Tri Swim Coach

Saturday Swim Session: Ryan Bolton’s Tri-Specific Speed/Threshold Swim Set

This session simulates a race. Stating off hard and fast settle into a rhythm and then finish hard. This session is perfect for Ironman and Olympic distance triathletes or people doing longer ocean swims.

Yes, COVID-19 is impacting most swim training all around the world with pools shut in most western countries. I am continuing to produce these workouts and articles for athletes that are either lucky enough to still be able to train but also for when the pool reopens near you, you can use this in the future.

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 sessions are based on a session from Chirs Foster and Ryan Bolton’s book The Triathlete Guide to Sprint and Olympic Triathlon Racing. Ryan is a former collegiate runner-turned-pro triathlete who competed at the Olympics and now coaches athletes.

Option A

  • 200m WU;
  • 6x 50m drill 15sec RI;
  • 150m 10sec RI;
  • 6x 100m, 10sec RI;
  • 150m 2min RI;
  • 300m Pull, 20sec RI;
  • 200m CD (1,900m)

Option B

  • 300m WU;
  • 6x 50m drill 15sec RI;
  • 150m 10sec RI;
  • 8x 100m, 10sec RI;
  • 150m 2min RI;
  • 2x 300m Pull, 20sec RI;
  • 200m CD (2,500m)

Option C

  • 400m WU;
  • 6x 50m drill 15sec RI;
  • 200m 10sec RI;
  • 8x 100m, 10sec RI;
  • 200m 2min RI;
  • 3x 300m Pull, 20sec RI;
  • 200m CD (3,000m)

Start the workout with a Warm Up (WU) covering 200m (Option A), 300m (Option B) or 400m (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 six repetitions of 50m Drills. Feel free to use fins whilst doing the drill set.  Do the drills below

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

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

The main set starts off with 150m (Options A & B) or 200m (Option C) swum at a fast pace as if you are starting a race. Only take a ten second Rest Interval (RI) and then move straight into a set of six (Option A) or eight (Options B & C) reps of 100m. Swim these at a solid pace, with only ten seconds Rest Interval (RI). After the last Rest Interval (RI) move into a final rep of 150m (Options A & B) or 200m (Option C) swum at a fast pace as if you are finishing a race.

To finish the workout finish with a set of one (Option A), two (Option B) or three (Option C) reps of 300m using a Pull Buoy. Take a 20 second Rest Interval (RI) between each rep.

For the Cool Down (CD) swim 200m. Unlike the previous sets which have to be freestyle, the cool down (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, here is a similar session I published 12 months ago.

I’ve taken my most popular training plan and given it a make over for 2020. I’ve taken the 12 Weeks to an Ironman Swim PB – Swim Faster with Smarter Training and I’ve modified to to expand the programme from 12 weeks and include an option for more than 3 swims per week.

Now the programme has created some great times for athletes competing at Ironman events around the world, but it was overly set in stone. Now if you have got between 8 & 24 weeks to an Ironman and are consistently swimming 3x, 4x or 5x per week, I’ve created an option for you. This is regardless of the length of pool 25m, 33⅓yd or 50m pool.

This programme is peroidised and builds throughout as you get closer to your Ironman. It works through four key phases:

  • Foundation & Injury Prevention Phase (building your base fitness and developing technique)
  • Early Quality Phase (develop strength and continue developing technique)
  • Transition Quality Phase (focus on threshold pace and maintain technique)
  • Final Quality Phase (further develop your speed and maintain technique and taper off for the event)

Although the original 12 week programme is proven and gets RESULTS. This modified version is unproven. I know it will get the results, but I need the proof. I need a dozen people to complete the programme, so I can measure how much improvement the programme actually delivers.

If you are entered in an Ironman, Iron-distance event or an Ocean Swim/Open Water event and have between 8 and 24 weeks to train for it, you might be a good fit to try this training plan out. Not everyone will be a good fit for this programme.

This training plan is for people that are keen to swim faster in their Ironman (or other event). You need to be committed to complete a minimum of three swim workouts every week. You need to be meticulous with tracking your training.

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