Free 8-week open-water swimming training plan

In just two months, coach Dermott Hayes will have you swimming with confidence and skill with this open-water swimming training plan

Chrissie Wellington swimming in open water

As triathletes, there’s a strong chance we’ve come to the sport from various other sporting backgrounds – or maybe no sports background at all! Either way, there’s usually only a very small minority that have experienced swimming at the highest level when younger, and so when it comes to training for a triathlon the majority need to relearn how to swim efficiently. To make things more challenging, most triathlons are in open water, not in a pool, with its confidence-inducing lane ropes, clear water and the chance to stop every 25m. In short, swimming outdoors is a very different beast.


Over the next eight weeks, this training plan will help you build confidence, work on open-water technique and get you race ready. The plan is based on training for a standard-distance triathlon with a 1.5km swim. If you want to do a sprint tri, then reduce the volume by approximately 30%; if you’re tackling a 70.3 tri then increase the volume by 30%.

Integral to this plan is the opportunity to swim in open water on a regular basis, so do some research and find a lake, river or sea near to you. Being comfortable in open water and being able to quickly relax into your stroke will have a huge impact on the success of your experience. If possible, join an organised group-style swim where you can get used to swimming in close proximity to others. Coached group sessions will teach you skills such as how to draft off other swimmers and how to sight effectively. You’ll also find swimmers of all abilities and experience levels.

The open water swim training plan, which you can download below, focuses on preparing for a triathlon with a strong bias towards swimming, to make sure you get your races off to a great start. So the plan includes 2-4 swim sessions per week with a mixture of both open water and pool. It covers some of the key open-water skills which can be replicated and practised in a pool, as well as building endurance and speed ready for racing. Also within the plan is time spent using a Pull Buoy (PB) or Paddles (PD), both of these can help to strengthen the shoulders, which is helpful to recreate the fatigue you might encounter. So get your wetsuit out, find some water and jump in!

open water swim training plan