Free 8-week off-season swim-focussed training plan

Want to swim faster next season? The off-season is the perfect time to build your swim technique with endurance, speed and drill sets. Here's a downloadable training plan to keep you focussed and on track

How to improve your swim in the off season

The off-season is a great time of year to evaluate your past season and calculate how to improve for next year. A key focus should be on any weaker areas in your race to balance out your performance.


For many who come into tri from a non-swimming background, this is your time to increase the amount of swim time. Swimming is a discipline that can only improve through repetition of good habits, so regularly hitting the water is the way forward.

This eight-week training plan provides you with a variety of endurance, speed and drill sessions. This combination will produce better results more quickly than simply repeating the same sessions.

The sessions gradually increase in duration and intensity as the eight weeks progress, and there’s a drill session each week to enforce good habits. This should take the form of a technique session from our resident swim expert, Richard Smith: use his workout on the prescribed drills day.

This training plan allows you to increase or decrease the volume of swim distance depending on your next season racing targets. While these swim sets are based on athletes targeting sprint through to 70.3 distance, if you’re building for an Iron you can add a further 20-25% distance to the workouts.

The recovery periods between sets should be 40-60secs unless stated; if you want to build aerobic fitness then gradually decrease the recovery time.

A key element of the plan is establishing an average pace that you can sustainably swim 100m at when executing a hard effort. So in weeks one, four and eight, there’s a test.

Complete the test to find your average pace per 100m. Swimming above or below Test Pace (TP) forms the basis of most of the sessions.

Let’s not forget that we need to bike and run, so sessions are included to stay on top of this. The main areas of focus are on promoting greater aerobic stamina through endurance sessions, but including some tempo and interval training so you don’t become stale through a lack of speed work.

Always include a warm-up (5-8mins of gradually building intensity from easy to vigorous) and cool-down (3-5mins of easy cardio followed by stretches) to each session

Dermott’s top 4 tips


Too many triathletes repeat the same swim sessions because they get to the pool and forget what they should be doing. Print the plan out, laminate it and take it with you.


Don’t overlook the drill sessions in an attempt to get fitter and faster. Swimming with great technique will provide you with speed and also more efficiency.


Having a coach on poolside and fellow athletes to work with will see you improve at a far greater rate. Listen to the feedback and apply to your solo sessions.


Prepare your kit in advance before your swimming sets. Far too many swim sessions are wasted by forgetting goggles, a towel, pull buoy, etc.