Tri Swim Coach

Saturday Swim Session: Aerobic Swim

When swimming in triathlons and other open-water swimming events having a solid aerobic base with your swimming will drive your success. This session 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.

The inspiration for these workouts came from an article on written by Gale Bernhardt, you can read the article here.

Option A

  • 200m WU;
  • 100m Kick;
  • 4x 50m Drill/Swim;
  • 600m, 60sec RI;
  • 400m (Alt 100m Fist / 100m Swim) 60sec RI;
  • 200m Paddles & Pull Buoy;
  • 200m CD (1,900m)

Option B

  • 400m WU;
  • 200m Kick;
  • 4x 50m Drill/Swim;
  • 700m, 60sec RI;
  • 500m (Alt 100m Fist / 100m Swim) 60sec RI;
  • 300m Paddles & Pull Buoy, 60sec RI;
  • 200m Pull Buoy, 60sec RI;
  • 4x 50m Bk 15sec RI;
  • 200m CD (2,900m)

Option C

  • 500m WU;
  • 400m Kick;
  • 4x 50m Drill/Swim;
  • 900m, 60sec RI;
  • 600m (Alt 100m Fist / 100m Swim) 60sec RI;
  • 400m Paddles & Pull Buoy, 60sec RI;
  • 200m Pull Buoy, 60sec RI;
  • 6x 50m Bk 15sec RI;
  • 200m CD (3,700m)

Start the workout with a Warm Up (WU) covering 200m (Option A), 400m (Option B) or 500m (Option C). During the warm up feel free to stop and stretch as needed.  It doesn’t need to be a continuous swim.

For the next set you’ll focus on building your kicking skill and ability, with a set of 100m (Option A), 200m (Option B) or 400m (Option C) kicking. Use fins for this set and throw away your kick board. Use the kick on front drill depicted in the video below.

Next up is a drill/swim set. There are four repetitions of 25m Drill, then straight into 25m normal swimming. Feel free to use fins whilst doing this set.  Do the drills below once through:

  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.

The main body of the workout is made up of a number of sets that progressively shorter. The first of these main sets is 600m (Option A), 700m (Option B) or 900m (Option C) of steady state swimming. If doing this session with other swimmers of a similar ability it is recommended to swap the lead out every 75m to practise drafting and also help keep the pace nice and high. Take a 60 second Rest Interval (RI) prior to the next set.

The next set is 400m (Option A), 500m (Option B) or 600m (Option C) of swimming alternating between 100m of Fist Swimming and then 100m of regular freestyle/front crawl. Fist Swimming is a drill where you close your hand into a fist to minimise the surface area and force you to catch the water with your forearm more than your hand. Keep this swim continuous simply closing or opening your hand at the appropriate points through the set. Take a 60 second Rest Interval (RI) prior to the next set.

The third main set is 200m (Option A), 300m (Option B) or 400m (Option C) swimming with paddles and pull buoy. Take a 60 second Rest Interval (RI) prior to the next set. Option A finishes the workout at this point and moves to the Cool Down (CD).

The next set for Options B & C is 200m swum with pull buoy only, before taking another 60 second Rest Interval (RI).

The final set is four (Option B) or six (Option C) reps of 50m backstroke with a 15 second Rest Interval (RI).

To finish, complete the session with a 200m Cool Down (CD). 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 Coaching.

I specialise in assisting first-timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. I can be contacted at and 021 348 729.

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

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