Coach Cassie,  Top Tips

How do I structure sessions to build pace?

Our resident Olympian answers your swimming questions

How do I build pace? I have been working on my technique but now I would like to get quicker. How should I structure my pool sessions?
Gareth Griffiths

Coach Cassie says:

I get asked this a lot as it’s an aspect of their swimming that many swimmers would like to change. There are several different elements to building pace, and I am glad to hear you have been working on your technique, as an inefficient stroke can add minutes to your overall time for a swim.

The second part I recommend is to remember when you go training that you should be aiming to work all of your energy systems and mix up the intensity of your training. Having a good understanding of the different training zones and energy systems can really benefit your swimming, but in a nutshell, if your swim sessions are of the same speed and intensity you will most likely always swim at that speed and find it difficult to add pace. However, by differing the length and intensity of your swimming your body is forced to produce energy from different sources.

Swimming with high intensity but short-distance the energy used is recycled through the anaerobic pathway (without oxygen). However, during long slow steady sessions the energy is recycled mostly aerobically (using oxygen). This way is slower but more efficient than the anaerobic way. It is important to remember that improvement of one energy system does not improve the other so that’s why it’s important to vary your training.

So If you are swimming long distances at a low to medium speed and intensity you will develop a mostly aerobic energy system and your body will find swimming at a faster speed difficult. Therefore to increase overall pace it is important to mix your training up to include some higher intensity swimming. I would recommend speaking to a coach who offers remote coaching to set you some sessions to try – I set sessions for swimmers to complete on a weekly basis, if you would like more information my website is

Finally, to do some further reading look up

Cassie Patten won bronze in the first ever Olympic 10km marathon swim, in the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Cassie now coaches and is a commentator at open water events. @cassiepatten

Email your questions to: with the subject ‘Coach Cassie’

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