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How to keep up your swim training in winter

Now winter is upon us and our open water swimming is limited by the cold, we asked Keri-anne Payne to help you map out what you can do in the pool to keep you fit in the coming months

Now winter is upon us and our open water swimming is limited by the cold, we want to help you map out what you can do in and out of the pool to keep you fit this winter.

Here’s Keri-anne Payne’s guide to what your week might look like based on one, two or three one-hour sessions in the pool.

One session a week

Our motto for keeping fit on just one hour of swimming a week is to get the heart rate up. So many of us are so consumed with getting in as many metres as possible we lose the ability to really up our fitness gains in the pool. This was always one of my favourite sessions to do because I knew that by pushing myself I was getting better!


Warm up
10 minutes of freestyle and backstroke, working on your technique.

Prep set
Do a minimum of 4x50m, increasing your speed each 50m until it’s all out as fast as possible.

Main set
Spend a minimum of 20 minutes doing 100m swims aiming to get your HR up by 40-50bbm with 20 seconds rest between each one.
For example, do 10x100m on 2 mins. (Meaning you have 2 minutes for each swim and rest. If you swim 100m in 1:40, you have 20 seconds rest)
If you need to take every fourth one easy that’s totally fine.

Swim down
Spend the rest of the session working on technique again as it might have deteriorated during your hard set.

Two sessions a week

Session one the same as above.


Work on longer reps like 400m without stopping but the aim is to have your HR much lower (60- 70bbm). Take rest between reps so you can keep your HR in the right place.

Warm up & main set
Straight into the longer reps like 400s, the first being a mix of strokes to warm the body then into 400s as 60-70bbm. Leave the last ten minutes of your session as a chance to cool down.

Three sessions a week

Sessions one and two the same as above.


This session is all about all about speed! If you only ever swim at the same pace you’ll never get any faster so use this session to improve your speed.

Warm up
15 minutes warm up of your choice with a few bursts of speed (10m max effort at least 4 times).

Main set
4-6x 25m max effort on 3 minutes. When I say max I mean max! This part of the session won’t be pretty but it makes a big difference.

Swim down
Use the rest of your hour to swim nice and slowly, working on your technique.

How to work out your maximum heart rate

Calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. So if you are 30 your maximum heart rate would be 190. So 40-50bbm would be 140-150bpm 60-70bbm would be 120-130bpm.

Complimentary exercise

Getting outside to walk, jog or cycle will be a great addition to swimming to keep you fit during winter.

I would also recommend finding some yoga or Pilates classes as this will keep your core strong and help to stabilise your shoulder muscles to keep you injury free.

Keri-anne Payne is a double open water world champion, triple Olympian and Olympic silver medallist in the 10k open water marathon at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She created the Straight-Line Swimming methodology with her husband, triple Olympian David Carry.

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