Back to the pool: How to make the most of your pools sessions

Back To The Pool

​With limited pool time available, Keri-anne Payne explains how to make the most of your sessions​

With so much uncertainty and change around it's not a surprise our fitness regimes have taken a bit of a battering this year. As open water swimming is currently 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 in the lead up to summer.

Most pools are only allowing one-hour time slots, so here's our 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 that 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!

Session One

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 100s aiming to get your HR 40-50bbm with 20 seconds rest between each one

10x100 on 2 mins

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.

Session Two

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

Session Three

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


Complimentary exercise

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

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

If you have access to a gym then a personal trainer will help figure out the best fitness regime to compliment your swimming sessions.


How to calculate 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

HR = heart rate

bpm = beats per minute

bbm = beats below maximum


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. straightlineswimming.com

01 Cover October

Issue 54 October 2021

  • We Swim Proud: The LGBTQ+ experience of swimming outdoors
  • Autumn Adventures: The best places to wild swim this autumn
  • Crowning Glory: Courtney Paulk’s historic Double Triple Crown
  • Cassie Patten: What is the best style front crawl stroke for the open water?
  • Access All Areas: The problem of making lidos more accessible to disabled swimmers

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