Home > News

Workout Wednesday: Swim workout for beginners

Triathlete Sheri Lehmer swims underwater in pool at Juniper Swim and Fitness Center in Bend, OregonAre you new to triathlon and finding that without a swim background you’re lost when it comes to pool workouts? You’re not alone. Among athletes with exclusively swimming, cycling or running backgrounds, there are far less swimmers who take up triathlon. Many new triathletes feel competent in running or cycling but struggle to feel comfortable in the water without much swim experience.

This week’s Workout Wednesday is dedicated to the beginner swimmer. It provides a glimpse of what you can eventually expect in the slower lane of a masters swim practice. It’s also a great template to use when you begin to program your own swim workouts. Simply add rounds and speed up the pace times as you progress. The volume of this workout will challenge you if you’re not used to swimming laps for fitness. Swimmers will often use the phrase “feel for the water” toTriathlon Swim Training - preventing exercise associated muscle cramp. Ryan Heffernan/Aurora Photos describe efficiency when propelling your body forward by catching and pulling the water. Unfortunately, feel for the water doesn’t often come naturally. It’s an acquired concept that takes consistent time in the water to develop.

The purpose of this workout is to help you start developing your feel for the water. It uses two strokes — freestyle (front crawl) and backstroke — because the best way to improve as a swimmer is through training multiple strokes. The short sets allow you to focus on your technique instead of volume. Remember to keep your body horizontal in the water by maintaining consistent, small kicks as you swim. When swimming freestyle, get used taking the same number of strokes between each breath. For your first few swim workouts, don’t worry about the pace clock. Focus on the intensity you can maintain for the set while not compromising your technique.


4 x 50 m swim, 15 seconds rest in between

4 x 50 kick (use kick board), 15 seconds rest in between

Main set:

4 x 50 m freestyle, 10 seconds rest in between. Increase intensity from 1 – 4

100 m continuous freestyle, moderate effort

4 x 25 backstroke, 10 seconds rest in between. Increase intensity from 1 – 4

4 x 25 kick hard with 15 seconds rest in between

Cool down:

100 m easy swim

Total = 1,000 m