Back in the pool with a swim interval workout

Interval training in the pool is a great way to give your body a break from your regular workouts and stress on your muscles. If you're a swimmer or triathlete, here's a interval swimming workout to try.

Today, I’m honored to be a guest of Amanda at Miss Zippy. She’s an incredible runner and triathlete, a mom, and coach and continually inspires me. I’m talking about swimming and running and how swimming has helped improve my running, and I share two of my favorite swim workouts. Go over and have a look. I’d love to hear what you think.

I thought I’d continue that theme and talk a little about swimming here too. Swimming is a great low-impact, full-body workout. I’ve found myself at the pool often these days as it’s the only form of cardio that I can continue to do at a normal pace and intensity while my knee continues to heal. Swimming is also a critical part of building up paddle power for surfing. Plus, I love being in the water – the safe confines of a pool with a black lane line down the middle.

Interval training in the pool is a great way to give your body a break from your regular workouts and stress on your muscles. If you're a swimmer or triathlete, here's a interval swimming workout to try.

Lately, I’ve been loving this swim interval workout. I have a tendency to swim easy long sets in the pool and this workout really pushes me (and my heart rate). It’s a good distance – 2,600 yards – as I’m trying to build back up to 3,000 yards.

Interval training in the pool is a great way to give your body a break from your regular workouts and stress on your muscles. If you're a swimmer or triathlete, here's a interval swimming workout to try.

  • Swim a warm-up and then six 50’s alternating 25 yards/meters of a non-free stroke (i.e. backstroke, butterfly or breaststroke) and then 25 yards/meters of freestyle. Rest 15 second between each 50.
  • For the next set, you are going to swim 6 100’s with descending stroke counts. The purpose of this set is to increase the efficiency of your stroke. Lower stroke count = more efficient swimmer.
  • Swim the first 100 normally and count the number of strokes that it takes you to swim the length of the pool. For the second 100, try to decrease the number of strokes from your previous set. For example, if it takes me 12 strokes to swim the length of the pool for my first 100 rep, for my second 100 rep, I want to try to swim each length of the pool with less than 12 strokes. Same for the third 100. Then, repeat this again, starting over with your fourth 100 at a normal stroke rate and decreasing your stroke rate for your fifth and sixth 100. To make it easy on myself, I usually count the number of strokes I take with my right arm rather than trying to count right-left-right-left.
  • Next, you will swim a pull set (4 x 150) using a pull buoy. These are leg floats that you place between your legs which forces you to use only your arms to swim. PS I love pull sets.
  • The last set is 4 75’s. You will swim 25 yards/meters slow, then 25 yards/meters fast and finish the 75 with 25 yards/meter slow again. For the next rep, you will start with 25 yards/meters fast, followed by 25 yards/meters slow, and ending with 25 yards/meters fast again.

That’s it!

Do you swim regularly? Do you have a favorite swim workout or swim interval workout to share? 

Curious about swim etiquette? Here’s all you need to know about lap swim etiquette.

{IMPORTANT: Please note that I am not a certified swim coach or fitness professional. These workouts are based on my own experience and I am simply sharing a workout that I like. Always talk to a doctor or trained professional before starting a new fitness regimen.}



    • admin says

      You know what’s a workout? Doing a baby and me swim class. I thought that things/people were supposed to feel lighter in the water. haha. You should do that!

    • admin says

      That’s definitely one of the main reasons I’m thinking about rejoining a gym too. At least in the summer, I can use the public pools in NYC.

    • admin says

      Swimming is hard!! It’s so different from most other forms of activity. But good for your son to give it a go (and not finish last). That’s huge!!

  1. says

    Awesome! Way to go! I love swimming. Swimming is the activity I chose when I was trying to lose 100 pounds. I still swim but have reduced it to once or twice a week during the summer while I increase my mileage on the bike. I rotate between three swim routines but I do not do intervals quite enough. That needs to change!
    Lisa recently posted..100 Pound Anniversary – 4 YearsMy Profile

    • admin says

      That’s so great! I know – it’s so easy for me to just swim long sets and not really push myself. But it feels so great doing these intervals and it’s nice to push myself a little. I guess there was a reason that my swim coaches had us doing so many intervals in practice!

  2. says

    This looks like a great workout. I’m swimming twice a week (and also running twice a week, so not sure if the swimming is cross-training for the running or the other way around!), and trying to work more “workouts” in rather than just swimming laps for an hour, so I’m definitely going to try this the next time I’m in the pool. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • admin says

      Thanks Leah! Let me know if you do give this workout a try and what you think. I needed some inspiration because I was getting lazy with my swims. Just tacking on lap after lap and not really working myself.

      • says

        So I’ve done the workout twice. First time I cut down the yardage a litte, but second I did the whole thing. I really like it, although I tweaked it a little bit for my preference (split up the descending 6×100 and pulls and alternated half and half). It was good prep for me, because I’m doing my first open water swim on Saturday (a 1-miler in Waikiki). I agree with your comment that although I love being in the pool, open water is not really my thing. Hoping this swim will boost my confidence like the workout did!

        • admin says

          Oh yay! I’m so glad that you liked the workout and that it’s helping to build your confidence! There is a lot of pulling and I think that’s great that you were able to adjust it to your preference. I hope that you have a great swim on Saturday!! You will do great.

    • admin says

      You will totally get there. Swimming can be humbling but I think, as with everything, it just takes time, practice and patience. You’re doing great by the way.

    • admin says

      It’s pretty amazing to watch kids learn and become more confident in swimming. My older son (after a bout of I don’t want to go anywhere near the pool) has regained his confidence and it’s great seeing him paddling around and really swimming. The younger one, on the other hand, I wish that he had a wee bit more fear in him. He just jumps right in head first.

  3. says

    I love swimming but I haven’t done laps since I was pregnant. Great to have a bit of a structure and a plan like this. I always just get in and swim until I’m tired. Following something like this would be really beneficial for me.
    Jess recently posted..Reasons to Smile!My Profile

    • admin says

      That’s what I’ve been doing lately – just getting in and swimming with no real structure. It’s been great to get back to real workouts and to be more purposeful with swimming. Let me know if you do try this. I’d love to hear what you think!

    • admin says

      My knee is getting better. I can do things like strength train, swim, bike (but not spin class), some yoga, etc. I’m supposed to focus on strengthening my legs and supporting muscles. Hoping to be cleared to start slowly running later this month (5 months post-surgery)? They’re being conservative since this is my 2nd ACL reconstruction and want to make sure that it has time to properly heal. I know it’s the smart thing but it feels like forever!!

  4. says

    I’m so sorry about your knees! Mine are sore from running too fast/ hard last time (I was stupid) but I’m lucky there’s no ‘real’ pain. I’ve struggled with runner’s knee before and am so gun-shy! But I like the pool better than spinning…
    Blond Duck recently posted..Saturday SingleMy Profile

    • admin says

      Thanks. Knees are a pain in the butt sometimes and definitely not something to take lightly. I’ve definitely learned my lesson. Plus, learned that it’s super important to strengthen the muscles that support your knees, especially your glutes and hips. But, I’m glad that I have swimming to fall back on though I do like spinning too :-)

  5. cheryl says

    Hubby and I just returned from two great open water swims- the Sharkfest (1.5 miles from Alcatraz to Aquatic park) and the Dwight Crum Pier to Pier (two miler). They are both great events so we were swimming a LOT of mileage before we raced. We are both runners (40 + years) and I can say that while running is my first love, as I age (59) I like to swim more in between running workouts. Doing my 112th triathlon next weekend! Whoot!

    • admin says

      That’s so great Cheryl!! I love hearing about folks who take up surfing later in life. While I wish I came to it when I was younger, I’m so happy to have discovered it. But seriously, I’m so inspired to hear about all of your accomplishments. 112th triathlon??! Awesome. It’s funny while I love love love swimming, I’m not crazy about open water swimming. Once I get going and past the initial anxiety, it’s OK but it’s the initial start and the first 100 yards or so that I have trouble with.

    • admin says

      That’s great Leigh! Actually, more than anything for me, it’s about being in the water more than swimming or surfing per se. I just love being in the water. Plus, jogging in the water is really good for you!


  1. […] Swimming is a great workout. Not only does it build cardiovascular fitness and lean muscle, it is a low impact exercise that’s a great complement to the high impact activities we do other times during the year like running. This can help aid in muscle recovery and injury prevention. Plus, I love the way I feel after a great swim workout. […]

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