12 Weeks to an Iron-Distance Swim PB: Week 4

Over the coming 12 weeks I will post a series of workouts building your swim fitness as you prepare for either Challenge Wanaka (18 Feb) or Ironman NZ (04 Mar). I am a multiple Iron-distance finisher including doing both these events in 2011 (the year of the wind in Wanaka and the year of the rain in Taupo).

12 weeks out from Challenge Wanaka started the week of Monday 28th November. For those of you doing Ironman NZ two weeks later, your sessions commenced the week of Monday 12th December.

Tri Training NZThis is the fourth week.  You can find the first weeks sessions here, the second weeks here and the third week here.

Each week will have three pool sessions for you to complete. I also encourage you to get in the open water once a fortnight to develop those skills sets. This can either be part of a triathlon or as a group open water swim. The pool based sessions work well when completed on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday or on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

This weeks training is continuing to develop your base fitness with a strong focus on technique and endurance.

Session One

Tri Coaching NZ

This session is designed to assess where you are fitness wise and help us set some future performance goals. You can use this to gauge your performance compared to the first week of the programme and compared to future weeks as we will repeat this in weeks 7 & 10 as well.

  • 1,000m Warm Up;
  • 12x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 8x 25m Pick Up 10sec RI;
  • 400m Time Trial (TT);
  • 10min rest including easy swimming of at least 200m;
  • 200m TT;
  • 400m Cool Down.

Start by swimming 1,000m for a warm up. Keep a nice steady pace and feel free to pause occasionally to stretch or grab a quick drink. The idea of the warm up is to get the blood flowing and muscles loosened up before some of the more intense sets later in the workout.

The set after the warm up includes 12 repetitions of 50m. This 50m is done continuously with the first 25m done as a drill before going straight into the final 25m of regular swimming. Pause after each rep and have a short rest while you focus and mentally prepare for the next drill. Here are some drills that you can include in your programme.  Complete each drill twice:

  1. Kick On Side (KOS)
  2. Kick On Side (KOS)
  3. 6/1/6
  4. 6/3/6
  5. Broken Arrow
  6. Popov

For the drill set wear a pair of short fins. These will provide you with a small amount of momentum whilst you are focusing on what the upper body is doing. I recommend Finis Zoomers.

Take your fins off prior to commencing the next set. This set is made up of eight reps of 25m Pick Ups with a 10 second Rest Interval (RI). When swimming a Pick Up, start off at a slow pace for your first few strokes.  Then pick up to a moderate pace for the next few strokes, then a few fast strokes, then get faster and faster every few strokes as you make your way down the pool. Finish up with your last few strokes being at sprint pace. After each 25m, stop and rest for 10 seconds. Use the pace clock on the wall or a wrist watch to time this precisely.

The next set is a 400m Time Trial (TT). I want you to swim this as fast as you can and not worry about saving yourself for the following sets. Record your time using your wrist watch or get someone to time you and see how quickly you can swim 400m.

After the TT, have 10 minutes of recovery. During this 10 minute period swim a minimum of 200m at a very slow pace. By continuing to keep moving your arms, this will help flush blood through them removing any lactic acid or other waste products built up during the TT.

The final set before the cool down is another TT this time over 200m. As with the last TT, I want you to swim as fast as you possibly can with what you have got left. Once again record your time for the 200m with your wrist watch or get someone else to do so.

Make sure both times are written down (or stored in the watches memory) so you don’t forget them. They will become important in future training sessions so that we target the appropriate intensity to make sure that you improve.

The final set is a 400m Cool Down. As with the warm up, feel free to pause and do some stretching and grab a drink. Also consider doing some other strokes as part of the cool down. Throw in some back stroke (Bk) or breast stroke (Br) to mix it up.

Take your 400m Time and subtract your 200m Time, then divide the result by two.  Round this up to the nearest 5 second interval. This will give you your current T-Time, which we will use in some future workouts.

e.g. your times are 400m = 6:47 and 200m = 3:18

6:47 – 3:18 = 3:29

3:29 / 2 = 1:44.5

rounded to 1:45 = T-Time

Session Two

Tri Coaching NZThis session works on enhancing your threshold swimming.

  • 600m Warm Up;
  • 12x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 18x 100m on T Time + 15sec;
  • 12x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 200m Cool Down.

Start by swimming 600m for a warm up. Keep a nice steady pace and feel free to pause occasionally to stretch or grab a quick drink. The idea of the warm up is to get the blood flowing and muscles loosened up before some of the more intense sets later in the workout.

Our next set is the same as one of the sets in the first workout of the week. The set after the warm up includes 12 repetitions of 50m. This 50m is done continuously with the first 25m done as a drill before going straight into the final 25m of regular swimming. Pause after each rep and have a short rest while you focus and mentally prepare for the next drill. Here are some drills that you can include in your programme (complete this list twice through):

  1. Kick On Side (KOS)
  2. Kick On Side (KOS)
  3. 6/1/6
  4. 6/3/6
  5. Broken Arrow
  6. Popov

For the drill set wear a pair of short fins. These will provide you with a small amount of momentum whilst you are focusing on what the upper body is doing.

Take your fins off prior to commencing the next set, which is a set of eighteen repetitions of 100m, on a ‘Go’ time that is your T-Time plus 15 seconds.

The amount of recovery you get with this set will vary depending on how fast you swim. To work out what your ‘Go’ time will be take half of your T-Time that you worked out in Session 1 this week and add 15 seconds to it. For example: if your T-Time was 1:45 adding 15 seconds makes 2:00 your ‘Go’ time.

This means that each and every rep starts two minutes after the previous one. If you swim a rep in 1:45 you get 15 seconds rest.  If you swim it in 1:55 you only get 5 seconds rest. The easiest way to monitor these sets is with the pace clock on the wall. Start the first rep when the hand hits the 60 at the top.  If your T-Time gave you a ‘Go’ time of 2:00 then your next and subsequent reps commence when the hand gets to the 60 mark at the top again after you return from your 100m swim (two minutes after you started on the 60).

If your T-Time gave you a 2:10 ‘Go’ time then you would start on the 60, 10, 20 etc. If your T-Time gave you a ‘Go’ time of 1:55 seconds the you start on the 60, then 55, 50, 45 etc.

Prior to finishing with the cool down, you complete another set of 12x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim).

The final set is a 200m Cool Down. As with the warm up feel free to pause and do some stretching and grab a drink. Also consider doing some other strokes as part of the cool down. Throw in some back stroke (Bk) or breast stroke (Br) to mix it up.

Session Three

Tri Training NZ

This session will develop your endurance primarily with aspects focussing on your technique.

  • 1,000m Warm Up;
  • 8x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 4x 500m Build 1-4, 45sec RI;
  • 200m Cool Down.

Start by swimming 1,000m for a warm up. Keep a nice steady pace and feel free to pause occasionally to stretch or grab a quick drink. The idea of the warm up is to get the blood flowing and muscles loosened up before some of the more intense sets later in the workout.

The set after the warm up includes 8 repetitions of 50m. This 50m is done continuously with the first 25m done as a drill before going straight into the final 25m of regular swimming. Pause after each rep and have a short rest while you focus and mentally prepare for the next drill. Here are some drills that you can include in your programme:

  1. Kick On Side (KOS)
  2. Kick On Side (KOS)
  3. 6/1/6
  4. 6/3/6
  5. Broken Arrow
  6. Popov
  7. Kick On Side (KOS)
  8. Kick On Side (KOS)

For the drill set wear a pair of short fins. These will provide you with a small amount of momentum whilst you are focusing on what the upper body is doing.

Take your fins off prior to commencing the next set, which is a set of four 500m repetitions. After each rep pause for 45 seconds. Either use your wrist watch or the BIG pace clock at the pool to keep this rest interval to 45 seconds precisely. If you rest too long, you won’t get the physiological benefit of this session.

With each rep I want you to build your pace to get quicker over the four repetitions. You could say your first rep is steady, your second rep is fast, your third rep is faster and your fourth rep is fastest.  Your times may look something like this:

Rep Time
1st 10:55 Build 1-4 Steady
2nd 10:29 Fast
3rd 10:18 Faster
4th 10:11 Fastest

The final set is a 200m Cool Down. As with the warm up, feel free to pause and do some stretching and grab a drink. Also consider doing some other strokes as part of the cool down. Throw in some back stroke (Bk) or breast stroke (Br) to mix it up.

You can sign up to receive these sessions via email by clicking here.

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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