Improve your sprint-distance swim

Sick of being last man Charlie out of the water? We’ve got the drills and tips you need to improve your sprint-distance swim and be ready for the bike leg

How to improve your sprint-distance swim

Are you strong on the bike and run but tend to exit the water towards the back of the pack? If you can get to the pool three times a week then you can get some quality swimming in and turn that around before race season starts…


With regards to what to do in the sessions, you could think of doing a two-week rotation covering six session types, of 45mins per session. This would then allow you to do:

■ One session developing speed (faster than 400m race pace).

■ One session improving your threshold (around 1,500m race pace).

■ Three drill-based aerobic sessions.

■ One with a few drills and a longer continuous swim or longer reps.

If you’re able to space the threshold and speed sessions out (maybe one in the first week of the cycle and one in the second), this will allow for good recovery from hard sessions of the other disciplines.

Most sessions will start with a warm-up, remembering that the higher the intensity of the main session of the swim, the longer the warm-up should be.

A drill section should follow, working on areas that are weaker within your stroke and occasionally reconfirming the areas where you’re stronger. It’s worth remembering that practising other strokes here can be valuable ‘drill’ work and will transfer over to help improve your front crawl.

Follow this with a set targeting an improvement in the main part of the session.

■ If that’s speed work, then this set should include short, fast reps, holding technique, with plenty of rest.

■ If it’s threshold, then the set should focus on short-to-medium distance reps at (1,500m) race pace with a short rest.

■ Drill sessions can include a larger section of drill work, with occasional sets using full stroke to practise piecing it all together again.

■ Finally, the endurance session consists of longer reps at a steady effort; recovery here doesn’t need to be too long.

Do an easy cool-down to wrap up your swim. Completing this cycle on a fortnightly basis should be enough to maintain your interest and help you improve.


(Images: Marc Lucas Photography / Jonny Gawler)

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Front crawl: How to get more out of each stroke

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Swim leg: How to start and finish strongly

How to use the pool to prepare for open water swimming