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Cross Train Triathlon

Triathlon Tips: Two tried-and-true swim sets for maintaining swim fitness

swim fitness maintenance
Are you in your triathlon ‘off-season’ but still thinking about maintaining your swim fitness?

It’s important to maintain fitness in the pool, but you don’t necessarily want to be at your peak. Sometimes taking a mental and physical break can help you push harder when mid-season rolls around.

Below are two of Charisa Wernick’s favourite swim sets for maintaining fitness and keeping you fresh.

Maintaining swim fitness can be done with just a few swims a week in the off season. As you start to ramp up your training again you may want to focus on some weak areas (perhaps band swimming?) or strength.

Set #1 – The perfect set for overall fitness and maintaining your feel for the water.

– Warm up 500m

– 4 sets of (50m with band tied around ankles + 100m swim relaxed)

WHY: Swimming with a band around your ankles keeps you from kicking and forces you to keep your body on top of the water, rather than dragging your hips and feet through the water. This is also a quick indicator as to whether or not you are currently swimming streamlined and with good body position. If you find your feet pointing toward the bottom of the pool, this would be a great drill to add to your regular swim technique practice. When swimming the 100m relaxed right after the band work, concentrate on keeping those hips on top of the water.

TIP: Don’t have a band? No problem! Next time you are out on a ride and get a flat, tuck the punctured tube in your pocket. When you get home cut the tube so it’s a long single tube. Tie it around your ankles so they are tight and cut off the extra ends, then slide it off your ankles and store it in your swim bag.

– 2 sets of (100 kick, 100 pull, 100 relaxed, 100 fast)

WHY: This is breaking down your stroke into pieces and building it back together. When you do the 100 relaxed really focus on your technique. The 100 fast should feel controlled and strong.

– 2 sets of (100 easy, 100 build by 25, 200 strong)

WHY: You have done some technique work, now this part of the workout allows you to try to hold that technique while swimming faster.

– 500 steady

WHY: A bit of endurance—think of this strictly as building some base. Chances are you will also incorporate a bit of what you worked on previously without even realizing it.

– Cool down with 100m backstroke and 100m breast stroke.

WHY: Doing alternate strokes allows you to get a feel for the water and it stretches out a few alternative muscles while cooling down.

TOTAL: 3400m

Set #2 – This is the ultimate quick set when you’re strapped for time.

Rather than completely skipping your swim, squeeze this one in to maintain some swim fitness in the off-season. Sometimes a little bit can go a long way.

  • Warm up 300m
  • 4 x 50 kick, descending by 50
  • 100 easy recovery
  • 4 x 50 pull with paddles – descending by 50
  • 100 easy recovery
  • 4 x 50 swim with pull buoy only (no paddles), descending by 50
  • 100 easy recovery
  • 4 x 50 sprint, resting 10 seconds between
  • 100 easy recovery
  • 200 building by 50
  • 100 back stroke kicking only
  • 200 cool down

TOTAL: 2000m (if you need to shorten the workout for time, drop the final 500m)

WHY: This workout includes short bursts of speed and power, which helps maintains fitness by getting the heart rate up. Since it is a shorter workout, the swim isn’t overly taxing and recovery is easier. When the set is done properly with the easy 100 for recovery between sets, the efforts can be swum hard without form deteriorating.

Charisa Wernick is a professional triathlete and online marketing specialist. Visit her blog at