Good Triathlon Swim Time

What is a Good Triathlon Swim Time?

What is a Good Triathlon Swim Time?

Taking an Objective Look at the Standards of Age Group Triathlon Swimming

Hey Team, it’s Rory here. Age Group Triathlon swimming is completely different to any other type of swimming. It’s impossible to compare the swim times of Age Group Triathletes to pro triathletes or specialist swimmers. Even within the ranks of Age Group Triathlon swimming, comparisons are difficult.

The unique set up of Age Group Triathlon swimming makes your job of goal setting and benchmarking downright confusing. I mean, should a 50-55 year old man be setting the same goal times as 25-29  year old woman? Is 2.00/100 a good pace to hold for an Ironman? Will 1.20/100 get you to the front of the pack?  I’ve seen this uncertainty lead to endless frustration and a cycle of a love hate relationship with the water from many triathletes over the years. 

 So I set out to find what the standards of Age Group Triathlon Swimming actually look like.

In this guide I will show you what it takes to be better than average as an age group triathlon swimmer in every AG. We will also take a look at how fast you need to swim to be considered “good” for your age and gender, as well as what it takes to make it in Kona and as a specialist swimmer.

My hope is that what you read will help give you some context to the nuances and standards of age group triathlon swimming. It’s certainly been valuable to my athletes in helping them chase goals that are appropriate and realistic. I hope it will help you too.

After hours of data mining and crunching numbers, I’m excited to share this with you.

~ Rory

Do You Know How You Really Stack Up?

I have always felt that Age Group Tri swimming is a completely different to any other type of swimming.

I often hear my Age Group athletes ask:

● “I am just curious what is considered a good pace for me to aim for this season?”

● “I know that is hugely subjective, but what is a good time for my first 70.3 swim?”

● “How long do you think it will take me to swim 1.20/100m? That will put at the front of the pack, won’t it? ”

These haven’t been easy questions to answer with objective, data backed numbers. Until now…

I started working with triathletes in 2009. I immediately recognized that Age Group Tri swimming was unique. As an Age Grouper you can’t compare your swim times a with specialist swimmers or elite triathletes. Setting goals off pro or specialist times is mission impossible.

Here’s why.

Time spent in the water correlates to improvements in swim speed. To get good at swimming you have to swim. This is what we call the “specificity” principle of training. Swimming training will improve your swimming better than running or riding will.

Swimming is a bit of a unique sport. It requires more specific training than most others. We sit, stand, walk and run every day and have done since we were children. As a result we have a foundation in movement that easily transfers into other land based sports. We know how to balance, how to move forward and how to breathe on land.

But moving through water is different. Balance is different. How you propel yourself forward is different. How you breathe is different.

To get really good at swimming you have to re-learn and then master each of these skills in the water. This requires a consistent time investment.

Pure swimmers and coaches know this. That’s why they start swimming at a young age. “Specialist” swimmers spend hours in the water to improve their balance, propulsion and breathing.

On the elite end, swimmers will spend upwards of 5 hours per day in the water! They dedicate hours and hours building their efficiency in the pool.

Triathlon swimming is different. No triathlete, elite or Age Group has 5 hours a day to spend swimming. A triathletes training hours (and energy) has to be split between three disciplines. Additionally, the cumulative fatigue from the the run in particular stifles swim progress.

Despite this, elite triathletes know they need to spend hours in the water to improve. Especially if they don’t come from a swimming background. Specificity, remember. Pro triathletes don’t put as many hours into swimming as a specialist swimmers do. But many will still swim 5-6 days each week.

Elite triathlon swim coach, Gerry Rodrigues goes as far as putting a number on it. He says; “pro triathletes shouldn’t expect to be competitive on less than 30km a week if they don’t come from a swimming background”.

That amount of swimming is not easy to do when you have to ride and run too. The pro’s may find (or make) the hours to swim every day (although not always), but I don’t know any Age Group Triathletes that can swim that 30+k per week.

This is what makes Age Group Tri swimming unique.

● You don’t have the foundation of balance, propulsion and breathing in the water like a specialist swimmer that started young

● You don’t have the time or flexibility to invest the time to swim 30km per week like the pro’s do.

And so we face what feels like mission impossible. The goal is to get “fast”, but no one has enough hours in the week to get really fast.

This is what piqued my interest in finding objective numbers to support the idea of “fast” Age Group Triathlon Swimming.

How do you know if you actually swim fast?

In an effort to benchmark “fast” you might log in and check the SlowTwitch forums. Or maybe do some Strava stalking to see what pace the fast guy in your local club swam in his last race. Maybe you ask a friend what their pace is. Then based on what you hear, you’ll go on to set unrealistic goals. All potentially based on hearsay and misconstrued facts.

Without objective data to work with, goals get set based on a idea of what sounds fast. But what is really considered fast as an Age Group Triathlete?

My goal in this post is to put age group triathlon swimming standards into context for you, the Age Group Triathlete.

I have spent hours collecting race data and crunching numbers. My hope is that armed with this knowledge, you will  set lofty but realistic goals and work with purpose and clarity towards achieving them.

In this guide I show you what it takes compete at every level of Age Group Triathlon swimming. I also dive into the data a little bit to see what we can learn from the numbers and how you can use this knowledge to help you get faster and move up the rankings.

Before we get into the details, here’s a little insight into the process of writing this post. This is how I came up with these numbers and what I have done with them. Feel free to use the index below to skip over this if you don’t care.

Good Triathlon Swim Time

The Process: How I Collected This Data

I pulled the data from Ironman branded races only (purely because it was the most accessible). I took 9 x full distance races and 10 x 70.3 races over a 5 year period (2013 – 2017) to get a large enough data sample.

I included each of the Ironman Championship races along with some of the more popular races around the world.

Here is the complete list

Full Ironman Races

● IM World Championships – Kona

● IM Texas North American Championships

● IM South Africa African Championships

● IM Frankfurt European Championships

● IM Cairns Asia-Pacific Championship

● IM Brazil (South American Championship)

● IM Arizona

● IM Coeur d’alene

● IM Western Australia

Ironman 70.3 Races

● 70.3 St George

● 70.3 Oceanside

● 70.3 Steelhead

● 70.3 Pays d’Aix

● 70.3 Ruegen

● 70.3 Western Sydney

● 70.3 Italy

● 70.3 Vichy

● 70.3 Kraichgau

● 70.3 Coeur d’Alene

● 70.3 Taupo

Full Ironman Races

● IM World Championships – Kona

● IM Texas North American Championships

● IM South Africa African Championships

● IM Frankfurt European Championships

● IM Cairns Asia-Pacific Championship

● IM Brazil (South American Championship)

● IM Arizona

● IM Coeur d’alene

● IM Western Australia

Ironman 70.3 Races

● 70.3 St George

● 70.3 Oceanside

● 70.3 Steelhead

● 70.3 Pays d’Aix

● 70.3 Ruegen

● 70.3 Western Sydney

● 70.3 Italy

● 70.3 Vichy

● 70.3 Kraichgau

● 70.3 Coeur d’Alene

● 70.3 Taupo

I collected the swim times for each AG over each year (2013-2017). I then sorted the data to make some sense of it and make it easier for you to look at and understand.

For the “Better Than Your Average” data I used the “median” athlete exiting the water in each race. That’s the middle athlete, the one that separates the top 50% from the bottom 50% in a race. It’s not the average swim time for your age group. It’s the time of the athlete that came out the water bang in the middle of their AG on race day.

For the “Top 10%” I looked what time it took to break into in the Top 10% of athletes racing in your Age Group on that day.

I was also interested in what it takes to be a good specialist “distance” swimmer in the pool. I felt it important for you to see what specialists are doing at your age in the same sport.

The numbers are interesting. Let’s take a look.

Good Triathlon Swim Time

Are You Better Than The Average Tri Swimmer?

What does it take to swim in the top 50% in your Age Group? Here’s what I found.

Obviously the first thing you’ll want to do is determine how well you stack up.

At the most basic level:

● If on average you swim faster than the pace for your age group you can consider yourself “above average”.
● If on average you’re slower than this time, and your goal is to be competitive you have a bit of catching up to do.

But there is a lot more we can learn from this data than whether you are above or below average.

Key Takeaways To Help You Be Better Than Average

Swim times get slower as you move up through the Age Groups

Every AG sees a decline in pace as they move up through the categories. The only exception being the M25-29 age group being faster than the M18-24 AG.

This is to be expected, but you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

The majority of triathletes learned to swim as adults. As an adult onset swimmer, chances are you’re nowhere near your genetic swimming potential. Here’s what I mean by that.

I will never swim as fast as I did when I was at age 24. Back then, swimming was my life. At that point I was swimming roughly 35 hours a week. I refined my technique and pushed my training when my body was in its prime. Now, with reduced training hours and an older body I can’t swim as fast. I still swim with pretty good technique which helps. But I will never swim as fast as I did in my prime.

If you never “peaked” in your prime like I did, you can continue to get faster as long as you stay consistent with your training. Body position plays a bigger role in speed than power when you are in the water. So even if you aren’t as strong as you get older, as long as you continue to improve your technique you can get faster. When you age up, you’ll be faster and your competition will be relatively slower.

This, my friend is attrition working in your favor!

On Average Full Ironman paces are faster than 70.3 paces

The average middle guy swims at 2.02/100m for an Ironman and at 2.06/100m for a 70.3. The average middle lady swims at 2.09/100m or an Ironman and at 2.12/100m for a 70.3.

It is interesting that average pace of a 70.3 swim is slower than that of an Ironman. You would think that the longer the distance the slower the pace, however this is not the case.

Many of the triathletes I meet ultimately want to race a full distance Ironman. Most of them only want to commit to it when they are confident they can finish the distance though. As a result the 70.3 races get used as a stepping stone to the longer races. So you have more first timers to long course races signing up for 70.3’s than full Ironman. My theory is that the less experienced athletes bring the averages down.

There are other factors at play too (one of which I discuss further down), but I think experience and quality of athlete this is likely the biggest contributor.

Open water swim times are always relative.

The swim splits in a race can be very deceptive. Generally you can’t take them at face value and you shouldn’t do so as you run up to T1.

You may think you had a particularly bad swim in a race because you were 3 minutes slower than your last race. But that’s not necessarily the full picture.

Take a look at this:

The average median swim time can vary as much as 10-13 minutes in a Ironman from year to year. Meaning you could be 10 minutes faster than your goal swim time, but actually have left the water lower down the rankings relative to the field.

Open water swim times are always relative. Course length, weather conditions and currents all play a role in the speed of a course.

My last 70.3 race in Colombo is a prime example. I averaged 1.22/100m for the 1900m swim. A pretty poor pace (by my standards) for a 1900m swim if it was done in the pool! After the race I looked at the numbers. My watch data showed me that we worked against a very strong current on the last 900m of the swim. I averaged 1.07’s/100m on the way out and 1.33’s on the way home. I wasn’t the only guy in the water that had to work against the current, if I did, everyone did. So the times are relative to the competition.

Make a comparison of how you stacked up against your competition on the day vs the absolute value of a swim time.

It Sucks To Get Stuck in the Middle (If You’re Not a Cheater)

Your predominant focus should be on what’s happening in your age group. Those are the people you’re directly competing against. Yet the overall median times we just looked at above are useful to know.

These are the paces where you’re likely to have the highest traffic and biggest groups on the swim course.

This means fighting  traffic at the turn buoys. Everyone knows it’s no fun getting breaststroke kicked in the forehead going round a buoy.

Depending on the popularity of a race, if you came out in the middle overall in the swim you leave T1 with a very large group of people.This means you may have to burn matches to avoid drafting packs. These packs form on races with a large number of athletes racing. 70.3 Dubai, 70.3 World Championships, Ironman Texas and Kona immediately spring to mind.

*These guys would have all come out the water together in Kona

It takes a lot of effort to race clean and keep yourself out of the packs when you’re swimming in the middle. If you want to stay out of the pack controversy, swim faster.

Are You A Good Tri Swimmer?

Now that we have an idea of what it takes to be better than the average Tri Swimmer, lets move up the ranks. What does it take to be good?

Using the same data, here is a look at the times it takes to break into the Top 10% of swimmers coming out of the water on race day.

Key Takeaways

There’s a Big Difference Between Average & Good

The first thing I notice is that there is a fairly substantial jump in pace from the middle athlete in any Age Group to the ones breaking into the Top 10%. I’ll discuss this in more detail a little further down.

On Average Full Ironman paces are still faster than 70.3 paces

The average top 10% time is still slightly faster over the IM distance vs the 70.3 distance. But not by much and the difference is very small. This is to be expected. The swimmers that are breaking into the top 10% have more experience. They have a better grasp of pacing, how to race and how to manage open water conditions.

Your Aerobic Pace Is Similar Regardless of Distance

The similarity in pace between the IM and 70.3 swims is interesting. At the top end of the field, the average pace a swimmer holds over 3800 is close to what they hold over 1900m.

Does that suggest that the aerobic pace you settle into is pretty much the same whether you are swimming for 30 minutes or for 1 hour. I think it might. We see this at the elite level too.

The winning time for the Men’s’ 5k Marathon swim at the Swimming World Championships in 2017 was 54:31, a pace of 1.05/100m. It took a 1:51:58 to win the 10k Marathon swim, a pace of 1.07/100m.If you wanted to know what World Class Fast is, there you go! This close split times holds up in the 2015 and 2013 5k & 10k races too. 2017 wasn’t an abnormal year – the pace differs by no more than 2 seconds per 100m.

Your aerobic speed holds up regardless of distance. Provided you’re fit, breathing well and have the fuel to burn you don’t slow down much once you tap into your aerobic swim pace.

If you’re new to triathlon swimming this should fully convince you that you don’t need to swim 3800m or even 2500m straight to train for an Ironman race.

The Jump from Average To Good

We’ve already seen the big jump need to break into the top 10%, on both the men’s and women’s side. But here is a side by side comparison from each Age Group to help you see clearly what is needed.

You can click on each image to read the numbers more clearly.

*Click an image to enlarge it

It’s a fairly big jump. And as we’ll see next, the jump is even bigger when we get to the big show in Kona.

Are You A Very Good Tri Swimmer?

Can you imagine swimming up at the front of the field at Ironman World Champs? That would awesome. It would also put you in the group of “Very Good” triathlon swimmers.

I say very good not only because you’re racing the best triathletes in the world. The mass in-water start and the non wetsuit swim in Kona make it unique, and in theory slower than races that are wetsuit legal and use the rolling start. Kona is the only race on my list that is always non wetsuit legal and the only one with a mass start in water start.

Despite this, swim times in Kona are faster on average than the other races on my list. Across all Age Groups the ladies need to swim a 1.41/100m average to break into the top 10% while the guys need to hold 1.35/100m (this is skewed slightly by the 55-59 & 60-64 AG’s. If we remove those two groups the men’s Average drops to 1.32/100m).

Here’s how it breaks down in each AG.

*Click an image to enlarge it

How Fast Do Specialist Age Group Swimmers Swim?

I’ve shown you what you need to be capable of to be an average, good and very good Tri swimmer. But what about the specialists?

To answer that for you, I pulled up the Fina Masters World Championships Qualifying times. “Masters” swimming is the competition platform for swimmers over 18. The Age Groups are split in a similar way to triathlon which makes it easy to compare.

To qualify for Masters World Champs you have to achieve the qualifying time in each event for your AG. Trying to compare apples with apples I pulled the 800m, 400m and 200m qualifying times for each AG.

The 800m Freestyle is he longest distance freestyle event open to Masters swimmers.

I included the qualifying times for the 200 and 400 freestyle to calculate a theoretical CSS pace for you (👈🏼 link to an explanation of Critical Swim Speed) . Racing the 800m in a pool as a single event and finishing the swim in the first leg of a tri are very different. It wouldn’t be a good comparison if that was all we looked at. I felt that calculating a theoretical CSS pace gives a better comparison.

Here are the QT’s

If you know your CSS pace (👈🏼 link to CSS calculator), that will be the easiest way to compare where you stand in relation to a specialist swimmer.

The comparison isn’t completely fair. We’re comparing open water times to pool times, but looking at the CSS pace of the athletes I coach, the standards of being a great swimmer are quite a bit higher than the standards for being a good tri swimmer. There’s a fairly simple explanation for that…

A majority of masters swimmers come from a swimming background. They learned and swam competitively at a young age. And most of them would be considered very good or great tri swimmers.

Many of the swimmers that race at Masters World Championships swim 5+ times a week. And they do so without the added fatigue of running and riding. Carrying fatigue from your other training significantly impact your progress in the water.

Despite that, having these numbers should still be useful. It should give you insight into what is being done by athletes at your same age in the water.

Good Triathlon Swim Time

How Can You Use This Data?

“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice”

So now you know what the data says, but what do you do now?

Figure out how you stack up

This data will give you an objective baseline for comparison. How do you stack up? Are you in the top 50%? Are you within striking distance of the top 10%. Where do you fall?

Workout Out Your Primary Focus

If your swim isn’t as fast as you would like, it doesn’t necessarily mean it should be your key focus area for improvement.

Remember you’re a doing a triathlon. The goal is to finish with the fastest overall time. Not the fastest swim time. You will need to look at more than just your swim rankings, to work out what to focus on.

Here’s how to do that. Pull up your race results from your last race. If it’s an Ironman branded race this will be very easy to do.

Take a look at your individual rankings for each discipline. Find out how you stack up in your Age Group in the swim, the bike and the run. Then look at how you stack up in transition time.

Where do you rank in each discipline? Is one significantly better or worse than another? If so, you know where to put your focus in the next training cycle.

Here’s an example from my first 70.3 race.

I’ve already told you I would consider my swim in this race to be pretty poor. But relative to the field, my run is far weaker than my swim. It’s very easy to see where my weakness lies and what I need to work on as I go into the next season. To improve my overall result, I need to work on my running, not getting my swim to a level that my ego would be happy with.

Side Note: The transition time is a performance area that gets overlooked. I die a little bit inside whenever I see one of my clients slog for months to improve their swim. On race day they swim 3 minutes faster, fantastic! And then they take 7 minutes in T1. Improving your transition time is WAY easier than improving your swimming time!

Establish an Appropriate Goal

The data gives you a framework to set realistic goals. So what are those goals?

The more time I spend coaching Age Group Triathletes the more I learn how board the range of goals and desires are. When I swam, the goal was pretty simple – make an Olympic team. That was the goal of pretty much everyone I raced against and trained with. It’s not that simple in triathlon. There are so many people of different ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds. You might all be racing the same race, but everyone has a slightly different goal.

Use this data to help you set realistic goals for your swimming. Align with your ultimate goal or purpose of racing triathlons with the goals you set.

Remember, Good Enough is Good Enough

As much as saying this hurts my business, remember that your goal in any triathlon swim is to be good enough.

I showed you what times you would need to swim to compete in Kona. I also showed you what great specialist swimmers do so you have some benchmark idea of what’s possible. It’s been shown over and over again that coming out ahead in the swim means nothing in the big picture. Very rarely does anyone lead a race wire to wire.

It might be tempting to want to chase the guy that came out the water first in your AG. If your goal is to be competitive, get up somewhere near the front and you’ll be perfectly poised after the swim. If you can ride and run well, you’re in the money. If you can’t, being competitive might not be your ultimate goal 🙂

Age Group Triathlon Swimming Is Unique.

My hope is that this post has helped give you some context to the nuances and standards of triathlon swimming. It’s certainly been valuable to my athletes in helping them chase good triathlon swim time goals that are appropriate and realistic.

Put your last 70.3/full IM swim time down in the comments as well as your age group and gender. Don’t be shy, lets see how all of our numbers stack up against the averages! 

~ Rory

Can I Help You Swim Faster?
Check out my guide on the Fundamentals of Triathlon Swimming

This is my easy to understand, straightforward guide to efficient technique, better endurance & unshakable triathlon swimming confidence. If you need help with swimming for triathlon, this is THE Guide for you.

Read The Guide

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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share a swimming lane

How To Share A Swimming Lane

How To Share A Swimming Lane

A Guide To Lane (and pool) Etiquette

Written by Rory | Technique Advice

Hey, it’s Rory here. So many aspiring triathletes would love to hop into the water at their local gym or community pool. But they are scared to death by the thought of people judging them or getting in somebody’s way.

That ends today. 

I’m going to teach you the etiquette rules of the lane and pool so you can hop in with confidence and start enjoying the water with the rest of us!

This Guide Will Help You Share A Swimming Lane If:

1. You swim slowly and are afraid you’ll get passed often
2. You are embarrassed about number 1 (you shouldn’t be)
3. You think people will get annoyed if you try to swim in their lane
4. You don’t know which side of the lane to swim on
5. You have no idea how to pass someone or be passed or when to push off
6. You’re scared people will judge you for all of the above or you will mess up their workout
7. You simply want to learn good pool & lane etiquette (you legend you!)

If you answered yes to any of those, let’s fix you up so you can get wet! Here’s what you will learn…

Picking a Lane & Lane Speeds
How To Get Into The Lane
Lane Direction & Circle Swimming
Turning In A Circling Lane
Passing People In A Circling Lane
Letting People Pass You In A Circling Lane
Where To Rest At The End Of The Lane
When To Push Off To Start A Length
Other Good Things To Know

Let’s get started!

Picking a Lane & Choosing Your Speed

Almost every pool will require you to share a swimming lane. Some pools designate slow, medium, and fast lanes. If that’s the case, each lane will be demarcated with signs at each end of the pool. If this happens at your pool, simply pick the lane that’s appropriate to your swim speed and get in!

If the lanes are not demarcated, you’ll need to survey the pool for a minute.

Take a look at the people already swimming and find a lane with people who look like they are moving at your speed. Spend a minute or two on the deck. Who’s doing a long slow swim with no rest? Who’s doing short fast sprints with longer rest?

Use your best judgment in picking the lane most appropriate to your speed and the *set you are about to do.

*If you’re going to be kicking or doing drills, pick a slower lane! 

When in doubt start in a slower lane. Leave your ego in the locker room if you need to 🙂

Once you’re in; if you are getting passed regularly, then as a courtesy to the other swimmers you will want to move down to a slower lane. Similarly, if you are consistently passing everyone in your lane you will want to move to a faster lane.

If you are swimming in the fastest lane and you are still consistently passing everyone, time your push offs so you have the the least amount of conflict/passing to do.

Key Takeaway

Use your best judgment in picking the lane most appropriate to your speed and the set you are about to do. When in doubt start in a slower lane.

improve my swimming

How To Join A Busy Lane

When joining a lane, it’s always a good idea to make sure that other swimmers are aware you are there.
To do this you can wait until they stop at the wall for a rest and are able to acknowledge that you are joining the lane.

But what do you do if they are not stopping to rest?

I like to sit down on the side of the deck and let my feet dangle in the water on one side of the lane while they turn. They will usually see your feet and know you intend to join!

Watch the lane for a minute, then time your jump into the water so that it causes no obstruction to the swimmers already in the water. They shouldn’t have to stop or slow down because you are joining the lane.

Key Takeaway

Make sure the swimmers in the lane you are joining are aware you are getting in. Whether they stop or not, give them a heads up the party in the lane is +1.

share a swimming lane

How To Circle Swim & Figuring Out The Lane Flow

Circle swimming is how we avoid collision’s in the lanes. To circle swim, you will simply swim up one side of the line and back down the other.

Some pools will post the directions for circle swimming, but many don’t. If there are no directions posted at your pool, here’s what you do:

1. If there are 3 or more people circle swimming in the lane, note the direction they are circling before you jump in and follow their lead.
2. If there is no one in the lane or only one other swimmer and there are no directions posted, you have two options.

share a swimming lane

a. | Jump in and start to swim on the side of the lane that you would drive on in your county. If you drive on the left side of the road in your county then you will always keep your left side closest to the lane line. If you drive on the right side of the road in your country, then you will keep the lane line on your right side.
b. | Alternatively, it is usually* ok to split the lane. This means you stick to one side while they stick to the other. This works at most pools provided you are aware that you will need to circle should someone else want to join.

*Some pools require you to circle swim at all times regardless of the number of people in the lane – you will know if this is the case because the rules will be posted.

Turning In A Circling Lane

To turn at the wall you’ll want to cut across to the opposite side of the lane just before you get to the approaching wall for your turn. This way you don’t risk pushing off in the wrong direction and getting in someone’s way.

Passing People In A Circling Lane

We always pass in the middle of the pool. Swim up and down the outside of your lane and move to the middle to pass when it is clear up ahead.

Always make sure you have enough time to pass the slower swimmer well before the wall.

Passing mid pool requires some skill and awareness of:

• How fast you are swimming
• How fast the swimmer you are overtaking is going
• If there are any other swimmers approaching in the opposite direction
• How far away the wall approaching wall is.

If you don’t feel comfortable passing mid pool, wait for the person ahead of you to let you past at the wall (see the next point).

Letting People Pass You In A Circling Lane

If you are getting passed mid pool, try to stay as close to the lane line as you comfortably can. You don’t need to wreck your stroke or stop swimming – you have every right to be in the pool. You don’t need to ruin your swim just so they can pass you, you just want to make it easy for them to pass.

No need to slow down to allow them to pass either. Do not speed up or try to race them though! The longer they spend overtaking you the more dangerous the passing becomes. I’ve seen split lips and eye brows, broken noses and dislocated fingers happen in passing accidents gone wrong!

If a swimmer is sitting uncomfortably close behind you or touching your feet as you move down the pool, allow them to pass by stopping at the next wall. Stop just long enough for them to go ahead of you.

You’ll want to stop on the same side of the lane as you were swimming on. The swimmer behind you should cut across to the other side to turn. You can then push off immediately behind them.

Key Takeaway

Above all else, be aware of what other people in your lane are doing. If you are in the correct lane, you have every right to be in the water, sharing the space. Just keep in mind you are sharing the space.

share a swimming lane

Where To Stand When You Rest

If you are going to rest at the end of the lane between repeats (there’s nothing wrong with that at all) don’t stand in the middle of the lane. Rest against the wall in the corner of the lane that you were swimming on when you ended that length.
This will allow the swimmers that are turning to cut across to the other side of the lane and push off without hitting you or having their swim interrupted.
If there is already someone resting against the wall on the side you’ve just swum on, line up behind them against the lane line. Just like the red dots in the below picture. 

share a swimming lane

Key Takeaway

When you’re resting, get out of the way!

How To Time Your Push Off

Once you are done resting on the wall, time your push off so that it causes the least amount of obstruction/conflict to other swimmers. Do not push off the wall immediately before or after another swimmer. Drafting/tailgating isn’t good manners unless you have an agreement with the swimmer you are drafting off!

Other Good Things To Know

Don’t stop in the middle of the pool and stand up or hang on the lane line. Stop at the wall unless it’s an emergency!

Don’t swim like you’re at the start of a triathlon. Do NOT swim over or under other swimmers, it’s dangerous. It’s rude. And embarrassing.

Don’t draft/tailgate. And don’t touch people’s feet more than once to let them know your intention to pass.

Key Takeaway

If you’re unsure, just ask. You could possibly make a friend by simply asking them if I can join their lane. Next thing you know you’re working out with someone and you can push each other.

share a swimming lane

And Finally…

If you’ve read this far and taken it all in and you still feel like people will judge you, know this…

You have every right to be at the pool and to swim up and down the lane as any one else!

Myself and a majority of other competent swimmers and coaches have more respect for the newbie struggling to learn this beautiful sport than competent swimmers half-assing their way through a main set!

Key Takeaway

Welcome to the sport – now get in, start sharing the swimming line you want, conquer it with confidence and get faster!

💁🏽‍♂️ Feeling Overwhelmed? Can I Help?

If you’re struggling to get comfortable sharing a swimming lane with other people, leave me a comment below. I’d be happy to help you out.
~ Rory

Download your copy of this post as a PDF, keep it handy and refer back to it whenever you need.

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share a swimming lane

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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Swim Fitness: Why You Need More Than Technique

Swim Fitness:
Why You Need More Than Technique

Written by Rory | Swim Fitness Advice

I failed.

I got into the pool for the first time in a very long time to do an actual swim workout.

And I suffered badly.

I get into the water from time to time to test drills and progressions or a piece of a set to make sure they work for my athletes. But the truth is I don’t actually workout in the pool anymore.

Until three weeks ago.

A local Tri coach who’s following the SwimFaster Program challenged me to do one of the workouts after sending me his times.

The test was a 750m time trial.

Knowing I have done no swim training I guessed I’d be able to go somewhere in the region of 9.30ish for the 750m. That sounded reasonable and achievable.

Full of confidence I pushed off after warming up and doing my drills.

The first 450m felt like chocolate.

Smooth, long and efficient.

And then someone dropped a Grand Piano on my back.

My shoulder, lats and abs started to BURN. My breathing shortened up and so did my reach and the finish of my stroke. My kick slowed and my head started to creep higher out of the water for each breath.

It all fell apart.

I was was eternally grateful to get my hand on the wall on the last length! Stop the watch, pull off the goggles, taste some fresh, sweet O2, and look down at the time…


What the actual hell?

I got back in the pool the next day.

And again the day after that.

And have continued to swim three times a week until that time changes.

Here Are 4 Endurance Tips About Fitness & Technique You Can Learn From My Sufferfest:

1. Great technique will only carry you through about 400m before you need fitness.

You already know this. Technique will set the limit on where your fitness will take you. But technique on it’s own will only carry you through 4-5 minutes of swimming. After that you better be fit or you’re going to suffer. 

2. Consistency is the key to success in swimming

It’s been close to 4 years since I followed a regimented training program in the pool. And I felt every day off I’ve taken during that 750m.

The water is a wicked mistress if you don’t pay your respects to her on a very regular basis. The more you get in, the faster you will get. I wish it wasn’t the truth, but it is.

3. If your shoulders burn when you swim, you don’t need strength work, you need to swim more

I’ve done nothing but strength work for the last couple of years. No swimming, just strength. When I hit 450m the fire that consumed my arms and shoulders was like nothing I remember. Strength work won’t take that burn away, more swimming will.  

4. Accept where you are right now

After reporting my time back to the Tri coach that challenged me, he asked “Are you happy or not?”

The answer is no, but, it is what it is and I need to do something about it.

That time isn’t good or bad. It’s the starting point.

You may look at me and say “yeah but your pace is worlds ahead, if I swam like that I’d be happy”.

To which I will reply; “there are people just starting out their swimming journey that say the same thing about your stroke and the times you swim”.

Where you are right now is just the starting point for what’s to come. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is.

My time will change in the coming weeks and months, it’ll either get faster, or it won’t. Whichever way it swings, the responsibility lies firmly on my shoulders. Just as the responsibility for your times lies with you.

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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How To Better Use Your Workout Time In The Pool

Are You Frustrated About Spending Hours in the Water Without Seeing Tangible Progress?

Written by Rory | Swim Fitness Advice

Time is a luxury as a triathlete. There are so many training pieces to fit together each week! To plan your swim/bike/run workouts amongst work, family and some sort of social life can be mission impossible!

When you finally get the piece to fit together, you want to make damn sure that you’re not wasting any of your workouts!

improve my swimming

I receive coaching requests every day from triathletes here in Dubai and around the world. All of them with the same goal:

“Coach, I need to improve my swimming”.

The next step is where a lot of you get caught up. Figuring out how!

Every workout you do should help you improve. Every swim should move you closer to your ultimate goal.

Think about someone looking to invest some money. The goal is to get the biggest possible return on the investment. In the same way, you want to see the most progress possible from your time spent in the pool.

The more progress you can make in the time you have available the quicker you’re going to achieve your goals! And achieving goals is AWESOME!

So if you’re wondering “how do I improve my swimming?”…

Two easy ways you can make better use of your workout time in the pool:

1. Follow A Plan

Have you ever Googled a swim workout while you’re driving to the pool? Or are you just repeating the same workout every time you hit the water?

If this is you, you are not making the best use of your time in the pool!

You need to follow a structured plan.

Get 3 New Structured Swim Workouts Every Week. Join The SwimFaster Program HERE.

If you have a goal, you need a plan.

Training without a plan is like getting in your car and driving to a destination you’ve never been to…  without using a GPS!

You’re going to get lost. You’re going to take the long way around. You’re going to ask strangers for directions even though you’re adamant you got this! And sadly, you’re going to waste a lot of time…

Chances are you may never even arrive at your destination.

2. Film Yourself Swimming or Get a Video Analysis Done

Swimming is very foreign to us humans. Our ability to know and understand what our bodies are doing in the water is very poor.

That’s why seeing yourself swim can be so eye opening and valuable.

Only once you watch yourself swim on video do you realize the areas that need the most improvements.

I film the athletes that I work with at least every 10 weeks. By doing so, we know exactly what stroke technique points we should focus on during each workout.

Check out how Video Analysis Helped Amin Drop Minutes Off His Swim Time! Read it HERE.

Don’t allow swimming to become a frustrating experience where every trip to the pool is a waste of time. Your time might be limited but you can maximize it to make sure that every workout is helping you improve and moving you closer to your ultimate goal.

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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Three Simple Steps To Faster Swimming

Three Simple Steps
To More Swimming Speed

Written by Rory | Swim Fitness Advice

We all want to swim fast.

Let’s be honest, at the core of your triathlon quest (and your swim quest) is the goal of getting quicker.

But Rory, “I’m just here to have fun.. and for the community.”

I call BULL!

If I offered you a legal “magic pill” that made you a little faster when you woke up tomorrow, you’d take it. You’d love the speed, it would make everything more fun.

You know it would.

Here’s A Promise

Whatever your version of fast looks like, you that you can have it.

But like most things in life, it won’t come for free.

This Is How I Know

I’ve spent nearly 14 years working on pool decks around the world. I have helped athletes of all shapes, sizes, ages and motivations… I’m yet to meet anyone who isn’t capable of their own version of fast, efficient swimming.

And yet, not all of them have achieved their potential.

There is a reason for that:

They Didn’t Pay The Mistress


Yes, that’s what I said; “They didn’t pay the mistress”.

Get your mind out of the gutter or wherever it is you’ve taken that statement.

Let Me Explain

The water is a wicked mistress.

 “A woman in a position of authority or control.”

The water is a woman. This is a fact. She is beautiful. She controls most of what you do with her. She can make your life and your swimming very difficult.

But if you treat her right… If you spend quality time with her… If you follow her rules she’ll reward you with fast times that feel easy.

Disrespect her and you’ll pay with pain and frustration.

“Pay Your Dues”
 “To earn the right to have something because you worked hard.”

Nothing in the water is given, nothing. It’s earned.

We are land based animals and we do not swim instinctively.

The ability to move through the water (which we call “swimming”) is a skill. Like any skill it must be learned and mastered.

You must earn the right to have speed in the water. You pay for your efficiency and the ability to move through the water effortlessly.

If you want to swim well, you must pay your dues. It’s as simple as this:

You Must Pay The Mistress.

Start Right Now

Here are three ways you can start paying right now.

1. Schedule Your Swims.

Open your calendar, your diary or your phone right now and decide which days you will be swimming.

Write down the 3 days you will be swimming and the time of the day that you are going to the pool. Mark it as busy and important and don’t let “life” change that appointment.

If it’s not in your calendar, it’s not going to happen consistently. And you’re not going to get the results you’re looking for.

Pro tip;

– Try to swim on the same days and times each week. This makes it easy for you to follow the pattern and routine

– Some people are evening people and others are morning people. Whichever time works best for you will work best for you.

– Success rates are higher for people who commit to swimming in the morning. Because they get it out of the way first thing and then nothing can jeopardize it later in the day. Having said that, I have seen swimmers create success by training at lunch time or in the evenings.

If fast swimming is important enough, you make it fit your schedule.

2. Make Your Goal Effort And Consistency

With everything else going on in your life you won’t always be able to control exactly how you feel in the water. There are times when you will feel amazing and powerful. And other times when it will feel like you are swimming through syrup.

Regardless of how the water feels each day, commit to giving the same effort every time you get in the water.

You can control how you attack your workout. Give 100% of whatever you have to give.

If you can’t hit your goal times or your pace is off, do the best you can. Focus on giving your best effort today, the results will come from there.

3. Log your progress

I track the progress of all my swimmers. I write their times for every repeat in every session. It gets scribbled down in my book while we’re on the pool deck like this:

And then it gets emailed to them the next morning like this:

With their times logged we can look back and marvel at the progress that has been made.

If you don’t write it down, it’s tough to remember where you’ve come from. There’s a lot of satisfaction that comes from seeing your improvements.

Action Step Recap:

1. Schedule your swims

2. Make your goal effort and consistency

3. Log your progress

P.S.  What tactics do you use to help you stay consistent in paying the mistress??

I genuinely want to know. Comment and share below!

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

Share This With A Training Buddy