Coach Cassie,  Top Tips

How can I speed up without losing my life to training?

Our resident Olympian answers your swimming questions

I want to aim for a sub 25-minute mile. I am 35 and have a family so getting to the pool is sometimes a bit tricky. My current mile time is 27 minutes. What advice do you have to help me speed up a bit without losing my life to training?

Tony Barstow

I often get asked questions around training and getting faster, and I always say it’s a two-pronged approach.

Firstly, to get faster you should improve your technique. If you are more efficient, you will be able to move more water with more power while exerting less energy. A good swim coach will help you hone your technique. If the thought of a coach is too daunting or beyond your budget, look at some swimming technique videos on YouTube. I recommend Swim Smooth, they are simple and easy to understand.

Secondly, train smart! If you go to your pool and always swim at the same pace, that is the only pace your body will know, making swimming faster hard to achieve. When you swim you are training your energy systems, so you need to cover all of them to make you faster. To do that you need to break your swim down into segments (sets). A basic session would include a warm up, a prep set which is normally 4-8 lots of 50 metres getting slightly faster per 50m. This is important as it gets your body ready to swim at a faster pace. Your main set should be 5 to 10 x 100m depending on fitness/time. They should be swum at your best average. When you get more confident at swimming these types of sets, you can work out your threshold speed, aka critical swim speed (CSS), which will give you a measurable speed to aim for.

To finish off the session put in some quality drill or technique work. This will help to embed correct technique.

If you can fit in more pool time this will help, but juggling a busy work andf amily life can be challenging. So try to include some cardiovascular building work, eg power walking or running. This will improve your body’s overall fitness. I hope you achieve your goals.

"Swimming was my whole life for over 20 years. I poured every ounce of enthusiasm into it. I am so fortunate to have found these outlets for that enthusiasm" Cassie Patten

Email your questions to with the subject ‘Coach Cassie’

Cassie Patten

won bronze in

the first ever

Olympic 10km

marathon swim,

in the Beijing

2008 Olympics.

Cassie now coaches and is a frequent commentator at open water events. 


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