thanks!!

    Do any of your other posts also focus on this topic? If so, can you give me links?

  12. TriCourt says:

    So glad you found this helpful. Check back with me after you get a few workouts under your belt with any questions. Good luck with your race! It’s such a great lifestyle that has helped keep me in shape, set goals, challenge my body and find some of my closest friends.

    To answer your questions…Yes. If you are going 1:30 per 100 yards then subtract 30 seconds from my examples in this post. This would give you about 30-35 seconds rest between each 100 yards. Start out with that interval and see how you do. Then gradually decrease the interval. Personally, I like to kick my butt in the water and give myself less than 10 seconds rest and sometimes it’s what I call “touch-and-go”. I have just enough time to hit the wall look at the clock and push off.

    I have all of my swim workout information hyperlinked in the second and third paragraphs of this blog entry so just scroll up (Swim Workout 101, Training at Race Pace, Swim Workout Installments #1, #2, and #3, and Swim workout switch up).

    I can’t emphasize enough getting comfortable designing workouts or sets that MOTIVATE and push you. If you find the set boring…figure out how to make it more interesting. Keep track of your pace per 100 yards, per 200 yards, per 400 yards, etc and monitor your progress. If intervals are too hard or too easy…adjust. Sometimes you’ll have off days. Sometimes you’ll rock a workout. Change one small technique in your stroke and instantly you feel strange in the water. It can take time for your speed to correlate to the technique adjustment.

    Good luck again! I don’t really post on this blog anymore but let me know if you have any posts you’d be interested in reading about. I have several drafts in the works on different topics- open water swims, swim gear, A-Z of swim lingo, the anatomy of a flip turn, etc.

    • Thanks, girl! I have done the first workout twice, with the pace changed accordingly to 1:30. I have access to an outdoor (yards) and an indoor pool (Olympic), so I had to make some adjustments to go from yards to meters- I completely forgot about the difference, and I needed to give myself about 10 extra seconds for each set in the Olympic pool. Is that appropriate?

      So far, I really love the first workout, and I am excited to move on to #2! I am ordering a water resistant watch to wear so I can keep my time more easily for longer sets instead of relying on the pace clock at the pool. That way I know if I finish something in 6:45 or 7:45 or 8:45!

      My flip turn is pretty ok, though I would love to read more on the subject. I’ve never had great starts off the block, but that would probably be a tough blog post to write! This particular race is in the pool, but I have a feeling I am going to LOVE tris and will be doing an open-water swim next time (like the Rev3 Olympic tri… maybe next year before we decide to have another baby!), so I would be very interested in a post on open-water swims.

      So glad I found you as a resource!! Have a great rest of the day, and thanks for getting back to me!

      • TriCourt says:

        I’ll see what I can do for flip turns, starts or open water swims. Maybe there will be some video action. Might take a little while with everything else I have going on but I’ll shoot you an email once I post. For any immediate questions feel free to comment or send me an email at courtneyjowagner @ yahoo.com

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