Tri Swim Coach 12-Week Ironman Distance Swim Training Plan

Training Load By Week
Training Load By Week

This is a 12-week swim training plan for an Ironman Distance triathlon from Tri Swim Coach. We start out technique-focus, then shift to endurance, base, speed, and finally taper. We keep hill repeats to a minimum. ;)

A few words about the plan:

Distances are listed in yards, but these workouts can be done in a 25 meter pool (or even a 50 meter pool). Keep in mind that 25 meters is equal to approximately 27 yards, so you will be doing a little extra if training 25 meters.

The first workout assumes that you are already somewhat in shape with a formidable stroke. If you are still struggling with technique, you may want to take a few lessons before beginning the plan.

On the stroke count drills, 1 stroke=1 arm stroke. So you would count the right arm as one, and the left arm as 2, etc.

The training plan starts out with about half drills and half light interval training. As the weeks go by, it switches to more and heavier interval training, and less drills. But note that drills never disappear completely.

My recommendation is adding in some open water swimming by the 3rd week. On the days where I have listed Olympic Distance 1500, for example, you can replace your pool swimming with an open water day.

A word about cruise intervals (sometimes called “Base” intervals). I have listed the definition of a cruise interval as Cruise = an interval you can make 100’s free on comfortably with about 10-15 seconds rest.

Example: 5x100’s on 1:45. So, if your cruise interval is 1:45 and you’re doing 200’s on cruise, you double your interval and go on 3:30. If you are doing 50’s, you cut the interval in half and can either go them on :50 or :55.

Some of the workouts include strokes other than freestyle. It is important to cross-train in swimming, to avoid shoulder injuries, burnout, etc. However, if you don’t know butterfly and breaststroke, just substitute free and backstroke (learn backstroke if you haven’t already!) on these occasions.

There are many abbreviations and unique terminology used in the workouts:

@= on, i.e. 10x100’s @ 2:00 means 10 100’s on the 2:00 interval
SC= Stroke Count
spl = Strokes per length
ST = Strokes
DPS = Distance per Stroke, try to maximize
K = Kick
Build= build within the swim, i.e. 200 Free Build means start off easy, and get faster throughout the 200.
Cruise = an interval you can make 100’s free on comfortably with about
10-15 seconds rest. Example: 5x100’s on 1:45.
Descend = Get faster throughout the set. Example, 4x100 Descend 1-4.
#1 would be relatively easy, #4 is HARD.
Ascend = The opposite of Descend- ease up throughout the set.
Free Golf = Count your strokes and check your time after each swim.
Add the 2 numbers and that’s your golf score. Try to beat your score on
each one by lowering that number.
I.M. = Fly, Back, Breast, Free in that order.
I.M. Switch = 50’s alternating Fly/Back, Back/Breast, Breast/Free, Free/Fly
Max HR = Maximum Heart Rate. To determine your Max HR, take 180-your

Taper = The period before your race where workouts ease up and you
begin to rest for your event. Intensity and distance will both decrease, with
longer swims added in.

3/4 Catchup - taking stokes about 3/4 of the way to touching your other
hand before each recovery
6K/Stroke - For each stroke (one arm) take 6 kicks. This is reinforcing the
rotation from side to side in freestyle.
Fists - Swim freestyle with your hands in fists
Finger Tip Drag – Drag your finger tips through the water on recovery. You
will need a bent elbow to do this properly.
Shark Fin - While kicking on your side, extend one arm. Slowly point elbow
of trailing arm up towards sky, hand almost touching your side, making a
“shark fin.” Slide hand back down, breathe, repeat.

To access our Tri Swim Pro membership area, which includes more open water swim training, the ability to interact with the coaches and other triathletes, and drill videos and plans for each distance, check out

Sample Day 1

300 Free

200 Free
1) Kick/Swim by 25’s. Swim with fists only.
25+50+75+100 Free
100+75+50+25 Free
Count strokes throughout. Just note stroke count and Find your strokes per length range.
Rest= 10-15 seconds between swims
12x50’s Free
#1) Count strokes
#2-12) Try to hit the # of strokes you got in #1 on each 50.
Rest: 10-15 seconds between 50’s

100 Back/Free by 25’s
For the free, breathe every 3 strokes

Sample Day 3

300 Free, breathe every 3 strokes

8x75’s Free
K/Finger Tip Drag/Distance Per Stroke
Rest :15 between 75’s
All Free

Count strokes, first 25 is benchmark. Remember that number and try to hit that number or lower on each length. Notice how changes to your stroke affects spl.

Rest :15 btw swims
8x75’s Free
#1) Count strokes
#2-8) Do not go over the # of strokes you got on #1
Rest 10-15 seconds between 75’s
5x100’s Free
#1,2 & 4,5) Cruise
#3) Count strokes. Try to keep your strokes per length in the lower range.

150 Free, breathe only on your weaker side on odd lengths

Sample Day 5

300 alternating Back/Free by 25’s

Odds: 25 Fists Only/25 Free
Evens: 4 strokes Back/4 strokes Free by 25’s
Rest :15 between each 100

2x(3x50’s + Kick 3x100’s Free/Back by 25+3x75 Free Count

6x50’s Free Golf on 1:00-1:20 or Rest= :30

Sample Day 8

500 Free

12x50’s Odds: Shark Fin Drill
Evens: Distance Per Stroke
Rest= :15
6x100’s Free
1) Count strokes
2-6) Keep stroke count the same or lower Rest= :20

400+300+200+100 on Cruise interval count strokes on 300 and 200 and keep stroke count low

150 Breathe every 3 strokes

Sample Day 10

1) Free
2) Breast/Free by 25

10x50’s 3/4 Catch up Drill
Rest= :15
1) Count strokes
2-4) Keep the same stroke count or lower. Count by 25’s and average OR count for the entire 200

100’s: Cruise
50’s: Count strokes-1

200 Breathe every 3 strokes

Sample Day 12

8x75’s Odds: Breathe every 3-5-3 strokes by 25’s
Evens: Non-Free, your choice
Rest= :15

8x50’s Non-free Rest= :15
800 Free count strokes on 1st 100, maintain stroke count throughout 800

2x(300 Free + 3x100 I.M.)
300’s: Moderate +:15 100’s: Hard, on Cruise

200 Easy

Sample Day 15

500 Free, every 4th length Kick

400 Free, alternate 25 Fist/25 Free Swim
4x50’s Free Golf @ 1:00-1:20 OR Rest= :30

MAIN: 3X(4X100)
Set #1) Descend 1-4 on Cruise + :10,
Set #2) Descend stroke count 1-4 on Rest= :30,
Set #3 Descend 1-4 @ Cruise - :05

BREATH CONTROL (Hypoxic Training)
400 Free breathe every 3-5-5-3 stroke by 100
5x50’s, limit # of breaths to 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 by 50

200 Easy, long strokes