Three Essential Half-Iron Swim Workouts – Triathlete

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To be successful in improving your swim leg over time, you need to do two things: improve your ability to execute the fundamental skills that create speed in the water, and develop the fitness to execute those skills at high speeds over 1.2 miles with enough left in the tank to ride 56 miles and run 13.1. To swim fast, you need to be able to create a lot of propulsion with your arms, swim with great alignment, and swim with great timing. From a fitness perspective, you also need to create the stamina to swim well beyond the race distance, have the ability to respond to and recover from any surges, and be able to consistently sustain a challenging pace—even after you get out of the water . In other words, swim training for a half-iron distance swim is entirely unique and different than simply leading your lane at a Masters practice.

As a more seasoned triathlete, it’s important to stay focused on the critical skills in the water, working towards mastery. It’s easy to get distracted with small details that don’t have much of an impact on performance. It’s just as easy to disregard skill development entirely. From a training perspective, you’ll have to be more focused with how you’re developing your fitness. Simply swimming more or swimming harder isn’t going to cut it. You’ll make more progress by dedicating most of your effort within each workout to one aspect of fitness..

In this series of specially designed key half-iron workouts, we’re going to take a focused approach to each workout. Each workout will focus on a single fundamental skill. In addition, each workout will focus on one aspect of the fitness that you’ll need to race effectively. These workouts will be challenging. When you implement one of them in your training week, you’ll want to consider it as one of your key workouts. To get the most out of the session, place it after a relatively easy day, and ensure you get sufficient recovery prior to your next main workout. Of course, if you find that you can recover from swim sessions fairly easily, you can be more aggressive in planning your next hard one.

RELATED: Getting Ready for a 70.3? We Got You Covered!

(Photo: Getty Images)

70.3 Swim Workout: Tech Distance Set

Total: 4,100

The purpose of this workout is to perform a longer, controlled endurance session where you’ll cover much more than the 1.2-mile distance. As this workout may be on the longer side for some, be sure to treat it as such with the appropriate recovery before and after the session.

Within the workout, there is a focus on swimming faster as you go. It’s fine to start conservatively and slowly increase the effort—as you’re much better starting off too slow than too fast. Also be consistent with your stroke counts during the longer swims. By being consistent, you’re ensuring that you maintain your efficiency.

This set has no strict intervals because the appropriate interval depends on how fast you’re swimming. Instead, take the suggested rest between repetitions, and then begin the next repetition.

The drill work is performed in the beginning and inserted during the recovery periods of the main set to ensure that you get your skills back on track and have technical reminders along the way. The two drills are focused on establishing and maintaining great alignment throughout the set. Click on the links for a visual of the drills, as well as detailed descriptions.

Warm Up:

4×50 freestyle easy effort with 10 second Active Jellyfish before each 50
10 seconds rest between each repetition
5x[50PaddleCapFreestyle;breathetotheleftthentotherightby25[50 PaddleCapFreestyle;breathetotheleftthentotherightby25
[100Freestyle*;breathetotheleftthentotherightby25[100Freestyle*;breathetotheleftthentotherightby25
20 seconds rest between each repetition

Main Set:

3×300 Freestyle*; descend 1-3 to a solid effort; 30-40sec rest
10 second , right into 50 Paddle Cap Freestyle
3×250 Freestyle*; descend 1-3 to a strong effort; 30-40sec rest
10 second Active Jellyfish, right into 50 Paddle Cap Freestyle
3×200 Freestyle*; descend 1-3 to a stronger effort; 30-40sec rest
10 second Active Jellyfish, right into 50 Paddle Cap Freestyle
3×150 Freestyle*; descend 1-3 to a strongest effort; 30-40sec rest

Cooldown:

6×50 Easy effort; perform 10 second Active Jellyfish before each 50 as:
ODD Paddle Cap Freestyle
EVEN Freestyle
10 seconds rest between each repetition

*Take the same number of strokes each lap

RELATED: How to (Finally) Become a Faster Swimmer

70.3 Swim Workout: Half-Iron Surge Prep Set

Total: 3,100

The purpose of this workout is to practice surging and practice recovering from those surges. You’ll experience this at the start of the race, to stay on people’s feet, to get around other racers, or when dealing with tight and crowded buoys. Beyond matching some of the dynamics of racing, performing this type of work allows you to practice swimming fast, as well as getting some bonus aerobic work during the smoother swimming. As with the previous workout, be consistent with your stroke counts during the smooth swimming. There are no strict intervals because the appropriate interval depends on how fast you’re swimming. Instead take the suggested rest between repetitions, and then begin the next repetition.

Both of the drills are focused on getting the arm in a great position and pulling straight back. We’ll use a buoy so that you don’t have to worry about your body position, and you can breathe whenever you want. Click on the links for a visual of the drills, as well as detailed descriptions. If you’d like a quick visual of a simple way to set up the stroke, click here.

Warm Up:

200 as 25 Backstroke (or Freestyle) + 25 Freestyle with as few strokes as possible
4x[75withbuoyas25PowerPull+25HumanPaddle+25Freestyle;takeasfewstrokesaspossibleeach25[75withbuoyas25 PowerPull +25 HumanPaddle +25Freestyle;takeasfewstrokesaspossibleeach25
[50Freestyle;descend1-4tostrongeffort;keepyourstrokecountthesameeach50[50Freestyle;descend1-4tostrongeffort;keepyourstrokecountthesameeach50
20 seconds rest between each repetition
12×25 with a buoy
ODD ; take as few strokes as possible
EVEN Freestyle; as fast as possible
30 seconds rest between each repetition

Main Set:

50 Freestyle as fast as possible
3×50 Freestyle with a steady effort; take the same number of strokes each lap
75 Freestyle as fast as possible
3×75 Freestyle with a steady effort; take the same number of strokes each lap
100 Freestyle as fast as possible
3×100 Freestyle with a steady effort; take the same number of strokes each lap
100 Freestyle as fast as possible
3×100 Freestyle with a steady effort; take the same number of strokes each lap
75 Freestyle as fast as possible
3×75 Freestyle with a steady effort; take the same number of strokes each lap
50 Freestyle as fast as possible
3×50 Freestyle with a steady effort; take the same number of strokes each lap

*For each segment above:

Take 20 seconds rest after each repetition
Take 60 seconds rest after the last repetition before starting the next segment

Cooldown:

300 with a buoy as 25 Power Pull + 25 Freestyle; take as few strokes as possible each lap

RELATED: Do These Workouts to Surge-Proof Your Swim Start

70.3 Swim Workout: Rhythm Finder Set

Total: 3,300

A major aspect of racing effectively is getting into a great rhythm and sustaining a solid effort. The key is to be consistent within each section of the set. You want the times to be as similar as possible, rather than all over the place.

The purpose of this type of work is to learn how much you can push it without going too far—much like in a race. There are no strict intervals because the appropriate interval depends on how fast you’re swimming. Instead take the suggested rest between repetitions.

From a technical perspective, this set is geared towards learning how to create great timing as you swim. By recovering one or both arms under water, you’ll naturally settle into a great rhythm where the rotation, recovery, and pull are all happening at the right time. These exercises are performed during the recovery periods to serve as a reminder while you’re swimming quickly. Click on the links for a visual of the drills, as well as detailed descriptions.

Warm Up:

200 as 25 Underwater Recovery + 25 Freestyle
2x[2×50Over-UnderFreestyle;buildthespeedeach25forboth50s[2×50 Over-UnderFreestyle;buildthespeedeach25forboth50s
[150Freestyle;solideffortonround1;strongeffortonround2[150Freestyle;solideffortonround1;strongeffortonround2
[4×25Freestyle;descend1-4withthesamestrokecount[4×25Freestyle;descend1-4withthesamestrokecount

Main Set:

4×150 Freestyle; fast as possible with while being consistent between repetitions
100 EZ 25 Underwater Recovery + 50 Over-Under Freestyle + 25 Freestyle
4×125 Freestyle; fast as possible with while being consistent between repetitions
100 EZ 25 Underwater Recovery + 50 + 25 Freestyle
4×100 Freestyle; fast as possible with while being consistent between repetitions
100 EZ 25 Underwater Recovery + 50 Over-Under Freestyle + 25 Freestyle
4×75 Freestyle; fast as possible with while being consistent between repetitions

*For each segment above:

15 seconds rest between each fast repetition
60 seconds rest after each 100 EZ

Cooldown:

4×75 as 25 Underwater Recovery + 25 Over-Under Freestyle + 25 Freestyle
15 seconds rest after each repetition

RELATED: Triathlete’s Complete Guide to Training for a Half-Iron/70.3 Triathlon

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