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Home / Training / Swim / Sub-1hr swimming session: paced to perfection

Sub-1hr sesh: paced to perfection

Get your swim pacing spot on this race season

(Image: Jonny Gawler)

Have a habit of charging off at the start of the swim then running out of steam halfway through? Discover how to rein in your speed and finish strongly with Emma-Kate Lidbury’s 60min session…

Equipment needed: swim suit, hat, goggles, water bottle, pace clock, training partners, coach, towel.

How to fit it in: depending on your swim background and fitness, swim sessions of this intensity may require some recovery time built around them. Ensure you don’t have high-intensity swim workouts on the days pre/post this session. Don’t be afraid to still take on higher intensity run or bike sessions, but be aware you might feel fatigued from the pool.

Pace yourself


12 x 50m front crawl: odds as easy/fast; evens fast/easy. 10-15secs rest between each.

Main session

Swim 1km front crawl (FC) @75% effort, note your total time on completion and, using a pace clock, your approx time per 100m. Rest 1-2mins.

Swim 8 x 100m FC @80% effort, aiming to hold the previous 1km pace. Rest 1-2mins. Swim 400m FC @85% effort, aiming to hold the previous 1km/800m pace.


200m backstroke.

Main benefits

Performance benefits

This session is ideal for getting your body used to working at your upper aerobic threshold and, if done correctly, will translate to some brilliant performance gains. There’s no better way to learn the art of pacing than to do a set like this. Go out too hard on the initial 1km timed swim and you will pay the price! Remember to hold the reins in the early part in order to finish strongly – a useful skill to have for race day.

Mental benefits

This session requires commitment and a good positive mental attitude if you really want to get the most from it. As you fatigue through the set, stay focussed on your stroke and keep the effort high in the closing 400m timed swim. Use positive mantras and cue words to help keep you focussed, just as you would when racing.

Physiological benefits

This session boasts terrific aerobic endurance benefits. Learning to swim at a ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ pace (as you will need to if doing this set correctly) will yield huge gains for your cardiovascular and muscular endurance.

As the set progresses, it’ll take greater perceived effort to hold the same pace per 100m. Repeat this set every 4-6 weeks and monitor your times and perceived exertion. You should see a boost in your aerobic endurance and be pleasantly surprised as you gain fitness and the ability to hold pace.

Adapt for Ironman

If you have longer than 1hr, swim a timed 1.5km, then 10 x 100m, then 500m timed, aiming to hold the same pace per 100m throughout and increasing the effort level for each part of the set.

Like this? There are lots more sub-1hr sessions in our Training section

Profile image of Jamie Beach Jamie Beach Former digital editor


Jamie was 220 Triathlon's digital editor between 2013 and 2015.