The "BEST" Swim Workout For Winter

>> Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I posed that question in a forum last month to see what people thought. Here's what I said:

What's the *best* swim workout to maintain Oly endurance and speed?

I know... I know... that's sort of a loaded question. I'm sure there's no ABSOLUTE BEST swim workout to be doing over the winter, but I want to get peoples' thoughts.

Also, I really hate asking this question, because it makes me sound lazy. However, my "excuse" is that in the past, I almost always swam in the morning around 6-7 am (at least that's when I had my "killer" swim workouts). Now, I have an adorable 5-month-old son at home, and I can't take him to daycare until 9:45 am, so my early morning workouts are a thing of the past. At least for a few more years.

So here's my question.........

Being I'll probably only be able to swim 3-6 times / month, what's a GOOD workout for me to be doing in the pool?

Longer endurance swims? 100 repeats? Tempo intervals? A long swim to build endurance with X many X00 repeats at the end for speed? Just trying to get a feel from the "swimmers" out there. Swimming is my weakest of the 3... I'm more of a "runner."

Thanks for your thoughts for this lazy swimmer! ;)

p.s. I'm normally a 25:00 - 28:00 Oly swimmer. (And around a 38:00 Oly runner... so the swim is where I need the help!) Thanks!!!

Here's what some people said:

20x100 at Tpace with 5s rest.

Enjoy :)

That sounded brutal. I loved a response to that from someone I know:

Are we trying to HELP Steve or DROWN him?

I mean, I'm down with either. :)

Someone else thought 5 seconds was a pointless rest:

Might as well just go ahead and go 2000 Tpace straight if you're going to just wait 5 sec at the wall.

But the first person went on to explain:

5 seconds is just enough time to catch a few breaths and "reset" your form mentally to keep it from breaking down. It's harder to maintain form during a continuous swim. BTW, before I read any other responses, I was going to suggest 20x100 at 5 seconds faster than T pace with 10-15 seconds rest. It's a little harder effort, but allows slightly longer to recover and reset.

Then I had a recommendation to do 50s from the same person who had the first suggestion:

My second recommendation is 40x50 fast with 15s rest - I like the slightly shorter interval for this one to aim to keep the whole 50 fast.

Someone finally asked what "T pace" is. I assumed it was "tempo," but I was wrong:

Maybe I swam too many hypoxics in childhood and am now stupid--what is T pace? Threshold? Triathlon (race) pace? How does one determine it for swimming? Also trying to keep up swim speed and do my swim workouts under severe time pressure--thinking of trying one of those soon!

The answer:

Threshold pace; generally it is approximated with a TT swim that lasts about 20min.

Here's a suggestion someone gave to determine your T pace:

Swim a 1000 as fast as you can. Convert the time to seconds. Divide by 10 (to get your pace per 100). Convert back to mins and seconds. That's your T pace, the average pace you can maintain for a distance, in this case 100/1000. You might like to get the number for your specific race distance, but I tend to work off my 1000m time for Olys.

Another workout suggestion:

4x500 descending. A nice efficient workout for a time crunched daddy.

Yet another workout suggestion:

pyramid set

100m, 200, 300 etc (to 500), then reverse 500, 400, 300, 200, 100 with 20 secs reset in between each

total of 3000m

The final bit of advice came from a local speedy swimmer:

i like this. you can also do 200s with 10-15 second rest. I also like the 50s suggestion earlier in this thread. You can also do ladders, to change up the variety. 100, 200, 300, 200, 100 repeat as many times as necessary. in my opinion, with that few of swim, they have to be hard. think of when your "run coach" told you to run your long hard runs at the level you feel like puking; when you were training to break the 60 minute ten mile.

Basically you want to feel like dieing afterward.

I took these ideas to Andrea, the swim coach at the Y. Her first thoughts were that the 20 x 100 workout would be a decent "overall" winter workout. But she thought that only 5 seconds of rest was too brutal: (1) it would get pretty mentally draining to only be looking forward to 5 seconds rest, and (2) my form could suffer too much. So she thought that 20 x 100 with more like 15 seconds rest would be good.

So... your thoughts? What's the "BEST" swim workout for limited winter swimming? Comment with your thoughts. I'll be checking the comments often, and I'll be responding with my ideas. Thanks everyone!!

p.s. Related: here's a good weight room routine to add power to your swim. Make sure to check out my notes at the bottom from the first time I tried this workout. :)

p.p.s. If you missed yesterday's post, check out the cute photos from Henry's first Christmas!


Steph Bacjman 9:11 AM, December 28, 2011  

IMHO, the "best" winter swim workout is the one that gets your (my) behind in the pool. All of the rest is gravy.

That said, I've been doing lots of drills, games, ladders, 4x25 sprint with pushups after each lap, etc.

GoBigGreen 12:18 PM, December 28, 2011  

If i had to look forward to doing the SAME WORKOUT each time i went to the pool, even if it was 3-4x month i would not enjoy it. Pick 3 swim's from above and rotate them. Endurance ( doing the longer stuff) some sprints and then some middle distance. Make it fun.
Dont forget the stroke work, most do.
When you arent swimming 3x week you LOSE your feel for the water, and your stroke. Dedicate some of your swim time to stroke work, and when you get more time to swim someday you will appreciate that you didnt cut corners to get some extra yards in your training log.

trimybest 12:21 PM, December 28, 2011  

Whatever youre doing, it better be intervals. Seriously, if youre swimming less than 4 days a week its kinda pointless to swim slower than racepace.

Steve Stenzel 1:22 PM, December 28, 2011  

Steph: Agreed! Whatever gets you (me) to the pool!

Julia: I hear ya! I was thinking of breaking workouts into speed and endurance, so I like your idea. And I WOULD have forgotten about stroke-work, so thanks for the reminder - it IS all about form.

Trimybest: I know... it needs to HURT! :)

Anonymous,  4:33 PM, December 28, 2011  

Warm Up (400):
200 Swim
100 Kick
100 Pull

Main (1950):
12 Days of Christmas set:
Swim @:50 (add 5-10 sec on BK & BR), Kick @1:00 (add 5-10 sec on BK & BR)
2 x 25 Choice SPRINT
3 x 25 Kick underwater
(Keep streamline!!!)
4 x 25 Fly
(odds kick on back/evens Swim)
5 x 25 Back build
6 x 25 BR
(odds minimum stroke/evens Swim)
7 x 25 Choice
(odds kick with arms to side/
evens swim with flip at the wall)
8 x 25 Choice Swim
(every other 25 off blocks FAST)
9 x 25 Choice Swim
(25 no breathes/25 under 3-5 breathes/
25 Swim)
10 x 25 Pull IM order
(2 x 25 each stroke/Choice last 2 x 25)
11 x 25 Side-by-side swim
(odds FAST w/ flips at end/ez swim)
12 x 25 Choice Swim
(every 3rd 25 off blocks FAST)

Warm Down (100):
100 EZ Choice

Total Distance: 2400

Jenny Davidson 5:36 PM, December 28, 2011  

Yes, rotate different workouts!

Now and again, have a set that's all out with LOTS of rest.

I like a warmup of about 1000 yards with every fourth length as kick or stroke (back, breast) - or else some drill (say, 4 x 150 kick-drill-swim by 50, one of each stroke, then 4 x 100 free drill-swim by 25). Then mix up the sets over the week (this is all freestyle, but it is beneficial to mix in some other strokes):

one day, do 5 x 200 with 20 seconds rest, attempting to hold pace over whole set; one day, do 10 x 50 with 10s rest and 5 x 100 on an interval that you have to swim hard to make (i.e. only 5s rest); one day, do 10 x all-out hundreds on 3:00 (i.e. with rest equal to work). It is always good to put in something like 6 x 100 on 5-10s rest, swimming hard but not all out.

If you're training for long distance, it's worth having one long slow swim per week, but otherwise I'd say what others do here: no point swimming slower than race pace, do broken sets/intervals and enough stroke/drill stuff to keep form. 3x week is good for feel for water: Coach Troy of Spinervals says he swims only 1000 yards at a time, and I think frequency is much more important than volume (combine it with a strength session or a spin).

My Boring Triathlon Blog 5:48 PM, December 28, 2011  

well interesting you should ask. wonder over to Slowtwitch;post=3698825;page=1;sb=post_latest_reply;so=ASC;mh=25;

jethroelfman 9:24 AM, December 29, 2011  

Raymond Britt over at suggests only 1 or 2 swims a week are needed. He has some plans there for various levels of training.

Carolina John 9:53 AM, December 29, 2011  

The most disturbing thing here is you can't drop off Henry until 9:45 am?!? What kind of day care expects the parent to not be at work before 10? That's disturbing.

my favorite main set is a 50m on 1:01. Do as many as you can, but there's a catch. You have to finish each 50 by the top of the minute. So if you start at 5:01, finish the 50 by 6:00, start the next one at 6:02. Start out with non-freestyle, and switch to free once you miss the top of the minute cutoff. So eventually you will start at x:20 and finish at x:03 so the next 50 you switch to freestyle and get faster. When you start a freestyle 50 at x:28 and it takes more than 32 seconds to finish, you're done. Takes about 30 minutes (30 50's), and the faster you finish the more rest you get between each one. My fastest stroke was 42 seconds and fastest freestyle was 32 seconds. Beat it!

Steve Stenzel 11:28 AM, December 29, 2011  

Thanks for the links, guys!

And Carolina John, I drop him off that late because my classes don't start until noon. We pay by the hour, so that way we get (1) to pay less and (2) I get to hang out with him longer. :) And I like that idea for a workout (if I understand it correctly). I'll have to try that!

PWickman 11:57 AM, December 29, 2011  

This one is from "Be IronFit", but I like it and it isn't too mentally draining...

8x [50, 100, 150] alternating easy and Tpace with 10sec rest.

Yields an 2400 main set.

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments! Have a great day!


Follow steveinaspeedo on Twitter

Facebook Fan Page

All content and original images copyright 2006 - 2021 by Steve Stenzel, AKA "Steve in a Speedo." All Rights Reserved.
Want to use something seen here? Just ask - I don't bite.