Tri Swim Coach

Saturday Swim Session – 50’s for Top End Speed

Pure speed is developed by doing short reps with a reasonable amount of rest. As triathletes and endurance athletes, you don’t need the same level of speed that a pool swimmer requires. This workout is perfect for Ironman and Olympic distance triathletes or people doing longer ocean swims.

Each Saturday I will post a Swim Session, most weeks 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.

Option A

  • 200m WU;
  • 8x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 6x 50m Build 1-3 on ½ T Time + 10sec;
  • 6x 50m (alt even reps fast, odd reps steady) 10sec RI;
  • 200m CD (1,400m)

Option B

  • 400m WU;
  • 8x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 10x 50m Build 1-5 on ½ T Time + 10sec;
  • 10x 50m (alt even reps fast, odd reps steady) 10sec RI;
  • 200m CD (2000m)

Option C

  • 800m WU;
  • 12x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 16x 50m Build 1-4 on ½ T Time + 10sec;
  • 16x 50m (alt even reps fast, odd reps steady) 10sec RI;
  • 200m CD (3,200m)

Start the workout with a Warm Up (WU) covering 200m (Option A), 400m (Option B), or 800m (Option C). During the warm-up feel free to stop and stretch as needed.  It doesn’t need to be a continuous swim.

Next up is a drill set of eight (Options A and B) or twelve repetitions (Option C) of 50m Drill/Swim, where you do a drill for the first 25m of the repetition and then normal swimming for the next 25m swimming. Feel free to use fins whilst doing the drill/swim set.  Do the drills below twice through to make eight reps (Options A and B), or three times through to make twelve reps (Option C):

  1. Kick On Side (KOS) left side 
  2. Kick On Side (KOS) right side 
  3. 6/1/6 
  4. 6/3/6

I wrote an article about swimming drills previously. Click here to read and watch it.

There are two main sets within this workout. The first one involves a set of 50m sprints based on half your T-Time plus ten seconds. Option A does six reps, Option B does ten reps and there are 16 reps for Option C. Read this article for more about T-Times:

T-Times for Swimming

With this set, you are to build the speed of each rep over a series of them before reverting back to an easy pace and then building up your pace again. In option A you build your pace over three reps, Option B over five reps, and Option C over four reps. With Option A your fastest reps would be your third and sixth, and your slowest reps would be your first and fourth. With Option B it would be your fifth and tenth reps for your fast reps. Option C your fast reps are your fourth, eighth, twelfth, and sixteenth.

The next main set is made up of more than 50m repetitions. Once again Option A has six reps, Option B has ten, and Option C has 16. These reps only have a ten-second Rest Interval (RI) between them. Alternate between reps swimming the odd number reps at a steady pace and the even-numbered reps as FAST as you can.

For the Cool Down (CD) swim 200m. Unlike the previous sets which have to be freestyle, the cooldown (like the warm-up) can be any stroke you wish to swim.  You can also stop and rest after any length.  I encourage you to stop and stretch during the cool-down.

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 and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up for my informative newsletter.

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If you enjoyed this workout, I published a similar session 12 months ago.

Saturday Swim Session: Threshold 200’s

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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