6 Workouts for a Stronger 1.5K Swim

Strong Set #3

  • 10 x 100 – Build intensity over each 100
  • Total: 1000 yards

Note: In most pools, 100 yards is four laps. In this set, lap one should be about 75 percent intensity, lap two at 80 percent, lap three at 85 percent, lap four at 90 to 95 percent. Lap Four is the "chased-by-a-shark" lap. In the case of a long course (Olympic-sized, 50-meter pool) there should still be a line on the pool bottom marking halfway; change gears there.

Strong Set #4

  • 10 x 50 – Breath count
  • Total: 500 yards

Anaerobic work makes you stronger. Choose a number of breaths per lap or breaths per fifty and swim hard while keeping to that goal. Don't give up; you need less oxygen than you think. This set should be on a set amount of rest rather than a time standard.

More: 4 Steps to Easy Breathing in Freestyle

Strong Set #5

  • 200 x 50 – Ladder
  • 1 x 50 – x time
  • 1 x 100 – 2x time
  • 1 x 150 – 3x time
  • 1 x 200 – 4x time
  • 1 x 150 – 3x time
  • 1 x 100 – 2x time
  • 1 x 50 – x time
  • Total: 800 yards

Note: Ladder sets seem longer than they are. The point is to finish the last 50 with the same intensity that you did the first 50. Ladders also teach pacing. It will not take long to find out that maybe you shouldn't have hit the 100 quite so hard now that you're halfway into the 200 and sucking wind.

Strong Set #6

  • 5 x 100 – IM
  • Total: 500 yards

Note: This is an advanced set. IM stands for "individual medley", which is one lap of each stroke in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle. Obviously, a swimmer must know all four strokes before attempting this set. Before you wave your hand proclaiming that you will never swim fly, back or breast in a race, you need to realize you will never put your bike on a trainer or ride that specific hill you keep struggling up in a race either.

These strokes make you strong. They make you use different muscles, and they make you struggle and hurt. It's good for you. On top of this, being proficient with backstroke means that if you need a break or have a panic attack mid race, you can easily roll onto your back and swim that way for a few yards, catching your breath and settling yourself.

More: Use IM Swim Training to Boost Fitness and Technique

Triathlon-Specific Notes for Strong Swimming

A triathlete will use the skills they develop from strong sets primarily in the first 200 to 300 yards of a race. That mad dash to the first buoy, when the pack is still thick and there are elbows and feet everywhere. Strong swimmers will be able to get clear of the washing machine quickly without using up their entire store of energy, before settling in to a more sustainable stroke.

Remember, just because you are swimming all out, attacking the walls, and breaking off pieces, does not mean your stroke stops being smooth. The moment your stroke starts to fall apart take a step back. As will be discussed in the sustainable section, a swimmer's ability to maintain correct technique throughout an entire race determines their position coming out of the water. Strong does not mean splashing mess. Smooth still comes first.

More: How to Add Propulsion to Your Stroke

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