Sub-1hr swim session: race-pace simulator

A pool workout that will get you swimming as close to race speed as possible

Triathlete working on his swim speed

Now that the 2014 triathlon season is nearly upon us, you need to get your swim training up to race speed, which is exactly what this session from Emma-Kate Lidbury promises…

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Equipment needed: swimsuit/trunks, hat, goggles, towel, watch/heart rate monitor, water/energy drink.

How to fit it in: this is by no means an easy session. Schedule it on a day when you have no other intense bike or run workouts planned. Be prepared for your lats and triceps to ache the next day. In turn, this will yield a stronger upper body, but ensure you factor in recovery time in the days that follow.



10mins steady continuous swim; 2 x (10 x 50m on 15secs rest swum as: 3 @ 80% effort, 1 @ max effort, 1 easy).

Main session

5 x 200m, swim each 200m as: 75m @ 90% effort, 75m @ 80% effort, 50m @ 90% effort, but ensure you start from a dive and ‘deck up’ (get out of the pool) after each 200m. Go straight into 50m easy on 2mins then begin the next 200m.


8-10mins steady, continuous swim.

Main benefits

Performance benefits

This session is as close to race simulation as you can get in the pool and teaches your body how to deal with those initial close-to-max efforts that everyone experiences on race day. Getting your body used to swimming at maximum speed and then easing off slightly is a great way to learn how to control your pace.

Mental benefits

If done correctly, this session will hurt – and it’s supposed to. This teaches not only your body but your mind too, about consistently working at your maximum. It’s great practice for racing when you need to have plenty of mental coping strategies in place to deal with pushing through the pain. Concentrate on keeping your stroke together as your fatigue increases.

Physiological benefits

This is a great race-specific workout that, if swum correctly, will have you working hard. Hitting the first 75m at 90% effort mimics a race start, so is great practice for learning to go out hard before settling into a smoother pace. You’re forced to swim hard and then control the pace going into the next 75m before picking it up again for the final 50m. And the deck-ups will really get your lats and triceps working – and aching!

Adapt for Ironman

You can easily add another prep set to this session to increase the overall distance swum, or even make each repetition 300m and swum as: 75m @ 90%, 175m @ 80%, 50m @ 90%. You could also do it on a double swim day and make your second swim of the day a steady 3km.

(Main image: Jonny Gawler)

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