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Endurance Swim Workouts

author image Barrett Barlowe
Barrett Barlowe is an award-winning writer and artist specializing in fitness, health, real estate, fine arts, and home and gardening. She is a former professional cook as well as a digital and traditional artist with many major film credits. Barlowe holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and French and a Master of Fine Arts in film animation.
Endurance Swim Workouts
Woman swimming front crawl in pool Photo Credit photoclicks/iStock/Getty Images

Endurance swimming workouts test your fitness and dedication. You need to keep your technique and effort up for long periods, along with your mental focus. Training for specific endurance swims involves eating a healthy diet as well as doing workouts that build your fitness and technique in the water.


You rely on cardiovascular fitness and efficient lung function during long-distance or endurance swims. In response to increased demands, your heart beats faster and your blood circulation and pressure increases. Your lungs transfer inhaled oxygen to depleted blood returning via your venous system for redistribution to muscles and organs, according to the Merck Manual. During long swims, you rely on glycogen stores in your bloodstream and liver, as well as fat stored in adipose tissue in your body, according to USA Swimming.


Swimming endurance workouts in a small pool makes counting laps a chore, and too many flip turns and push-offs can make you feel like a pingpong ball. Olympic-size pools offer 50-meter laps when the pool is set up in a long-course configuration. Figuring out distances is not difficult as long as you remember that you complete one lap by swimming one distance and then returning back. One lap is the equivalent of 100 meters. You complete one mile in 16 laps. Open-water swims require you to count strokes or keep track of time spent in the water. Certain established swims have known distances, and swimming with a group and a boat alongside is also effective.

Workout Specifics

In endurance pool swimming, you need to focus on efficient breathing and your distance per stroke. The longer you travel in the water, with each stroke you make, the less energy you use moving through it. Start with a warm-up that is moderate in pace to get your muscles ready and your heart and lungs working. Doing a kick set mixed into a freestyle warm-up also helps prepare your legs for a long swim. A 1,000-meter warm-up consisting of an 800 meter freestyle and 200 meter fast kick is a good start. Continue the workout with a main set consisting of a long “ladder” -- for example, 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 meters. Then, descend the ladder again, reversing the set for a total of 3,000 meters. Mix up the workout by performing 4 x 100s twice, alternating strokes on each 100 meters. Substitute free style or back stroke for the butterfly if you cannot swim that stroke. Warm down for 200 meters, for a total of 5,000 meters.


Open-water endurance swims require you to be ready for cold-water temperatures, choppy conditions and changing weather. You need adequate food to fuel your effort, preferably supplied by support teams on boats that accompany you on your swim. When you are in open water, keep sighting your course by lifting your head out of the water when you take a breath to avoid veering off from the swim group or a race course. Alert fellow swimmers or support crew if you feel light-headed, develop a headache or feel exhausted.

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