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Do you struggle with planning your triathlon swim workouts in the week? For triathletes without a coach who programs their workouts, it’s often difficult to know how much swimming you need to do for improvement but also what type of workouts are essential during the week.

Gerry Rodrigues is a world renowned swim coach who uses his decades of open water experience to coach age group and professional triathletes (including Lionel Sanders) to their potential in the triathlon swim. Rodrigues has launched a series of short podcasts for the everyday triathlete, breaking down the foundations of his swim program for triathletes to use in their own workouts. His goal is to give time-pressed triathletes the greatest return on their training during their two or three weekly swims so they can perform their best on race day.

Episode 2 of the Be Race Ready podcast covers two important aspects of swimming: How to frame weekly workouts and the importance of the foundational workout.

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Rodrigues acknowledges that most triathletes plan their training in weekly (or seven-day) cycles. He says that during this time, if you’re hitting two or three swims, one of these should be your foundational workout that isn’t missed no matter what.

The foundational workout hits a variety of key components of swimming. It includes technique work, speed and endurance. Rodrigues refers to this as a “high value” workout as opposed to a swim session that only covers one aspect of training.

How do triathletes build a foundational workout?

“All workouts should be consistent,” he says. “They should all have a 10 — 15 minute warmup with low heart rate and simple swimming. Next comes part two, which is more technical. This would be some drills and progression of heart rate for about 15 minutes. That leaves the final 30 minutes of the workout — the main set.” It’s important to be fully warmed up for your main set so that you’re swimming at your potential when it counts. The main set should could for 50% or more of your workout.

Sample workout

Rodrigues gives a sample workout geared towards the long course triathlete who can complete the full distance swim in a little over an hour. This workout is scalable to all triathletes by simply reducing the number of building 100s in the main set.

Warmup: 1,600m = 25 minutes

  • 400 swim easy
  • 400 (4 x 100 as 50 swim/50 kick)
  • 400 (8 x 50 as 25 swim/25 butterfly)
  • 400 (16 x 25) (2 at Ironman effort, 1 fast, 1 easy)

Main set: ~4,000m = 35 minutes 

  • 6 x (4 x 100)
  • First 100 is easy, second 100 is at half distance pace, third 100 is easy, fourth 100 is fast
  • Each cycle, add 100m to the half-paced 100 (second 100 of the set)
  • (Ex. The second cycle would be 100, 200, 100, 100. Third would be 100, 300, 100, 100.)

More information on Tower 26 Triathlon and Swimming can be found here. The Be Race Ready podcasts are free in iTunes.