Four easy ways to increase the challenge of a swim workout

Swim workout no longer providing the challenge it once did? Then you need these four simple strategies to increase your skills and, ultimately, improve your race performance…

Mid Adult Woman Swimming In Pool

Many hard-training triathletes do much of their training alone, and this is often particularly true of their swim training. As a result, you may find yourself responsible for implementing your own swim workouts.


Because swim workouts tend to be more structured, it can be difficult to constantly come up with new ones, and performing the same workouts will no longer continue to challenge you.

While skill development should always be a central focus, you do need to challenge your fitness and ability to sustain your skills if you want to optimise your racing.

What do you do when you’ve found reliable workouts you enjoy, yet no longer provide the challenge they once did? What do you do when you find a workout you want to implement, but it’s not quite as difficult as you’d like?

As always, I’m here to help you improve your swimming with simple, actionable strategies. I’m going to show you four simple ways to increase the challenge of any workout.

Increase intensity

The simplest way to increase the challenge of any workout is to push the pace. Simply swim faster! If a workout calls for certain speed or a certain intensity, and you find it to be insufficiently challenging, simply pick up the pace.

Swim some or all of the repetitions at a speed that’s higher than required. It’s a quick and easy way to make any workout more challenging.

Add repetitions

If intensity isn’t what you’re looking for, an increase in volume can quickly increase the challenge. All you have to do is increase the number of repetitions you perform. It’s not particularly creative, but it’s extremely effective.

If the workout includes 10 x 100, simply perform 15 x 100, 20 x 100, or whatever is appropriate for you. More volume means more practice and a greater stimulus for endurance development.

Increase repetition distance

This strategy is similar to the previous one in that it results in a greater volume of work. However, it challenges you in a different way. Many triathletes struggle with swimming well for extended periods of time.

It’s not always the total volume that’s a challenge, but swimming continuously. This strategy challenges you to swim for longer at the same effort level.

Using the previous example of 10 x 100, you could perform 10 x 150 or 10 x 200. This will challenge your ability to maintain your skills for longer periods of time.

Decrease rest periods

Finally, many workouts will either prescribe a rest period or a training interval. For instance, there might be a rest period of 20 seconds between repetitions. If using a training interval, that could mean that each repetition would start after 2mins had elapsed, as an example.

In either case, adjust the rest period or training interval so that you get less rest between repetitions. This will make it more difficult to sustain the same speed and effort.

Alternatively, instead of reducing your rest periods, you could simply replace your rest periods with floating or bobbing exercises:

This will increase the challenge and help you improve your skills.


Top image credit: Getty Images