Mastering Endurance Training for Swimming: A Guide for Triathletes and Open Water Swimmers

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Swimming, being a highly demanding sport, requires athletes to possess exceptional endurance to excel.


Whether you’re a triathlete or an open-water swimmer, incorporating different types of endurance training into your regimen is vital for improving performance and achieving success.


In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the importance of diverse endurance swimming training methods, discuss the optimal frequency of sessions, delve into periodisation strategies, and provide sample training sessions for athletes at various skill levels.

Table of Contents

Importance of Different Types of Endurance Swimming Training

  1. Aerobic Capacity: Endurance training enhances your body’s ability to efficiently use oxygen, improving overall aerobic capacity. This increased capacity enables you to sustain intense effort for prolonged periods, resulting in enhanced performance.
  2. Mental Toughness: Long-distance swimming challenges both physical and mental endurance. Incorporating various training methods helps develop mental fortitude, enabling you to overcome fatigue and push through mental barriers during races or open water swims.
  3. Energy Systems Development: Different types of endurance training target specific energy systems, including the aerobic and anaerobic systems. By incorporating both types of training, you optimise the efficiency of these energy systems, leading to improved performance across varying distances and intensities.
  4. Muscle Adaptation: Endurance training promotes muscle adaptation by increasing capillary density, improving oxygen delivery, and enhancing the mitochondria’s ability to produce energy. This adaptation enhances muscular endurance and delays the onset of fatigue.

Optimal Frequency of Endurance Swimming Training

The frequency of endurance swimming training sessions per week depends on several factors, including your current fitness level, training goals, and competition schedule. As a general guideline:


  1. Novice Athletes: Start with two to three endurance swimming sessions per week, gradually increasing to four sessions as your fitness improves.
  2. Intermediate Athletes: Aim for four to five endurance swimming sessions per week, with a mix of longer and shorter sessions to enhance both aerobic and anaerobic capacities.
  3. Advanced Athletes: Engage in five to six endurance swimming sessions per week, focusing on longer and more intense workouts to push your limits and maintain peak performance.

Periodization of Endurance Swimming Training

Periodisation involves systematically structuring training throughout the year to optimise performance.


For endurance swimming, a periodised approach helps prevent burnout, allows for recovery, and ensures peak performance during key events. Here’s a suggested breakdown of the training year:


  1. Off-Season: Focus on building a solid aerobic base with low-intensity endurance sessions. Include technique work, cross-training, and strength training to improve overall fitness.
  2. Pre-Season: Increase training volume and intensity gradually to enhance both aerobic and anaerobic capacities. Introduce interval training, threshold workouts, and race-specific simulations.
  3. In-Season: Maintain fitness while emphasizing race-specific training. Include taper periods before important races to allow for recovery and peak performance.
  4. Post-Season: Reduce training volume and intensity, prioritise recovery, and focus on active rest. Engage in cross-training activities to maintain fitness without over stressing the body.

Sample Endurance Swimming Training Sessions

Novice Athlete:

  1. Long Aerobic Swim: Swim continuously for 45-60 minutes at a comfortable pace, focusing on maintaining proper technique and breathing rhythm.
  2. Interval Training: Swim 10 sets of 100 meters, alternating between a moderate pace and a slightly faster pace. Take 15-20 seconds rest between each set.

Intermediate Athlete:

  1. Threshold Swim: Perform 4 sets of 400 meters at a pace slightly faster than your race pace. Rest for 30 seconds between sets.
  2. Open Water Simulation: Swim 1-2 kilometres in open water conditions, mimicking race scenarios. Practice drafting, sighting, and maintaining a steady pace.

Advanced Athlete:

  1. Pyramid Set: Swim 200 meters, followed by 400 meters, then 600 meters, and finally 800 meters. Gradually increase the pace with each set, focusing on maintaining form.
  2. Race Pace Intervals: Swim 10 sets of 200 meters at your goal race pace, with 20 seconds rest between sets. Focus on maintaining consistent splits.


Endurance training is a cornerstone of success for triathletes and open-water swimmers. By incorporating various types of endurance swimming training, and optimising frequency and periodisation, athletes can develop the physical and mental attributes required to excel in their sport.


Whether you’re a novice, intermediate, or advanced athlete, these training strategies will help you reach new heights and achieve your goals in the water.

So dive in, embrace the challenge, and unlock your swimming potential through the power of endurance training.

Coach Shamus

At the heart of MultiSportCoaching is Coach Shamus, a seasoned athlete and experienced coach with a passion for helping others achieve their goals. With over 25 years of experience in coaching athletes of all levels, Coach Shamus has the knowledge and expertise to help you reach your full potential.
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