Speed Swim

in Swim workout

Let there be light! 


We lost power for two and a half hours tonight due to a big thunderstorm.  And wouldn’t you know it… I found five flashlights in the garage but only one had batteries in it. 


I managed to make it to the pool before the thunderstorm… Whew.  Remember how my indoor pool gets shut down due to thunder?  I’m working on a post about the logic behind that since so many people asked about it last time.


Over the last two weeks, I’ve made a concerted effort to maximize my workout time.  I eased into things after I got the clearance to participate in post-partum exercise from my doctor, but now I’m ready to rev it up.  Relatively speaking, of course. Winking smile


I’ve been doing more speedwork in the pool to try to increase my overall pace.  The swim will definitely be my strongest leg in my upcoming triathlon; I want to feel super accomplished when I come out of the lake.  And speedwork is the way to get there!


Most swimmers do workouts based on time; there’s a big clock at every pool so you can time your splits, aiming to swim a certain distance in an exact time.  But I’ve been using a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) method.  Basically, during the sprints, I swam to a level of “OMG!  This is really, really hard!” when my normal swim is “Tra-la-la, this is so fun and relaxing, wheeeeee!” 


I like this funny RPE chart, too:




So here’s the workout I did today, which was a total of 1000 yards:



150 yard at easy pace

Sprint Series:

25 yards at hard pace

25 yards at comfortable pace

50 yards at hard space

25 yards at comfortable space

75 yards at hard space

25 yards at comfortable space

Repeat Sprint Series

Total of Three Times

Cool Down

175 yards


I am deliriously sore.  And proud!


Do you do speedwork?  How do you measure your efforts – time, pace, heart rate?



  • Kerry August 2, 2012, 9:57 pm

    Great work!! What kind of goggles do you wear? I cannot seem to keep goggles on my face without getting them filled with water or painfully too tight.

    • Caitlin August 2, 2012, 10:03 pm

      I think those are Leaders – I got them from Target but a looong time ago.

  • Leslie August 2, 2012, 10:12 pm

    I am putting in more time in the pool and I am deliriously sore now too! That work out looks like one to try. Enjoy this time with your mom. I know she is probaly thrilled to be with you and Henry.

  • Kristy August 2, 2012, 11:08 pm

    I feel so out of my element in the pool… I wouldn’t even know where/how to begin!

  • Sam @ Better With Sprinkles August 2, 2012, 11:32 pm

    I’ve tried to to do a little bit of speedwork in the past (running…I am definitely not a swimmer) and it is hard! And I use pace to keep track – by the end, I kind of feel like I’m dying even if I’ve done much further runs before.

  • Army Amy* August 2, 2012, 11:40 pm

    I bet power outage + baby is really stressful. But it sounds like you and your mom had it under control.*

  • Miranda @ Biting Life August 3, 2012, 1:41 am

    Awesome job increasing your workout exertion! Can’t wait for that post about why the indoor pool closes. A few weeks ago, my boyfriend proclaimed that he couldn’t take a shower because there was a thunderstorm outside and I was so confused. I’m betting the reasons are similar. Or my boyfriend’s just crazy! Either way, haha.

  • Sarah August 3, 2012, 3:56 am

    After working at many pools, both indoor and outdoor I was also shocked to find out that an indoor pool can close for lightning just as an outdoor pool would. But we’re inside right! Well, the explanation I have received is that, when lightning strikes, it strikes down into the ground. One strike can strike down and hit an electrical cord that is attached to the indoor pool, and thus create an electrified pool of water. I still think it’s a little bogus, but I guess someone scientific determines these things right?

  • Jana August 3, 2012, 5:21 am

    Coincidentally, I finally joined my city’s swim club just yesterday. I’m aiming to swim a 5.5K Charity “race” through part of the North Sea next summer, so speed is not really of major importance for me at the moment but rather endurance. I guess I measure my improvement by distance? Usually, I always swim for an hour (3 times a week) and will just hope that the distance I can do increases. (Then again, I will obviously need to swim longer if I really want to end up at 5.5k. But at the moment, I’m also doing a lot of strength training with kickboards, pull buoys and hand paddles, so it’s hard to estimate how long my final distance will take me.)

    I find it very curious that indoor pools in the US close, especially given that I’ve read that of the 60 deaths by electrocution in indoor pools between 1990 and 2003 none were because of lightning. But I guess it’s always better to be safe than sorry – it’s probably annoying to have to leave the pool, though. 😉
    I’ve never heard of this being done in any of the countries I’ve swum on a regular basis (Germany, the Netherlands, Canada) but maybe I just never happened to be swimming during thunder storms.

  • Anne August 3, 2012, 7:32 am

    I absolutely positively hate swimming.
    That is exactly why I need to do more of it!
    I think the reason I have disliked it so much is beacuse I don’t really know what/how far etc.
    Thank you for breaking down your workout, now I feel like I have some kind of baseline I can go for!

  • Justine August 3, 2012, 7:40 am

    I do think timed sets are good because you have something gauge in the coming months on how much progress you’re making, but to each their own.

    Do you use any kickboards or pull buoys?

    • Caitlin August 3, 2012, 7:41 am

      Sometimes, just not very often.

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin August 3, 2012, 7:58 am

    Doing speedwork in the pool is surprisingly tiring – I couldn’t believe how hard it was for me! I don’t know how Olympic swimmers do it! 😉

  • Hillary August 3, 2012, 8:16 am

    I love the “I am probably going to die” and “I am dead” levels of the chart. Very straightforward!

    I measure my efforts by how fast my heart is beating. I also feel like the sweatier I am, the better my workout was—but that’s obviously not always true! Sometimes it’s just hot in the gym!

  • Anne August 3, 2012, 8:32 am

    I really wish I could take the plunge (ha!) and start swimming. Then, on days like today when my shins are burning even before pre-run, I could get in some good upper body stuff!

  • Anna Akin August 3, 2012, 8:42 am

    Thanks for posting your swim workout! I have been spending more time in the pool because of my knee and I always just swim til my arms get tired(usually around a mile) then get out. I am headed there now and can’t wait to try this workout.

  • Barbara August 3, 2012, 9:01 am

    I love the idea of sprints in the pool – I love treadmill intervals and do them at least once a week, but this may motivate me to get in the pool more!

  • Julia H. @ Going Gulia August 3, 2012, 10:30 am

    Those purple candles are pretty! I actually like blackouts sometimes (well, as long as they don’t last TOO long). It’s like a forced break from technology. A few years ago, we had a really bad storm where I live, and people didn’t have power for days. Luckily my power came back after about a day, but my mom and I were stuck playing Scrabble by candlelight the first night. Ended up being kind of fun!

  • Lauren T August 3, 2012, 10:31 am

    After watching all the swimming on the Olympics and reading about all the swimming you’re doing I think I’d really like to start swimming as part of my work out routine. Thanks for the inspiration!
    I’m not a big fan of speed work because I always feel like a 9/10 on the RPE Chart (which was amusing :)), but I would like to get better at speed work because I know it’s important for my endurance.

  • Meghan August 3, 2012, 2:58 pm

    The indoor pools closing thing is much like the reason you aren’t supposed to talk on a landline when there’s a lightning storm – theoretically, the power surge can create an electrified pool. My mom teaches water classes at an indoor pool that closes during storms, and in a recent storm, lightning actually struck and resulted in the entire electrical mechanism for the pool being fried – maybe there isn’t a huge chance you’d be electrocuted but anything greater than zero is too much for me!

  • Diana@run4life August 3, 2012, 2:58 pm

    hahahaha I love that chart. Sounds like a good workout too. I’m doing my first Tri this weekend (ahhh) so hopefully my swim speedwork will payoff. And by ” payoff”, I mean “allow me to complete the swim portion without dying”

  • Jessi @ doctorate housewife August 3, 2012, 5:30 pm

    Go you! I tend to use a combination of HR and perceived effort. I love your chart. Well done for pushing it. I love how you finished the post with “deliriously sore”. I know that feeling. It’s wonderful.

  • Anne T. August 3, 2012, 7:21 pm

    This is more of a technical question: Is is possible to restore the “next” and “previous” buttons at the bottom of each post? It makes it so much easier to go through a few posts at a time. Thanks! I love reading your blog.

  • Lexi @ You, Me, & A World to See August 3, 2012, 9:58 pm

    That thunderstorm sounds insane! I know exactly what you mean by deliciously sore too !

  • Laura @ May Your Bobbin Always Be Full August 4, 2012, 7:41 pm

    That chart is too cute! My spinning instructor always says “10 is death. We’re not going there.”

  • Jackie August 7, 2012, 12:18 pm

    I just started swimming. I mean, I know the basics, but I’ve never swum a whole lap in my life! I used to be a big runner until I injured my ankle a few years ago. Usually I would just work out hiking or on the elipitical or doing a home workout DVD, but now I’m pregnant and the extra weight/pregnancy cramps have really been killing my bad ankle! So I decided to give swimming a try. (And being in the water is the only thing that sounds good when I’m 17 weeks and have no AC!) I know the conventional wisdom is you shouldn’t start anything new while pregnant, but I feel like if it’s OK for people to start working out who haven’t before, it should be OK to start a new form of exercise? I’m definitely going off of RPE though. Yesterday my swim was 2 laps of freestyle and 2 laps of backstroke, and 3 minutes of treading water, all with plenty of breaks! Which is barely even your warm up, but for me it was enough! My short term goal is to work up to doing a whole lap without stopping and treading water for three minutes without stopping. Long term goal would be to swim 500 meters, but I will be OK if I don’t do that while pregnant.

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