Are you one of those swimmers who likes to swim at the same, slow pace for your entire workout? We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but doing that isn’t going to get you the fitness results you want. 

Why? It’s pretty simple: You aren’t swimming with enough specificity to improve your performance. To swim faster, you need to vary your training intensity and structure your workouts with a specific goal in mind.

Here’s how to upgrade your swim workouts for better results! 

How to Add Specificity to Your Swim Training

Depending on your goal, being mindful of one or more of the following concepts will help you improve your performance:

  • Intensity: How hard you’re working during your swims. Varying the intensity of your workout is the key to breaking out of swimming plateaus and getting faster. Keep reading for a breakdown of how to incorporate different intensities into your training!
  • Focus: What is your goal? Your training should align with that! If you’re focused on the 200 breaststroke, your workouts shouldn’t be geared toward the 50 free!
  • Duration: How much time you swim.
  • Density: The amount of yardage you swim during your workout. Swimming 2,000 meters in 1 hour is more dense than swimming 2,000 meters in 2 hours. As you improve your fitness, you will be able to swim higher density workouts. 
  • Progression: Training with a specific goal in mind. If you want to improve your 200 breaststroke, you will do workouts that progress you toward a fast 200 breaststroke over time. 
  • Equipment Utilization: Adding equipment can help you reach a specific goal, improve technique and build strength.
  • Variety: This covers different strokes, different distances and the drills you do during a workout. Mix it up!

Understanding Swimming Energy Zones

Related: How to Pace for Long Distance Swims

When you’re training, you can break your swimming intensity into seven energy zones, which can be broken into aerobic and anaerobic categories:

Aerobic: Typically longer swim sets at a slower pace

  • Easy
  • Moderate
  • Endurance
  • Threshold

Anaerobic: Shorter sets at maximum effort

  • Best Average
  • Sprint
  • Race Pace

Depending on the effort level and the goal of your set, you’ll get more or less rest. For example, you’ll get more rest on a Sprint or Race Pace set than you will on a Threshold set.

Related: How to Drop 10 Seconds in the 200 Freestyle

If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of seven different effort levels, you’re not alone! In the MySwimPro app, we share guidance and definitions for each zone, with easy color-coded systems for each set, so you know exactly what to do while you swim. 

Try This Swim Workout

Add this swim workout to your rotation for a bit of practice incorporating different swimming intensities to your training! For more workouts like this, download the MySwimPro app and start your personalized Training Plan! 

  • Distance: 3,000 meters/yards
  • Duration: 60 minutes


  • 1 x 300 Free Moderate @ 5:00
  • 6 x 50 Kick Endurance @ 1:00
  • 4 x 100 IM Endurance @ 1:30

Pre Set

  • 4 x 100 Free Threshold @ 1:15
  • 1 x 300 Pull Endurance @ 4:30

Main Set (2x)

  • 4 x 50s Free Best Average @ 1:00
  • 2 x 50s Free Race Pace @ 1:30
  • 1 x 50 Free Spring @ 2:00
  • 1 x 100 Free Easy @ 1:45

Cool Down

4 x 50s Free Easy @ :50

How do you add variety and specificity to your swim workouts? Share your tips in the comments! For more information about Effort Levels and how to use them in the MySwimPro app, check out our Support Site.



  1. Hi, great white board explanation of the zones, but you lost me on the written description of energy zones with ATP and Glycogen and what does what and how does that apply to a training… Would be great to learn more about that.
    The zones/speeds are really helpful and now I understand the different rest times, too. Just not sure about “threshold” versus “best average” though – sounds very similar, so it would be good to know what happens or how to feel anaerobic vs aerobic zone.
    Thanks and happy swimming!

    • Hi Lee, It’s helpful to train at least a few energy zones in each workout, but you don’t need to hit all of them! For example, if you have a goal to complete a long distance race, doing sprints during each workout might not be helpful (but are good to throw in every once in a while!).

      Your warmup might include the easy and moderate energy zones, and depending on the goal of your main set, you might incorporate 2-3 more. And then the cool down would be easy!

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