Keri-anne’s four-week training plan
If anyone knows how to prepare for an open water swim, it’s reigning 10km world champion and Olympic silver medallist Keri-anne Payne. So we asked her to design a four-week plan for open water rookie to help best prepare them for that first outdoor swim.
The length of the sessions will differ at the start depending on your level of swimming, but the main principles are the same. Try to swim three to five times a week, and at the end of this plan you should hopefully be able to “comfortably” swim a distance of 2000m in the pool, without stopping.
Open water events of 1km are constant
swimming and more demanding than in a
pool, which is why you should be able to
swim further than a mile.
This plan mainly focuses on endurance and
working the arms, as they provide the most
propulsion. However, kick based workouts -
to help provide stability in the stroke - pure technique sessions and a little speed work are also included.
The exact nature of each session will be determined by how much time you have. The crucial elements are a warm up and swim down (which stay the same for every session) and the main set. If time permits you can also work on technique.
It helps to have at least one training partner or even join a local club. It’s always easier to keep motivated and is more fun to exercise in a group.
Finally, try out the wetsuit you’ll be wearing at the event in advance, because the sensation of swimming in a wetsuit is different to that of swimming a normal costume.
First session: Start of Week 1
- Warm up - 8x50m mix of freestyle and backstroke, with 15 seconds rest between each 50m.
- Main set - 12x100m Freestyle swim set, with 20 seconds rest after each 100m.
- Warm down - 200m.
- Total workout = 1800m.
Overall session length depends on the competency of the swimmer, so the main set might be as short as 6x100 or as long as 20x100.
Progression: Five session cycles
In order to work all parts of the body and keep the regime interesting, the four-week block can be split into five-session cycles:
- Three sessions with main sets that are swim based.
- One pull only session (using a pull buoy).
- One kick only session (using a kick board).
Kick-based sessions using a kick board should be shorter than the swim/pull based ones. Swim 50-60% of the distance of your main sets from the rest of the week.
Main sets shouldn’t just be 100’s every time. Two out of three swim main sets should be aimed at longer distances, working towards the straight 2000m, to increase endurance.
For example, in each cycle where there are 3 swim main sets:
- Main set 1 - 7x300m, swimming at constant speed, with 30 seconds rest between.
- Main set 2 - 4x500m, swimming at constant speed, with 30 seconds rest between.
- Main set 3 - 20x50m or 12-15x100m, swimming varying rep speeds with 20-30 seconds rest between.
Crank up your distance each week so by the beginning of week four you are swimming 3x700m with 30 seconds rest between. Progress to 2x1000m during week four before finishing with our suggested last session.
Last session: End of week 4
- Warm up - 8x50m mix of freestyle and back stroke, with 15 seconds rest between each 50.
- Main Set - must be at least 2000m in length in total, preferably around 2500m non-stop swimming.
- Warm down - 200m.
- Total workout = at least 2500-3000m.
The full 2000m swim should be swum one week before your event to give you the confidence of swimming continuously for the length of time you'll swim at the event.
- The British Gas Swimfit Open Water Training Plan has five more sample sessions to improve aspects of your swimming ready for an open water event.
- Make sure you're ready for the outdoor swim by practicing our Open Water Technique tips.
- If you don't feel your front crawl is up to scratch yet, take a look at our Advanced Technique Video to watch some slow-mo examples.
- Leave a comment below or head to Ask an Expert with a specific question about your open water training.