Updated: Feb 21
How to Plan For Perfect Endurance Swims In Just 3 Easy Steps
If you’ve ever wanted to know the keys to a perfect endurance swim session, an easy mile swim workout, or simple tips for a successful half-ironman triathlon swim workout, then you’re reading the right article. In fact, I want to be BOLD and say that if you are looking to log your FIRST one mile swim workout - this blog post is perfect for you too.
That’s because you’re about to discover my easy 3-step method for knocking out a one mile swim workout.
Just how far is a mile? How many laps is that actually in a pool? Simple numbers help.
1 mile = 1760 yards - we'll round that to 1800 yards
1 miles = 1609 Meters - we'll truncate that to 1600 meters.
If in a 25 yard pool - you will swim 36 laps (or 72 lengths)
If in a 25 meter pool - you will swim 32 laps (or 64 lengths)
And the good news is that this method works for ANY SWIM WORKOUT, even if you are new to swimming, have never swam a mile before, recovering from an injury, not working with a coach or now jumping back into volume training after being off for a while.
Step 1: Choose a Swim Location & Time
Many people who’re new to swimming or triathlon training don’t even realize that they need to do this step before they can achieve their goal of swimming a mile or completing a long swim workout. And that’s why a lot of people who try to swim a mile or a gazillion long sets end up failing – they’re simply missing this crucial step.
So, the first thing you need to do is decide the location of your swim. I recommend securing access to a convenient pool - especially if it's your first time. This is the first step to achieving swim success.
You’ll find that this part of the process goes much more smoothly if you apply these 3 swim workout planning tips:
Call the facility or consult the website schedule to see when lanes are open for lap swimming.
Choose a time in your schedule where you have ample time to complete the swim.
Reserve a lane if required. Many facilities, both indoor and outdoor pools, are requiring swimmers to reserve lanes in advance due to Covid-19 protocols.
Generally, with breaks, a mile swim endurance workout can take anywhere from 35 mins to 1 hour to complete.
I've had TWO terribly bad swim workouts that I can remember being epic fails as a result of not following this process.
I arrived for an early afternoon swim at the YMCA in the next town over - it was more convenient to go to this location at that moment - or so I thought. I went at a normally dead time at my Y pool - only to find that all lanes were taken by the high school swim team at this location. #swimfail
Not enough time - my second worse swim workout mistake - Not enough time - I remember it clearly as one of the worst days of my triathlon training journey. I woke up late & ran out of time to complete my swim before work. Now this does not sound so bad - right? Let me add some more color to this picture... I had an early morning presentation at work scheduled. The swim workout my coach gave me was like 1800-2000 yds filled with all sorts of drills, sets and strokes. I absolutely hate not completing a workout (for my Training Peaks buddies you know we hate to see that red color block). So I kept pushing & swimming up to the very last second that I could. Sadly I only hit 1500 yds and as a slower swimmer - the last 300 were not in the cards - I just ran out of time. Besides failing at completing the work out, I failed at washing off all the chlorine properly and using my ear drops to help dry up the sinuses as part of my normal post-swim routine. I high-tailed it to the showers, took too quick of a shower, dressed & dashed to work. Friends - I remember standing there delivering my pitch and had the worst "chlorine back itch" attack me and visible nose drip for all to see. #embarrassingswimfail
Once you’ve secured a pool location and the best time for your swim, then you can move on to the next step…
Step 2: Choose The Right Swim Workout
The next thing you need to do is choose the best swim plan or workout to complete your goal of swimming a mile if you don't have a coach. It’s important to have a game plan so you know what you’re going to do before you get to the pool. Just saying you’ll swim until you get tired is not a good goal for a swim workout.
When I first started doing swim workouts and triathlon training, I made a lot of mistakes. And now that I am in the position to help others achieve their swim & triathlon goals, I see a lot of people have a tendency to make the same mistakes. So let me share with you the top 3 swim workout plan mistakes and how to avoid them:
Having No Plan. As shared by MySwimpro: "The saying goes, a goal without a plan is just a wish. This couldn’t be truer with a new workout routine and especially with swimming. It’s important to have a game plan so you know what you’re going to do before you get to the pool. Just saying you’ll swim until you get tired is not a good goal for a swim workout."
Using the Wrong Workout. I believe in the KISS model. When you are first starting out or trying something different, the simple approach ensures success. I remember taking a pic of the Master's Swim workout thinking it would be a great workout for getting a 2K workout done. WRONG! It had IM sets sprinkled throughout the swimwork out. As a triathlete and a beginner swimmer at that time - I only knew 2 strokes and could perform them with moderate proficiency. I spent quite a bit of time in the pool thinking of replacement drills to perform - robbing me of mental peace and time. USAT and Garmin Connect, both offer great free swim workout plans for triathletes of all levels. SwimBikeRun Fun even created an easy one mile swim workout infographic that you can save to your phone or easily commit to memory for your next workout.
Doing Too Much Too Soon. Taking on too much too soon can be a recipe for disaster. Just because you completed a half-iron race does not mean you can or should jump right into swimming a mile your 3rd workout back. Ease your way back in or your attempt may result in cramps, swimmers shoulder or running out of steam mid workout.
Step 3: Choose the Right Swim Gear
At this step you’re likely to notice, (to recap), you made it to the pool, have a plan and you could be wondering what else could there possibly be left to consider to be successful at swimming a mile?
Let's talk about Swim gear and how that plays into your swim success.
I still remember the first time I was at my local YMCA and was trying to swim my first mile non-stop. I did not have a plan. I just really showed up on a scheduled swim day on my training plan and said today - let's shoot for 36 laps.
It did not go as planned. That morning my favorite lucky Roka swim cap tore. Yup. Had not even dipped my toe in the water yet and I was already scrambling for a replacement cap.
Oh - it gets better! At about lap 19- approaching 500 yds if memory serves me right, I feel a small rush of cold water near my left arm. Weird. I kept swimming and when I got to the wall - I had a run-away boob. Yup! My strap broke on an aged & already too big suit and almost cost me indecent exposure.
Lastly let me share with you the top 4 swim gear mistakes and how to avoid them: