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How to Improve your Swimming for a Triathlon


Hi Gary,  I have started competing in triathlons and am really enjoying them except for one thing – my swim leg.

I am a reasonable swimmer, or at least I thought I was, however when I have done my first three triathlons I am coming out in the middle of the field and having to work extra hard in the ride and run to get a good result.

Do you have any suggestions on how to improve my swim leg.  I have my next major triathlon in 3 months time.

Thanks, Keith (Gold Coast, Australia)


Hi Keith, I have worked with a number of top triathletes over the years and each one of them has had strong ride and run legs but wanted to improve their swimming.

While the swim leg of a triathlon may be the shortest leg it is also the hardest leg to master for most triathletes.

With these triathletes we built up their swimming training to at least 3 times a week, with two of them stand alone sessions and one session followed immediately by a long bike ride. These triathletes completed between 3 and 5km in each session depending on the focus.  The elite triathletes were swimming 4 or 5 times a week doing sessions of 5 to 6km.

In regards to workouts within each session, I like to focus on doing sets that are of similar distance to the swim leg of the triathlon the athletes are preparing for.  For example when preparing for a swim leg of 1200m I would provide them with sets that total between 800 and 2000m.  A core set may be 12 x 100 freestyle with 10 sec rest between each one, aiming for the best average time or a similar set as 6 x 200 freestyle.

To build endurance I would give them sets with a total distance of 1500m to 2000m.  For example 5 x 400m freestyle with 30 seconds between each one at a very solid pace.

To build speed, so that you can move through the pack and finish closer to the front, consider sets like 16 x 50m freestyle on 50 seconds (or adjust time cycle to get at least 5 seconds rest on each one) holding the best average speed on each one.

If you did one of each of these sets each week, you would improve your swimming for your triathlon.

If you seriously want to improve your swim leg of the triathlon, my suggestion for you is to have a look at the Tri Swim Secrets program that Kevin Koskella has put together.

It includes:

◾Swim Technique & Drills Video Training Sessions

◾Personal Swim Stroke Analysis

◾Customizable Swim Drills and Workouts

◾Beginner and Advanced Training Plans

◾A “Behind Closed Doors” Members-Only Forum, and

◾An Exclusive Monthly Members-Only Chat with Kevin Koskella

I have received positive feedback from a number of triathletes and friends who have followed this program and had great improvement.

Go to Tri Swim Secrets for more information and I will also post some more hints soon on TheSwimmingExpert.com



The Swimming Expert

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