I’ve been struggling with my swimming this season. Last year I was a beginner, and almost every week my times were tumbling, I could swim further, push myself faster. I took 15 seconds off my PB 100m sprint once! I LOVED swimming. It is hard not to love something when your input so clearly translates into gains.

This year, that’s running for me. I ran a 53 minute 10k just on a casual weekend jog, because I felt good. (Previous PB in a race was 56 minutes). I’ve held a 12kph pace on a treadmill for 6 minutes and it’s felt FINE whereas previously I would be dying. It’s wonderful, I now love running. Last year I kept getting injured, I felt like I just got slower, I never got any better. It wasn’t very motivating.

But almost in pay-off for running improvements, I feel as if my swim is refusing to get better this year. Swimming and running have swapped places. I keep going, I do the workouts, I put in effort and I watch my form. But the times don’t tumble. Occasionally there’s something I’m happy and impressed with – I have managed PBs in pretty much every distance across the season. But it’s not consistent, and I don’t seem to have gotten any faster at my standard “comfortable” swim pace. And that’s the pace I’ll be wanting to hold in my triathlon.

I dread swim workouts that involve pushing myself as I know it will be hard and I’m sure I’ll be disappointed with the time – in the same way I now embrace treadmill intervals but used to hate them. I also dread long efforts as I know they’ll take a really long time and my 100m splits will be deathly slow.
I think perhaps my training plan doesn’t suit me? It is full of longer efforts, which yes, I understand are important when I’m doing Olympic distance triathlons and thinking about pushing the distance to half Ironman. But I don’t enjoy them. I’m not motivated. And I feel like my swimming is not getting any better (although – it clearly isn’t, kind of, as I’ve taken huge chunks off 400m and 200m PBs, and a smaller but still significant chunk from my 50m PB.)

There’s no answer to this. It’s just a reminder that everything is up and down and its impossible to just get continually better. It’s a reminder to myself to keep at it, not to give up. To keep swimming and pushing and hope it all comes together eventually. To perhaps think of a big swimming challenge for next year – in the way this spring’s marathon was the catalyst for improving my running.

With all that in mind … here are a few swim sets I’ve been doing. Probably don’t do them. I enjoy the warm-ups and cool-downs but HATE the main sets.

Swim 1 – 2500m

Warm up: 50m front crawl, 50m back stroke, repeat.
2 x 50m drills with 10secs rest. (I do a rotating drill for the first 50m and catch-up drill for the second).
4 x 50m building. (I still don’t have four swim speeds, so this is 2 slow, 1 faster, last one all out)

Main set: 6 x 300m zone 3 / tempo effort. (What this means for me is that I basically go as fast as I think I can hold for 300m).

Cool down: 50m breast stroke, 100m front crawl, 50m back stroke.

I’m not going to lie – if this swim had been on my training plan last year, I wouldn’t have done it. 2500m?! A whole 1000m further than I’d need to swim in my triathlon? I wouldn’t have thought I could do it. It still scared me this time. 

I really like the 4 x 50m building when I have a fast set to do. 50m is quite a manageable distance to sprint, especially if you are only doing it once, and it gets my arms used to moving fast – I think this helps when it comes to the tempo / faster reps! Otherwise, I really hate this swim set 🙂

Swim 2 – 1.2m

A completely different swim this, and one I actually do enjoy! Easier, shorter, but still useful.

Warmup: 100m front crawl, 50m backstroke, repeat.

Main set: 5 x (25m kick, 50m drills, 75m swim)

Cool down: 150m front crawl / pull buoy.

It’s a good set as it gets you thinking about your stroke, but the drills aren’t so long or so numerous that you end up doing them thoughtlessly. And there’s no time pressure whatsoever!

I’ve had two open water swims so far this sunmer. In the first I was by myself in a lake near Madrid and I swam 4 x 10 minutes. I worried myself at first as I wasn’t loving it, it was hard and I was struggling. But I love open water swimming! I tried to tell myself. I kept going and soon remembered that the thing about swimming is that it does take 100m or so to really get into it. I remembered this for my second session back in the UK with RG Active and soon got the hang of it. The confidence boost from being placed in the “fast group” and the nice feeling that comes from being remembered from the year before and being in a lovely friendly group also helped!

So here’s another open water swimming tip: you just need to keep doing it. Just keep moving the arms slowly, taking regular breaths, slow everything right down. You will get in your stride and then it will all feel okay. If you keep stopping and treading water / swimming breaststroke because you don’t feel comfortable, you will never get into your stride and the whole swim will be difficult. You can swim this distance, you won’t drown, nothing bad will happen. Just slow down and keep swimming, and it will all get easier, I promise!

Juneathon Day 13 – a confession. Today did not involve a lake swim. I did get out of bed at 6am but it was SO grey outside and I was so tired and James was curled up in bed and I just DID NOT WANT TO. So no swim happened and instead we had a lovely brunch in Brixton and then I went wedding dress shopping with my best friend who is getting married next year, and ended up drinking wine on her roof terrace and chatting. Today’s exercise involved a lot of walking around Eltham as someone waiting at a bus stop told us to go one way, Charlotte thought it was actually the other, and when we realised we were wrong we were too embarrassed  to walk past him again! So we took the long route and spent a good 40 min or so walking. I am slightly annoyed at myself for not going swimming this morning but in the end I don’t see my boyfriend or friends that often at the moment so it’s lovely to spend as much time with them as possible when I do! 




  1. As a swimming teacher and coach I always advice clients to rather do 30-40 mins workouts but push yourself hard than doing 1-2h long workouts. My main reason for it is because I notice that non- professional swimmers start to do wrong movements because they get tired and the best way to get better both for the improving part and to get leaner and stronger muscles. Do not concentrate to much on getting faster timing but to finish the workout and feeling you engaged every muscle in your body. Hope I ve been helpful and enjoy your swimming.

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