Lower Swimming Ability (Cannot swim 300 m continuously)

I understand that the swimming training plan for sprint triathlon recommends a minimum ability to swim continuously for 300 m. I’m still a beginner and not yet there (can swim less than 100 m continuously). Is there a way I can still adapt the training plan workouts? And if so, how? Should I reduce the distance but do each of the “sections” (warm-up, activation, main set, cool down), or perhaps just do the activation since it seems more drill-focused? Advice for beginners still working on skill development and endurance much appreciated.


My swimming improved tremendously when I joined a local Master’s Swimming team and got some individualized coaching. Highly recommend you try that if you haven’t already.


I would strongly suggest that when you are swimming in open water to keep your distance out less than 50 metres :joy: :joy: :joy:

I kid of course.

I have no useful feedback for you but just couldn’t help my evil self from piping in. In all honesty, I have nothing but respect for you. I’m sure you’ll get some solid advice here from actual coaches and or swimmers.


How many laps/m are the SYSTM workouts? Some of them might be really long which is why you’ll need to be able to swim 300m continuously.

If it was me, I just focus on the endurance and technique until I’m hitting 500m or more a session (rests are ok). Then that gives you the endurance to have a warm up and a cool down either side of the drills, assuming they’re 300m worth of swimming.

Worth noting, I am not a swimmer, I just swim to keep myself occupied while my kids are at swim club. You can build up from being knackered after a couple of laps to pushing some pretty long sessions very quickly if you’re doing 3 sessions a week.


Reduce the distance but keep all the bits in. The way I’d suggest is when it says swim 4 lengths do 3. Fewer reps works too but shorter distances should feel easier. Keep going and you’ll get there. I’m not a coach but I’ve been swimming sessions with a club for a few years and this is how the differences between the lanes with different abilities is set.


Thanks for all the advice and encouragement everyone! Much appreciated and love the community


I just started swimming just 3 years ago. I wasn’t able to even swim one continuous lap of a 25m pool. I swam in pools plenty as a kid and took basic swim lessons when I was 6. So should be a cinch, right? Nope! Turns out competitive swimming is a lot different than playing Marco Polo and learning how not to drown as a kid.

The biggest things to learn for me were 1) How to rotate and breathe properly, 2) don’t swim too fast, and 3) How to get your legs to stop sinking.

After about 3 months of frustration I bought a pull buoy. That helped me figure out how swimming is …supposed… to be feel like. And how to rotate and breathe properly.

Then I went back to basics and got the Total Immersion swim book and started with the basic, basic drills. And then used Triathlon Taren’s swim basics.

After 3 months I could still barely swim 50-100m at a time. Within 4 weeks of buying the pull buoy and using those 2 basic swim courses I was already able to swim 500m.

The problem runners and cyclists have when coming to swimming is we think that learning swimming is also just about doing it enough times to build fitness. But, it’s not. If you’ve ever watched out-of-shape-looking seniors effortlessly gliding through the water for an hour and twice your speed you’ll soon realize that swimming is 90% technique and 10% fitness.

So, if you want to learn to swim more than 300m at a time, go back to basics, join a masters swim class, do some super basic swim drill courses, and really learn to perfect your stroke and technique from the ground up.


@streaks – I would also recommend using the Google to search for a local Masters Swim Group. Show up early and try to meet the coach. Explain to the coach you are a beginner and what your goals are. Masters Swim Coaches are often very enthusiastic to help new swimmers. Keep in mind, and also explain to your coach, that you have at least 2 other sports you are simultaneously training, bike and run, and you may even be adding SYSTM Strength and Yoga, which I would recommend, but not stress if you don’t have time for it all. With starting out with swimming, I would try to swim 3x per week, and in the beginning I would focus on drill, drill, drill. Develop a proper kick, I would strongly recommend getting fins specific for freestyle swimming. And also work on your stroke. It is so important to make sure you have the proper form and technique when swimming. Join a Masters Swim Team and bring a pair of fins with you.