Ironman swimming in the pool

Swim Start Ironman World Championship view from Kona Inn on Ali'i Drive


If you are preparing for an early season Ironman, this is a great 4000yard/meter workout you can insert into your training plan.  Also, good for swimmers preparing for open water swims and/or the time crunched athlete. Ironman swimming requires the ability to build into swims making early pacing critical to maximizing your performance.

The workout
1 x 600 Free Warm
3 x 400 Faster pace per 100 than 500 this should be easy since 500 was warm up
4 x 300 Faster pace per 100 than 400's
5 x 200 Faster pace per 100 than 300's
2 x 100 Cool down
Total 4000

600 on 1:00 rest
400's 300's and 200's on your normal base example 1:30/100M
so 400's on 6:00, 300's on 4:30, 200's on 3:00
100's on :10 sec rest mix strokes as you like

You could repeat this set every 3-4 weeks to measure your improvement as the season progresses and it works well before a bike session as the first part of a swim/bike brick.  You could incorporate the use of paddles and/or swim buoy depending on level of swim experience.  Generally speaking, ironman swimming requires good upper body endurance and mixing various forms of pulling into your training can be very helpful.

Please email me at with topics you are interested in learning more about.

Coach Eric

Masters Swimming – The workout and lane flow!


United States Masters Swimming (USMS) got started in May of 1970.  Read more HERE on the history of USMS.  I started my masters swimming career in the mid 80's and started coaching in 1991.  Over the past 35 years I have been fortunate to have some great mentors and have learned many things from the athletes I coach.  Writing a good workout takes a bit of planning by the coach and combined with managing the lane flow leads to a great workout for the swimmers.  Here are some thoughts I have on doing just that.

  • How to write the workout
    • Identify the goal of session
      • Free - Sprint, Mid, Distance, Tri/Open water 
      • Stroke/IM
      • Technique
      • Combo 
      • Repeat distances 25’s, 50’s, etc...
      • Aerobic, Anaerobic, both
      • What the pool dictates 
    • Warm up
      • With a 60 minute session, I give them 10 minutes of easy swim, kick, drill on their own.  Masters bodies have many different warm up needs.  Some swim, some talk on the deck but whatever works for them in those 10 minutes.  Speed days I like to give them 15 minutes of general warm up.  Some dryland exercises are also good prior to getting into the pool.
    • Transition set
      • Can really be anything that helps them transition the heart rate up and a technique focus component as well.
    • Main set 1 or 2
      • Depending on the workout goals 1 or 2 main sets is more than enough
    • Cool down
      • I always encourage it but generally leave that to the individual
  • How to explain
    • Written
      • White board - Write legible, write BIG, Use black or blue pen that shows up best for those aging eyes
      • Printed for each lane - Print a copy of the workout that each lane can have.  Helps for those that can not see the white board and those that process by reading what they are doing
      • Pre workout email
      • Find what works best and it might be a combination of all
    • Verbal
      • Group - Talking to the whole group at the beginning of practice to go over goals for the day.  Need a big voice for this!
      • Individual lane - Giving each lane their instructions.  Usually intervals to swim on, number or reps and lane order suggestions.  Make sure FOB knows what to do. More on this later.
      • Individual - Individual instruction, short cues to help swimmers with technique or questions about the set.
    • Visual Demonstration
      • Swimmer - Often very helpful for experienced swimmers in the workout to demonstrate technique or a specific drill.
      • Video - Having swimmers see the correct way to do something is very helpful.  Also, having them see themselves swim so they can make the needed adjustments.
  • How to execute
    • Lane Dynamics
      • Set the lane up for success… managing the flow.  This is one of the things IMO that separates good coaches from great coaches.  A great coach will monitor this and make micro adjustments to swimmers, rest intervals and set objectives to fine tune the session.  I sometimes like to describe lane positions much like riding a bus: Front Of the Bus (FOB), Middle Of the Bus (MOB), Back Of the Bus (BOB).
      • Front Of the Bus (FOB) - This is your lane leader and critical for the lane functioning and flowing well.  Must be reasonably good with the clock, pacing and counting laps.  When giving instructions to the lane/group, make sure FOB is onboard.  If FOB is not good then MOB and BOB have the potential to go astray and lane chaos quite possible.  One thing that helps the whole lane is a set of 25’s or 50’s where everyone in the lane gets to be a FOB, MOB and BOB.  This helps the swimmers appreciate all the work a FOB must do to keep the lane flowing and also gives confidence to the MOB and BOB that if put into a FOB position, they can lead the lane with confidence.
      • Middle Of the Bus (MOB) - The majority of the lane falls here with order TBD based on type of set and who is wearing what. Often swimmers that could lead but would rather follow due to pacing or clock skills. Lots of the MOB and BOB also like to draft as that is easier 2-4 seconds per 100.  Along those lines the MOB can really have some speed variances if you combine the draft + using gear; it is not uncommon for swimmers to have 7-10 second per 100 differences in sustainable speed.  
      • Back Of the Bus (BOB) - Usually the slowest swimmer in the lane, does not want to be in anybody’s way, has no desire to lead, just wants to follow/draft. Having an off day but wants to be a part of the lane.  BOB shares many of the characteristics of MOB but generally just a slower pace that can still function in the lane. Depending on pool dynamics, BOB could be asked to move down a lane and lead if the current lane has too many bodies.  Same goes for a FOB that could be moved up a lane and be a BOB or MOB
      • What are you wearing?  
        • Paddles, Fins, Snorkel, Buoy - Can change flow of lane and swimmer speed 7-10 seconds per 100 and interval capacity 5-10 seconds per 100.  As noted above this has big impacts in the MOB.

There are endless combinations of swimming sets to create workouts.  Combining that with good lane management will help give the swimmers you coach the best possible experience.  

Have fun with it all, Coach Eric

Improve your swimming technique… Train with a center mount snorkel.

 Center Mount Snorkel

Recently I returned to using a center mount snorkel for part of my swim sessions in the pool.  I forgot how much fun this is when air is always available & also realized that my stroke needs some tuning up.   Typically I will start with it during warm up swimming 2-300 yards at an easy pace.  Then, gradually building the distance on some shorter sets as I get used to flip turns again while not swallowing water coming back to the surface.  I have also been incorporating into my cool downs to help me refocus on my technique before ending the training session.  Here are some of the things I like about training with the center mount snorkel.

Swimming: First and foremost, it allows the athlete to focus on technique without having to turn the head to breathe.  Often times, breathing strokes will cause a swimmer to become unbalanced in the water causing them to wiggle from side to side or worse yet, compromise body position with sinking hips, legs and feet.  With the snorkel the swimmer is able to keep their head in a neutral position, working on good body alignment and balance in the stroke.  Athletes with breath timing issues can learn to time their breathing without turning the head.  A great drill for this is 4 x 25  rest :10 seconds with snorkel timing your exhale to the pulling arm you wish to breathe on.  Then swim 1 x  50 without the snorkel breathing to pulling arm side you just practiced.  Repeat 2-3 more times.

Kicking: With the snorkel, like swimming allows the athlete to maintain good body alignment and can reduce stress put on the lower back if kicking too much with a kickboard.   Beginners can start with 4 x 25 flutter kicking rest :10-15 seconds.  Arms stretched out overhead at shoulder width holding onto the bottom of a kickboard to help stabilize.  Once this skill is acquired then try the 4 x 25 without the kickboard arms stretched out overhead at shoulder width or in a streamline position.

Drills: I like to do what I call a progression scull.  This is where the athlete starts in the front scull position, arms stretched out in front at shoulder width 14-18 inches below the surface of the water.  Start with some gentle sculling movements then gradually progress the scull through the freesytle pulling pattern until you reach the finish of your stroke.  Like above 4 x 25 on 10-15 seconds rest will do and then swim 1 x 50. If done correctly, you should really feel a good connection with your hands to the water.  Single arm swimming is also good with the snorkel as it allows the swimmer to coordinate hand/arm speed through the pull to their hip speed.  Doing single arm pull with the non-pulling arm stretched out in front is a good way to start.  I like this position as it allows the swimmer to feel a nice long body line from finger tips, through shoulder to hip.  Also, since you don't have to breathe, you can pay attention to that lead arm when pulling to make sure it is not crossing center, the elbow is dropping or exhibiting other deviant behavior.

If you have not used a center mount snorkel before, I highly recommend giving it a try.  Typical cost is between $30-$40.  Be patient as you get used to breathing with the snorkel.  Keep the repeats short so you can keep the technique focus at a premium.

Train Smart...Race Fast

Coach Eric