3-5km Openwater Swim Event Plan


Dan Bullock

All plans by this Coach


12 Weeks

Typical Week

3 Swim

Longest Workout

1:30 hrs

Plan Specs

swimming intermediate

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The following is a 3month plan comprising various styles of sessions (fitness, technical and some with a long-distance theme) to help you break through to some faster and technically improved swimming. The main focus is helping you complete your first 5km open water swim. It could also be of use for a 3.8km swim.

Swimming the two key sessions each week will see you complete your aim of a successful long distance openwater swim if coming from a reasonable level of swim fitness and technique. Adding the additional long distance and openwater session will help you to a faster finish. Perhaps start this 6months out from your key event so that if openwater is not possible in the first half you could add it in the 2nd half.

If you skip a swim – tired, unwell, do not fancy it – do not clog up the following week squeezing 4 or 5 into one week. This will leave you with not enough recovery time to absorb the workload. Just let it go!

In addition to the 2 to 3 recommended swims per week any Pilates or yoga is going to be of use to help you remain healthy and recover. Keeping the shoulders healthy is key as you undertake a lot of swimming though this plan and at the event. Improving your swim technique will also help keep the shoulders pain free.

Fitness work is key, but we cannot neglect technique. A greater swim speed comes from an improvement in technique with fitness combined.

The main sessions outlined do not include the traditional warmup, subset or cool down options so please follow the template to help build your session. Familiarise yourself with the standard warm-up and sub-set then insert the main set. By all means add the other strokes if and when you can. Not easy I appreciate in public sessions due to space but if you can swim them, your predominantly FC (front crawl) shoulders will appreciate some respite especially during the swim down.


Training Load By Week
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours: 00:28

Dan Bullock


Swim for Tri, based in London but now coaching across the UK, is a swim tech & coaching concept brought to you by the brother & sister team of Dan&Keeley Bullock. The team share over 30 years experience of competitive swimming, coaching, teaching swim lessons & a direct involvement with Triathlon & Openwater racing as competitors & Coaches.
In the last 14 plus years, the dedicated team at Swim For Tri & their teaching methods have helped thousands to faster & easier swim sections of their races

Back to Plan Details

Sample Day 1

Steady Introductory Week

50m FC rest 10 secs,
100m rest 15 secs,
150m rest 15 secs, with fins
200m rest 25 secs,
250m rest 25 secs, with pull buoy
300m rest 35 secs,
350m rest 35 secs, with paddles
400m rest 45 secs, record time taken.

Mainset 1800m

Sample Day 3

Build speed with endurance

• 4x100m best average, rest 10 sec in between each 100m. Record average time.
• A strong effort but not exhaustive, as lots more to come!

• 4x100m best average, rest 15 sec in between each 100m. A little quicker than the previous round?
• 4x100m best average, rest 20 sec in between each 100m. Aim to be quicker than the previous.
• 4x100m best average, rest 30 sec in between each 100m. Aim for your fastest round.

Mainset 1600m

Sample Day 5


If available spend 30-45mins in Openwater swimming FC. Every two mins add 15secs of fists clenched drill to remind you to pivot early at the elbow to expose the forearm to help use more of the arm as a paddle for pulling.

Sample Day 7

Breathing pattern challenges (BP).

500m FC, BP 5 (taking a breath every 5th stroke) rest 20-30 secs throughout.
400m FC, BP 4(with a pull buoy), alternate lengths switch breathing sides
300m FC, BP 3 with fins.
200m with a snorkel, as much air as you like!
100m FC with a BP of '3.2', i.e. breathing every 3rd then take a second breath to the same side, should provide a little more air compared to every 3rd only.

Mainset 1500m

Sample Day 9

Build your swim fitness

100m with 15 secs rest,
200m with 25 secs rest,
300m with 35 secs rest,
400m with 45 secs rest, record time.
300m rest 30 secs,
200m rest 30 secs,
100m rest 30 secs,

Mainset 1600m

Sample Day 11

Distance Build Up

5 x 300m resting 30 secs between each, build 1-5 so no 5 is your quickest. Even swims with a pull buoy < alternate lengths normal thigh position and at the ankles> Record your time on No5

Mainset 1500m

Sample Day 14

PACING, what your current pace might deliver.

4 x 500m FC swum as follows with 45secs between each block of 500m:
50m aim race target pace rest 10 secs
100m aim race target pace rest 20 secs
150m aim race target pace rest 30 secs
200m recovery with a pull buoy. Breathing every 3rd stroke.

Mainset 2000m

3-5km Openwater Swim Event Plan

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