Speed Endurance Training Phase in Triathlon

A speed endurance training phase is not generally a high priority with most triathletes.  The energy systems used to maintain high level anaerobic output just aren’t as relevant in the sport of triathlon.  The event is longer than eight minutes, and if you tried to swim the first eight minutes all out you would never end the race with any sort of finishing speed.  So, why bother training this zone.

In the last article we talked about using energy systems within a continuum.  Our bodies transition from energy system to energy system as it is required or on our way from one end of the spectrum of work to the other.  When we start our races we leave the beach, the block or the gate at a quick pace.  We do this to get favourable positioning, or get clear water.  This isn’t always a 10 second burst of speed, but could be more like 30 seconds or 1 minute.  During that time we activate some of our anaerobic capacities.  In order to make these moves more efficient and less taxing on the body we need to train a little speed endurance.

Due to the lesser used nature of this energy system, I do not believe it needs to be trained as frequently or as long as your aerobic buildup, but it should still be touched on never the less. 

This energy system should be trained following your Power training block.  The goal is to extend some of those great technical changes and speed changes into longer pieces of work.  The goal is to swim faster at high intensity for a longer distance.  You might start doing 8 x 50m repeats and progress to 16-20.  Take more rest to ensure that the times are consistent.  If you are seeing the time drop drastically from rep to rep you are going to fast.  Remember what your goal is!

Your rest times will be calculated based on how long it took you to swim the distance.  For beginners, take your time, and rest 1.5x that time.  So if it took you 1:00 to swim 50m, rest of 1:30 (your interval would be 2:30).  If you are an intermediate swimmer take your time and rest of the exact same amount of time.    If your time was :45, rest for :45 (your interval would be 1:30).

Now, how would you add focus to a workout that revolves around this?  Start with stroke counts (SC).  For the beginner swimmer, stroke counts are a drill.  They are used to teach longer swimming strokes and feel pressure against the arms and hands.  In intermediate level swimmers, SC is used as a measure of efficiency and should be counted on every length.  During your speed endurance phase time and stroke counts are the measure of success.  This becomes one of the focuses.  Technical focuses that were worked on during previous phases of training should still be thought of.  Be honest with yourself and the work you put in.  If your goal was to go 20 strokes per length with a relaxed recovery both things have to happen in order for that rep to be successful.

Main Set (900m; 24min)

  • 200m Swim @ 4:00 
    • Just be loose and relaxed… especially during the extension… get that catch up feel going.. 
  • 10 x 50 sw @1:30 Fastest Average
    • 1 count your strokes, great rolling while working keeping pressure during the finish phase of the stroke
    • Keep your Stroke Counts the same, and your times the same.
    • Looking at the intervals this might seem like a pretty easy set… however if done at the correct intensity this should be almost stupid hard…
  • 200m Kick w/ fins @5:00
    • Don’t worry about going fast on this, just keep your feet at the surface and your kick continuous. Push down on the fin to exert force on the water… don’t jab it straight back

 **Note:  This is not a full workout but just an example of a SwimFocused prescribed workout.  For more information on our training programs see our Monthly Coaching Services.


This type of training should be highly personalized to you and where you are in your journey.  If you are swimming in a group make sure that you are getting adequate rest so that you can maintain time, SC and technical focus.

If you are interested in learning about the other training blocks of a triathlon seasonal training plan check out our article Triathlon Swim Season Planning.

Regardless of where you are in your journey focused planning, focused practices and honest effort will result in seeing great gains in the swim portion of your races.

Yours in Swimming,