Before going into detail on getting the 'swim' mix right, let me say that we at Trisutto view the whole mix of swim, bike and run disciplines as one. As such our coaches are taught to understand the impact of sessions and how they fit within a holistic program as opposed to isolating each discipline on an individual basis.
For example, if we had a hard interval run workout before the swim session, we would not back it up with a speed or heart rate set in the pool, but an aerobic or recovery set. That acknowledged, let's look at the swim specific mix that we believe allows swim improvement while also enhancing triathlon performances.
For age groupers who can find the time for three to four swim sets a week here is a basic breakdown:
We would look at a speed set of short but longer rest swims.
This set is characterised as 1 part work and 2 or 3 parts rest over distances no greater than 25m.
One endurance day trying to cover at least the time of race distance.
We would look at this as 4 parts work, 1 part rest or 3 parts work and 1 part rest.
3) Heart Rate
A heart rate set or an anaerobic threshold set. Distance no higher than 100m per rep. My preference is for shorter 50ms or even on occasions 25s. 3 parts work 2 parts rest or even 1 part work 1 part rest.
4) Long Set
If we have the luxury of a 4th session within the week we would use it as an aerobic set or long slow recovery set with low heart rate but still minimum 45 minutes of work.
While I know many of our European age groupers may say '4 sessions, that's a lot!' I can assure those same athletes their triathlon performance is being hindered with any less. Swimming can have a double effect of not just helping your swim but can really help develop your cardiovascular fitness for the run.
It's no coincidence in a half Iron distance that the people who swim over three times a week are also the ones motoring home the last 5km of the run.
I will answer the question/criticism that I'm going to be emailed by many:
Yes, I know I have included only one heart rate or threshold set. But before you shake your head in despair, remember we have to bike and run and during these sessions, we will also be looking for a similar set.
The absolute biggest mistake in triathlon is not modifying the specific training routine of the swim, bike or run to adapt to a three discipline sport.
Triathlon is triathlon and our secret sauce is in getting the mix right.