Combining Swim Workouts | 80/20 Endurance

Combining Swim Workouts

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    I am one of the fortunate people who still has access to a swimming pool but only twice a week. I am using your book and am set to start the IM level 2 training program to prepare for IM Mont Tremblant in August. As most weeks in the level 2 program call for four swim sessions per week, I am wondering if I should combine the four workouts into two sessions or just do two single workouts? If I can combine workouts, what is the best way to combine the workouts-do each workout in its entirety and then start the next workout? Or should I combine just the main set of the second workout? I know I will have to pay close attention to intensity to not throw off my bike and run workouts for the week and am planning on erring on the side of caution in my swim workouts to stay on schedule. Thanks for your thoughts. Excited to get underway.

    Matt Fitzgerald

    You definitely don’t want to stack swims. There’s no way to make two swims truly equivalent to four. If I were coaching you one on one, I would scrap everything and design a whole new swim program that made the most of twice weekly swim opportunities, and that program would look quite different from a simple shuffling of existing pieces in the readymade plan.

    Given that I don’t coach you one on one, I suggest you drop swims in a manner that maximally preserves variety. If you study the plan, you will see that certain workouts prioritize speed development, others prioritize threshold training, and still others focus on endurance. So just eliminate swims on a rotating basis so that you’re doing more or less the same numbers of all three types, proportionally, as if you were swimming four times per week.


    Thanks, Matt. That’s what I will do. I appreciate your timely response. Hopefully I will be able to swim four times a week soon.

    Marius T

    Hi all!

    I will write here, to gather in the same place topics related to swimming.
    I’m in a similar situation, being able to swim 2 days per week, via master swim classes.
    I’m on the Level 0 full ironman plan, which imply 2 swim session per week (one dedicated to intervals, one dedicated to long aerobic intervals).
    Master swim classes are done almost always with intensity intent, so we are not working on the endurance aspect. I’m concerned that with this approach, I will not be able to comfortably cover the swim distance.
    Because, usually, at the end of the master class, I can swim solo for 30 min, I’m thinking of splitting the aerobic session of the week from the Level 0 ironman plan and doing half of it after the first master class, and remaining half after the second master class.
    What are your thoughts about this approach? It will conduct to a sufficient swim stamina ?

    Matt Fitzgerald

    Hi Marius,

    That sounds like a pretty good idea to me. If you’re covering a typical amount of distance in your coach-led masters workouts, then supplementing as you suggest should prepare you well to go the distance in your Ironman. Let us know how it goes!

    Coach Matt


    @runmattrun I’m bumping this old thread because I have essentially the same question, but I noticed the intro to the plans section of 80/20 Triathlon says that any two swim workouts can be combined into a single workout. I’m planning to start a Sprint Level 1 plan, and I’m a pretty experienced swimmer – is the guidance that combining 2 of the 3 weekly swims into a single workout (so, swimming twice a week) ok? Or is the answer above better guidance and I should really scrap the swim plan and choose swims that are 2x per week with the right intensity balance and workout type balance? If I do combine them, should I keep the warmup/cooldown from both? I would imagine the answer is yes to keep the right intensity balance, because without them the balance would be skewed in the direction of higher intensity.

    Matt Fitzgerald

    For a strong swimmer on the Level 1 plan it’s fine to combine a pair of swims. You can redistribute the yardage for the “extra” warm-up and cooldown as you see fit within the session, but I would recommend keeping it rather than discarding it.


    Great! Thanks for the guidance as always!

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