Training session – long distance

Training Image Apr 17

For longer distances, try this training set from Fiona Ford

Have you already signed up for a race or event this summer? We’ve come up with three pool-based training sessions for short, medium and long distance swimmers to help you achieve your swimming goals. Short distance we’ve taken as 750m to 1600m (1 mile). Medium distance is up to around 5km, a popular race distance. Long distance swimmers are often in the water for in excess of two hours where aerobic efficiency (the ‘diesel engine’ as Swim Smooth calls it) becomes critical. Include one of these sessions in your weekely training to help build speed and endurance.

The core block of each session is designed around your Critical Swim Speed or CSS pace and can therefore be used whatever your speed (to learn more about CSS and how to calculate it see

Long distance (10km+)

Warm up: 3x400m FS (+10 sec rest) Focus on exhalation and BB every 3 strokes, incorporate at least 100m (on each 400) breathing 5 and 7 strokes to extend your exhalation capabilities and check relaxation to begin the session

Build set: 8x50m (+10 sec) swimming with an ankle band or wearing shorts, overcome the resistance or drag issues by focusing on optimising your catch and pull and streamlining your body and leg positioning. Stay ‘in the moment’ on each length and focus on improving efficiency a bit further each time

Main set: (repeat four to five times)

400m FS swim as a negative split, starting below CSS pace and then improving pace to swim at CSS on the second 100m +15 sec

4x100m PULL @ CSS pace +10 sec. Deep water starts, no wall push offs, work on accelerating stroke rhythm

400m FS swim as positive split, starting out faster than CSS pace on the first 100m and then settling into CSS pace on the second 100m +15 sec

4x100m as IM in order of - FLY, BS, BRS, FS +15 sec. Fins optional, substitute FLY drill or kick for FLY stroke if necessary +15 sec

400m FS drafting with a partner or small group of four swimmers, swap the lead every 100m. Lead swimmer to swim slightly faster than CSS pace, drafting swimmer(s) to practise effective drafting on hips or feet of lead swimmer +30 sec. Practise breathing towards each other (UB 2 or 4 strokes), increasing adversity factors by ‘squeezing’ each other into the lane ropes or turning fast or unpredictably off line seeking a better drafting position from the wall turns.

Cool down: 400m easy, incorporate
at least 200m BS

Total: 10000-12000m

Why different swim strokes?

The benefits of utilising other strokes are numerous. Physiologically it allows the swimmer to utilise and develop a range of muscle groups and functional strength. This is useful particularly for distance open water freestyle swimming to avoid overuse injuries. Psychologically swimmers of all abilities and distances gain a competitive advantage, gaining confidence mastering or further developing new skills and becoming adaptive with the demands of switching between strokes and experiencing high levels of muscular fatigue. Ultimately a good way to simulate the ever changing demands of open water swimming, in a pool training environment and being able to progressively improve the process of ‘mind over matter’ to apply as required when adverse situations demand!

Guidance notes

CSS - Critical Swim Speed. Effectively training at your threshold pace provides you with significant speed efficiency gains
Pacing - using the pool clock, your own stopwatch or a timing device such as a Finis Tempo Trainer or Metronome
BB = Bilateral Breathing
UB = Unilateral Breathing
BS = Backstroke FS = Freestyle or front crawl
BRS = Breaststroke
FLY = Butterfly
PULL = Swimming with a pullbuoy or float between your legs. No kicking.

Swim Smooth squad training and video analysis sessions

Triathlon Europe provides weekly Swim Smooth squad training in South West London. The squad enjoy training all year round in fabulous indoor and outdoor 33m pools. Fiona offers swim training plans, 1-2-1 video analysis sessions and stroke correction sessions on weekday mornings and weekend Swim Smooth workshops.
Find out more:

Cover Web Image

Issue 42 October 2020

  • Q&A with Jaimie Monahan - marathon swimmer and Queen of the Ice
  • Autumn swim adventures around the UK
  • The science behind cold water acclimatisation
  • Reviewed: The Best Open Water Goggles
  • The often deadly history of unsupported marathon swims

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