Cycle 4! Last cycle and the first full year of the Swimfaster program will be completed! We’ve been on a journey this year and we’ve seen some amazing progress this year. We started with a lot of technique work and longer swimming and have transitioned into more triathlon specific work in Cycle 3. We finish it off in Cycle 4 working on race specific pacing and skills while maintaining the efficiency and technique we built in the first three cycles. Let’s get into it!

Cycle Focus: 

We’re in race preparation mode this cycle. Making sure you are ready for race day. We’re focused on learning exactly what your race pace feels like, how to get out fast at the start and settle into your rhythm. We’re focused on sighting and swimming straight in open water. And of course, we’re focused on continuing to build your swim fitness so you can hit the bike and run with plenty of energy.

If you are consistent through Cycle 4 you can expect to feel 100% prepared and confident when you line up on the waters edge on race day! You will have the fitness, the knowledge and the skills to take on anything the washing machine throws your way.

Swim Technique Focus:

We’ll continue to focus on fundamentals, getting your body position and alignment right and building propulsion. We will be a lot more focused on “Skills” and “Drills” designed specifically to prepare you for race day.

  • Balance & Alignment
  • Propulsion
  • Breathing to both sides
  • Sighting & sighting efficiency
  • Higher stroke rate
  • Take out speeds

A Quick Note On Equipment:

We’ll continue to use Pull Buoys and Ankle Locks in some of our sets. It’s ideal if you can pick up a pair of ankle locks like the ones below. They cost roughly $10 and really make sure you are locked in. You can get them here: 

Some guys will use an old inner tube from a bike tire or something else to bind their ankles together, that will do if you don’t want to spend the money, but honestly you will get a lot of benefit from really locking yourself in with these.

Pull Buoys come in all shapes and sizes. Choose what works for you, but smaller is definitely better. Pick a kiddies sized one! 

Swim Fitness Focus:

  • Build efficiency through targeted pace training
  • Maintain technique under fatigue
  • Gain a deep understanding of pacing - specifically your race pace
  • Establish a race pace, race tempo and race rhythm
  • Prepare for the chaos of the washing machine

Workout Details:

Test Sets: 

You will see a test set once a month. These are designed to measure your progress and if you’re putting in the work to validate and motivate you! You’re going to see two types of test sets:

CSS Test – measures your efficiency. Not a strict reflection of how good a swimmer you are but a indication of how efficient you are working aerobically in the water. This test sets your goal pace for all of our CSS Sets through the Cycle.

The 800/100 Test – measures endurance vs speed. Speed and endurance combined give us a better picture of how good of a swimmer you are.

A 1500m Race Pace Effort – gut check and comparison against your CSS Pace.

CSS Pace Work 

We continue with the CSS pace work in Cycle 4. CSS work gives us the best bang for our buck in terms of fitness value in the water. No other type of work will give you the same return on every meter or yard you swim. This is why we do so much of it

*If you’re new to the program and need help with understanding CSS work – READ THIS

Here’s how to get the most out of your CSS sets:

  • Settle in and hit your goal pace
  • Stick to the rest intervals, this is of the highest importance
  • If you are faster than your CSS Pace AND sticking to the interval that is great
  • If you are slower than your CSS Pace but holding steady at a consistent pace that’s fine, stay consistent.
  • If you are getting progressively slower as the workout goes on, re-asses. There could be a number of reasons why it’s happening, first of which is fatigue and you may need a recovery day!

Open Water/Prep Sets: 

Ideally you’ll want to be hitting the open water on a weekly basis during this time of the year.

Water is water. The fundamental principles we’ve practiced through the last 3 cycles apply to both pool swimming and open water. But there are subtle adjustments that must be made and practiced in the open water to ensure success on race day.

Your experience and success in any given moment is a direct reflection of your understanding about it. Your inability to cope or manage in the open water will come about purely because of lack of experience.

The better your understanding of open water, the better decisions you will make when things get uncomfortable.

Give yourself the chance to experience similar conditions to those you will be racing in. The more familiar you are with situations that arise at the start of a race, the more comfortable you will be and the better you will perform.

If you cannot get into the open water on a weekly basis for whatever reason, there are some open water prep sets that are designed to help you prepare for the open water without having to get in.

Broken Sets: 

We’re going to work through a progression of 1500m swims broken by rest periods through the cycle. These sets should be done on a send off interval rather than a set goal time. The goal is to get through the set on the “tightest” interval you can manage while staying in your aerobic energy system and still getting some rest. You don’t want to be red lining during these sets, they are all about efficiency – how fast can you swim and stay efficient. The lower your heart rate through this, the better!

Things To Focus On:

  • Consistency - The more sessions you complete in this Cycle the better you will swim. Simple.
  • Pacing - Once you have your goal times you need to work on sticking to them. These are based off your performance and are specific to you. If you train at this specific pace you will get faster
  • Technique - Fight to maintain your technique for as much of the main sets as possible. Be focused on holding a good line and developing great habits!
  • Race Day Visualization - Apply what you are doing to how it will help you on race day. Begin to associate the training with your racing, set your race swim up for success!

Other Notes:

I will asterisk* one workout each week. This workout is the key workout for the week. If life gets in the way or for whatever reason you can only swim once that week (SHOCK HORROR OH NO!!) then the asterisk’d workout is the one you need to do.

Share Your Times & Feedback:

This isn’t mandatory, but I would greatly appreciate it…

When you complete a workout, post your times and feedback on what you felt/experienced/noticed in the session in the comments section of the workout I’ll use the data you post to help me create an even better program – so you’ll ultimately be winning by sharing your experiences!

There will be guys and girls that post up impressive times and there will be newbies who just scrape by, I’d like to hear from all of you.

The comments section will be a no judgment zone (I will make sure of this! Trolls be warned!!). Come as you are, post what you do and let’s support each other as we work towards the goal of becoming better is all about the fundamentals of minimizing resistance and moving through the water with less effort. 

Get Featured:

This program is all about you.

I’m building a community of triathletes that are learning to suck less, get better at swimming, life and triathlon. If you snap a picture or a video of yourself completing one of the workouts, #hashtag it with #TeamSwimFast and I’ll post it up on the blog and give you a shoutout for being awesome! 

Get Started:

The SwimFaster program is a free online comprehensive swim program for triathletes that runs year round from November – October. Swim faster, gain confidence and join the community. Click below to get started today! 


💁🏽‍♂️ Do You Have A Training Partner?

Get them to sign up to the SwimFaster Program with you and start doing these workout together! Hold each other accountable and you will see even faster drops in pace! Click on one of the magic icons below to share this sign up page with them.