Swimming Milestones: Almost to A Mile

I have blogged recently about my realization of being able to currently complete the distances that would ensure I finish a my selected first triathlon (here), but I have not talked about my swimming progress in detail.  When I first started training for my first triathlon, developing a fitness level that would allow me to start a periodization training schedule leading to my triathlon was my primary goal. My fitness levels consisted of very little muscular endurance.  In the pool I could barely swim 100 meters without my arms felling like they were going to fall off and my lungs were going to pop  out of  my chest.  As I trained I learned how to be a more efficient swimmer via Total Immersion style of swimming and I was able to work my endurance to where I could consistently swim 250 meters before muscle failure and my breathing more regulated.

As I started my base 1 and 2  phase of periodization my focus has been on endurance, endurance, endurance… In other words, I have taught myself good form and I continue to work on drills at least once a week, but I really want to push my muscular endurance so I feel more confident while swimming laps and I can go further distances. I believe this lack of endurance was part of my challenge with open water swimming this last summer (here).  So I began trying to do more 50 meter swim laps with decreasing breaths and eventually 100 meter sets and timed sets and… and…  progress did occur, just seemed like I should have been able to achieve more.  Looking for this on the internet, most swim workouts were for people who could swim a mile without stopping and could do 100 meter laps, so I felt lost.

In some ways because I am financially limited due to the overall suddenness of choosing to do a triathlon and the wife holding the purse strings, I can’t afford to do swimming classes so I am on my own.  Granted, professionally I make good money, but triathlons were not budgeted this year and what I  do spend things on are more important such as biking and running clothing for the winter and gym memberships. So, I have taught myself more efficient swimming technique and my arms get less fatigued. I am happy with the progress of my drills, but the endurance still was not progressing to where I wanted it.

Eventually I found a program on the webs that was structured similarly to the couch to 5k (c25k) program with a goal of swimming a mile within a few weeks.  I have now been doing that for the last couple of weeks gradually building up my distance.  Each week has increased the total distance swam each work out. So the first was 700 meters that had me swimming 4×100/4×50 /4×25 with varying breaths in between sets. Each week this has gone up and breaths between sets has decreased.  Last week the swim session consisted of 600/300/4×100/4×50 meter laps for a total of 1500 meters.  That 600 meters without stopping was one of the most amazing feelings, as I had never imagined or had been able to swim that distance without allot of rest.

The big milestone was this Monday’s workout.  The swim workout requires swimming 1000/4×100/4×50 meter laps with eight breaths after the 1000 meters and 4 breaths after all others. I looked at it on Sunday and even though I had done 600 meters in each session the previous week, 1000 meters or 20 laps in my pool looked so daunting. I was swimming 12 in the previous week and now I had to swim 20 laps, and with fewer breaths than previously.  In my swim on Monday I got focused and away I went… I nailed it.  I finished all 20 laps and took my 8 breaths and away I went to finish the 100s and then the 50s with only 4 breaths between each. When I finished that set I screamed with joy and amazement (I tend to do that at the gym allot lately, might start worrying people).  I just swam 20 50 meter laps and totaled 1600 meters of swimming with little rest in between.  I felt amazing, I felt on top of the world, this truly was miles ahead of where I had been.

I have one more week on this program and will be finishing that on the first week of my base 3 phase as next week I will be on vacation and will not have a 50 meter lap pool to swim in (cruise ships tend to have odd sized pools more made for bathing than anything else).  By the time I finish that week I will be swimming a bit more than a mile as the program was established for yards and I figured the little extra did not matter. When I set my program up for the remaining two to three weeks of my base 3 phase I am going to have to look at where I need to go next in my swimming. I have continued to work on drills but the focus has been endurance.  I would like to get a little faster, but I think continuing to focus on endurance for a few more weeks might be a good thing.  Right now it seems I was swimming my 600  meters around 16 -17 minutes and my 1000 meters I am uncertain as my watch battery died, but it was around 20 minutes based on the clock at the gym.

So drills are definitely in my future.  Any suggestions where to go next, once I get to 1650 meters non-stop?  I believe once I can swim a mile I should have allot of options where to go next.  I want to get a video of my swimming so I can work on my form some more and adjust some aspects of my swim.  So that will be in my future as well.   Til next time.


  1. You sound like you are making good progress. The Triathlon training takes a lot of time and commitment to do it right. I’ve never done it but I know people who have. Good luck with the training and the event.

    1. Thanks, yeah it has been taxing with the wife, but my fitness level starting this was pathetic. It took concentrated effort to get to the point that things are looking good heading into the 4 month to go home stretch.

  2. Congrats Chatter! I remember going through the same process. I remember returning to the deep end and thinking, “Dear God, please give me the strength to at least doggy paddle back to the wall if I need”, but as time went on it kept getting easier. I felt swimming came along much quicker than the biking/running did since efficiency gains help so much. Keep up the good work!

  3. In my younger years I was a great swimmer. When I got in high school I was too embarrassed about being in a swim suit in front of kids from school, so I went out for Tennis team instead. currently we don’t live near a facility with a pool..it’s 25 minutes away and not on my route at all. Maybe some day though ..i can add that aspect into my life again. It was always such an enjoyment. It really sounds as though you’ve increased your endurance and have found a good plan to continue challenging yourself. Love your quote….didn’t budget a triathalon tis year. I’m a budget nut..so that was funny. Stay strong.

    1. I love swimming. Now that I can go further I think I enjoy it even more.

  4. Take your video and send it to me and I’ll help how I can from here. I can write you a few workouts if you like?

  5. […] Swimming Milestones: Almost to A Mile (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com) […]

  6. I have Learned to swim recently almost one and a half months and going.. I was a non-swimmer and now I can swim 50 meters x4 laps with a minute’s rest at the lap end with bilateral breathing. In how much time I can expect to increase my endurance level. I mean like swimming without fatigue for 500 meters without rest. Is there a benchmark for beginners.

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