Sub-1hr session: The Big Swim

Push yourself to the edge and get ready for race day with this 60min workout

The Big Swim workout

Hard work on little rest is the perfect rehearsal for race day. Emma-Kate Lidbury provides a swim workout that will push you to the edge…


Equipment needed: swimsuit, hat, goggles, pace clock/stop watch, enthusiastic training partners and/or coach.

How to fit it in: you’ll certainly get the most from this session if done relatively fresh, so try to avoid doing it the day after a big bike or run workout when you’ll be tired. But it shouldn’t hit you too badly the following day, so don’t be afraid to schedule higher intensity workouts.

Pace yourself


10mins easy swim then 12 x 50m. Progress effort from 1-4 three times through (1-4 being easy, moderate, moderate/fast, fast).

Main session

10 swims on a 3min turnaround. The distance will depend on your ability/fitness. So, for example, it could range from 150m to 200m, but choose wisely as you’ll begin on a 3min turnaround and then drop 5secs with each repetition.


3-5mins cool-down, mixed strokes, including some backstroke.

Main benefits

Performance benefits

Being able to vary your pace and move from a steady effort through to top-end speed is a great skill to have. In this session you may have almost 3km under your belt as you near the final reps, which means having to perform at/near your maximum when fatigued – perfect race-day practice!

Mental benefits

Use this workout as a way to test your mental strength and fortitude. When the going gets tough, be prepared to get going! Stick with it, stay positive, maintain a good attitude and the mental benefits will come to you.

Physiological benefits

The key to success in this set is to start at an easy pace and keep your effort steady for as long as possible. By doing this you’ll reap the aerobic endurance benefits before having to ramp up your efforts. By the business end of the set be prepared that it might be ‘touch and go’ in order to make the interval. This is a great aerobic endurance builder and culminates with you having to work near to your maximum, honing both speed and endurance.

Adapt for Ironman

Make this part of a 4-5km total workout and include another warm-up/prep set before beginning the main limbo set. It could be pull and paddles focused or speed focused, for example 20 x 50m, band only.

(Main image: Jonny Gawler)


For lots more swimming advice head to our Training section