Saturday Swim Session: T-Times

This session is a great tool to determine your current level of fitness and use as a benchmark for planning of future training sessions. I use it every four to six weeks with my athletes.

This is the first of a number of Saturday Swim Sessions that you can do to enhance your swimming. Each week I will load three options up for you to do. Option A is for swimmers who are after a workout between 1,000 & 2,000 metres. Option B is for swimmers who are after a workout between 2,000 & 3,000m and Option C will be greater than 3,000m.

These sessions will determine a T-Time (Target-Time) that we can then utilise in future training sessions to manage intensity.

Option A

  • 400m Warm Up;
  • 8x 25m Drill;
  • 8x 25m Pick Up, 10sec RI;
  • 400m Time Trial;
  • 100m easy swimming spread over 10 minutes;
  • 200m Time Trial;
  • 200m Cool Down (1,700m)

Option B

  • 600m Warm Up;
  • 8x 50m Drill/Swim;
  • 12x 25m Pick Up, 10sec RI;
  • 400m Time Trial;
  • 200m easy swimming spread over 10 minutes;
  • 200m Time Trial;
  • 200m Cool Down (2,300m)

Option C

  • 1,000m Warm Up;
  • 12x 50m Drill/Swim;
  • 8x 50m Pick Up, 10sec RI;
  • 400m Time Trial;
  • 200m easy swimming spread over 10 minutes;
  • 200m Time Trial;
  • 400m Cool Down (3,200m)

Start the workout with a Warm Up covering 400m, 600m or 1,000m (A, B or C). During the warm up feel free to stop and stretch as needed.  It doesn’t need to be a continuous swim.

Drill Set

  • Option A – conduct an appropriate drill for 25m prior to stopping and pausing. Repeat a total of eight times.
  • Options B and C – swim 25m doing an appropriate drill prior to continuing on with regular or normal swimming to complete 50m continuously. Pause prior to conducting the next repetition for a total of eight or twelve reps respectively for Option B or C.

The pause referred to above is a stop of about 10 seconds. It’s a chance to grab a drink, review the programme and think about the next drill you will do. If you need 15-20 second or longer you are welcome to take it because the rest duration isn’t physiologically critical to the aim of this set. Having a wee break is neurologically critical though, so make sure you don’t just roll straight from one rep to the next.

Some examples of drills can be found by clicking on the name below:

These drills have been popularised by Swim Smooth who offer a number of excellent coaching resources.

Next up is a Pick Up set. This set simply means that you pick up the pace as you swim through each repetition. Start each rep nice and slow for a few strokes, then a few strokes at a moderate pace, then a  few at a fast pace, a few more faster, then getting faster still, finishing the rep at maximum sprint as you lunge for the wall. Use reps of 25m for Option A & B, and 50m for Option C. Complete eight reps for Option A & C, and twelve reps for Option B. After each repetition have a Rest Interval (RI) of 10 seconds.

Regardless of which option you are doing, the next set is a 400m Time Trial. Swim as fast as you can completing the distance at a nice steady pace. Record your time.

Over the next ten minutes swim a minimum of 100m for Option A or 200m for Option B or C. Do this at a very gentle pace as it’s purpose is to keep the arms moving to clear lactic acid out of them.

The final set is a 200m Time Trial. As per the 400m Time Trial, swim as fast as you can at a nice consistent pace, recording your time.

Complete the workout with a 200m Cool Down for Option A & B and 400m for Option C. Feel free to pause and stretch when needed and/or include stretching as part of each break until the distance is covered.

The concept of T-Time has been developed through a number of authors with a number of different names utilised (most popular would be Swim Smooth‘s CSS or Critical Swim Speed). There are various versions of the test (i.e. 1,000m TT, swimming 200m & 100m TTs, 3x 300m or 3x 100m) that all approximate the same thing. My preferred method is the 400m & 200m TT.

The results are critical so ensure that they are recorded correctly and accurately. Make sure you have a stop watch of some description that you can easily operate in the water whilst swimming or have someone pool side to record your times for you.

To determine your T-Time, subtract your 200m time from you 400m time and divide by 2.

T-Time = (400m Time – 200m Time ) / 2 

Here is a real time example:

T-Time = (7:19 – 3:31) / 2

= (3:48) / 2

= 1:54

In next weeks article I will go over how to utilise this new bit of information to enhance your swimming even more. Your home work this week is to get down to the pool and do one of these sessions and then to do the maths to work out your T-Time.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact me.

I am the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

I specialise in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. I can be contacted at coachray@coachray.nz and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to my informative newsletter.

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Coach Ray is the author of the successful 12 Weeks to an Ironman Swim PB – Swim Faster with Smart Training eBook.


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