Keeping Swim Sessions Challenging


Posted by Coach John Murray

I really enjoy writing swim workouts. Some of the elements that need to be considered are appropriateness, variety, length of time, distance, drill work, and the main set.

Recently I heard back (through Training Peaks) from a relatively new Team MPI athlete out of Texas who had just completed a tough Main Set. When I wrote the session I knew he would be challenged. My goal was to take him to "the edge" but not have him fall off. This is what he wrote:


"RPE: 17. Freakin' awesome!! Having the challenging interval and also working hard to descend 1-5, 6-10 kept the whip cracking. I started out a little too fast (3:49), but kept with the descends on the first 5, then slowed things down accordingly on 6 and 7 before getting back into it hard. I paid for the fast start on the last two! My arms started "to go" in the first 100 of number 10 and I was completely against the proverbial wall trying to keep pace. I BARELY made the descend on the last one (went 4 tenths faster than #9), and was really happy to have hit the wickets. Fastest was #5 at 3:43. What a kick in the a**! This is the kind of workout that makes you appreciate the easy ones!!"


The Main Set was 10 x 300 yards on 4 minutes 10 seconds. Within that set, he was asked to swim each 300 faster than the previous until he got to number 6 and then start over. This was written as "descend 1-5". I carefully chose the 4:10 interval based on his previous swims.

Below is the entire swim session:


1 x 400 easy warm-up
4 x 50 drill (odds- Fist, evens- swim) on :15 RI Use PB*
10 x 300 swim (descend 1-5) on 4:10
1 x 200 Easy Recovery

Total = 3800 yards

* means 15 second rest interval, use pull buoy


His post workout comments (above) indicated that we achieved our goal of challenging him within his swimming abilities.

My advice to newer triathletes/swimmers who are eager to have challenging swims like this one is..."stay in your lane!" In other words, be okay with a Main Set of 10 x 25 or 10 x 50, if that is your ability now. If it challenges you then you are getter stronger and faster. Keep track of the different Main Sets that you have done and make adjustments along the way. Maybe add a couple more repeats or decrease the interval.

I am sure this athlete will see this set again and he may have some dread going into it, but once completed he will enjoy the sense of accomplishment again that is certainly evident in his report.

For those athletes that are unsure of what they should be doing in the pool, consider swimming with a Masters Swim group or working with a swim coach to get some instructions on how to create swim sets that would be appropriate for your swimming level. Or, join us at a 2-Day Triathlon Swim Clinic this January 9-10 or February 13-14 in Pensacola.

~ Coach John

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