training for a 5km swim

Hi all. I’m very new to swimming. I started training only last year August and my longest open water swim to date has been 1.6km. My goals for the rest of this year are to do a 1km open water swim in under 20min and then a 3km in under an hour. On my current training I don’t think this will be a problem but next year I’d like to move up to a 5km by the end of February. So they’re not marathon type goals but with the training time I have available I’d be very happy to just achieve that for now. I’m managing to get about 4 sessions a week totalling only around 10km / week at the moment. I manage to the get the odd 3km – 3.5km session in every now and then I am planning to do quite a few more 4km and longer swims in prep for the new season in November. I’m fairly disciplined at swimming and doing the training and reading up on technique etc but my problem is I don’t have any overall training plan to follow. I’m making up sessions as I feel and getting a bit bored with options I have. Does anyone perhaps have a nice training program than spans over a number of weeks that they’d be willing to share with me. I’m just looking for something that would take me from a comfortable 1.6km to 5km swim by next year feb. Maybe one day in the future I’ll set my goals on the really long distances I’ve only joined this form yesterday but have enjoyed reading some of the threads, quite motivational.

Thanks guys.



  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    Hey Glenn, there are three useful threads you could pull from; the Lunchtime Set thread, the Average Set thread and the Animal Set thread.

    For a weekly plan I'd suggest aiming for a target yearly, monthly and weekly mileage, then varying each day so you have endurance, threshold, speed and active recovery days with some technique work fairly constantly (I do my tech work during warmup). Most of us here will have our own training plans that we work out as we go along. does a 5 week training plan, you have to sign up to the swimming section & they email it to you.

  • SuirThingSuirThing Carrick-on-Suir, IrelandMember
    edited April 2013
    Hi Glenn. I did my first ever 5k OWS last year, stepping up from a 3k the year before. I actually wrote a piece on it in the swim report section, but here is a synopsis of my preparations.

    My training (previous 6 months) would basically have consisted of 3-4 sessions per week in the pool of 2.5-3.5km. My shortest session was 2k and my longest was 4k. Training was centred mostly around 100m and 200m intervals, with some drill work. There were no paddle sets, and a relatively low amount of pull sets. My highest weekly total was 14km and I had 200km total for the 6 months. Obviously you need to get plenty OW training in similar temperatures and conditions as you intend to swim in as well.

    Best of luck and let us know how you get on.

    I tried to convince myself, but, orange flavour electrolyte, mixed with hot chocolate,
    tastes nothing like Terry's Chocolate Orange ....

  • Thanks guys. will let you know how it goes
  • I’ve taken note in a lot of what I’ve read on this site and others that I need to include more intervals sprints of 100m and 200m, in conjunction with the longer distance swims. So last night I did a 3000m swim which was made up of

    1500m easy in 19minutes
    The a set of 10x100m on 2 minutes. I managed to maintain 1m35 per 100m which for me is fast.
    500m warm down

    Was completely stuffed at the end but I enjoyed it and will definitely see the value of it. Am planning to build up to 200m and 250m intervals and increase the overall distance of the set
  • JbetleyJbetley UKMember
    1500 m easy in 19 minutes? Doesn't sound too easy to me!
    Maybe you meant 29 minutes?
  • ooppps. I meant 1500 in 27min

    I was thinking of the1km I did the day before.
  • My training is coming along nicely and I can see the benefit of the sprint sessions already. I did my first 4km straight pool swim on the week end and I managed 1hr14 which I thought was quite decent for me. But my body is starting to feel the strain of the increased intensity so planning to chill the whole of next week and just do slow easy distance swims. Will do my last sprint session tonight
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    Congrats! Sounds like you're coming along nicely. Keep it up.

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • I did my first 5km pool set last night. Was very chuffed. Didn't break any records but felt good and it's a barrier broken. Did the following set:

    1500m Easy
    500m Pull
    250m (25 butterfly / 25 breast stroke)
    125m backstroke
    125m freestyle
    400m fast (7m02) - fast considering how tired my arms were
    300m easy
    200m (4x50m sprint on 1 min)
    600m moderate
    1000m easy - 20min

    was very happy overall. 1h42
  • RickSRickS Member
    I believe it has been said before.
    After 5k in a pool the same distance in open water is an absolute joy. This goes double (naturally) for 10k
  • Already have my mind now set on the 10km mark. But that'll be some time off still. I'll aim for 3km open water at the end of this year, 5km early next year and maybe 10km later next year
  • been a while since I've posted. Training still going ok. Struggling to break through the 3km in 55m mark, pool swmming. Alo slipped at the gym the other day and ended up with a few staples in my head. Was surprised how the incident knocked me, struggled with motivation for a while but managed to push through. I'm pretty confident now about 3km open waters and will keep going to do 5km early next year. Still playing around with various sets I come across on the next and change them up as I feel. Am hoping to join my first masters class on wednesday morning to get some correction on my stroke, although I think it isn't too bad.

    Have to do it now as my wife is pregnant so from April next year things change.
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    Congrats @mongoose! Will this be #1?

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    Oh boy. Then welcome to the club and prepare for a wild ride!

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • did a very nice 3.5km straight pool swim last night. wasn't anything fast but managed 1h05min and felt pretty good. Decided against carrying on to 4km but know that I can. Anyway, entries for my first 3km open water swim open this week sometime. It'll be on the 2nd November. Looking forward to getting out of the pool
  • 1h05m is a respectable time. I'd be pleased with that myself!
  • Thanks gnome. I'm happy. Now to try and get under 1hr for 3km in the dam, then I'll be really happy
  • today was a crappy day. even though I havent' swum since Monday my body was like lead, oh well one to forget
  • Hi I'd like to jump in and ask if this same advice would apply for training for a 3km swim?
    I'm a total beginner, and the longest swim that I've done was a 1.1km in the pool which took me roughly 25min, so I'm wondering if I should increase my volume before I work on anything specific?
  • 25m for 1.1km is not a bad start. If you're talking about working on your stroke then my suggestion would be to get some advise and guidance as early as possible. If you try add distance with poor technique you may end up hurting your shoulder etc. Rather get it sort now and then build on the distance. But is you're talking about working on speed etc then it's never too early to start. I'm no expert but it will help your endurance and it helps make the sessions more interesting.
  • Thanks for the advice! There are a few Ironman competitors that go to the same pool as me so I usually ask their advice on technique etc. They helped me a lot, when I first started swimming I couldn't do more that 50m at a time but now I'm quite happy to do sets of 1000m.

    I can only swim twice a week just now so I was thinking Day 1; endurance, Day 2; strength/speed?
  • I hadn't realised that, there are several triathlon clubs near me who swim open water in the summer that I can join in with to get the hang of wetsuit techniques.
  • swimming with a wetsuit is very different to swimming without one. if the gym pool isn't too warm try swimming there a few times if you can, just to get used to it. Make sure you rinse the suit well though.
  • well I've done my first 3km open water swim. Went ok, my sighting was terrible and I was all over the place. The water was 18.5 degrees and expected to suffer but it was actually quite pleasant to swim in. Cramped with about 500m to go and still have the knot in my calf two days later, oh well, will have to swim it out tom. But I was happy with it. Took 1hr05m but it was what I was aiming for so can't complain. My wife timed it, I did 23m, 21m and 21m for the 3 laps of 1km. Now we'll see how the November and December training goes before 5km in Feb next year
  • Well done, Mongoose!
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    Good work, @mongoose! The addiction begins...

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • On sat I did my first 10km pool swim. Longest swim previously was 5km in a pool. I broke the 10km up into 500m sets with a lot of variety and rests in between. Took the first 6km easy and then just did 500m at a time and that made a big difference as I didn't focus on this massive distance. Was surprised that my shoulder didn't and still hasn't given any trouble and my muscles aren't that bad either, even my calf muscles are fine and I expected them to give me trouble. Am super happy with it even though it took me almost 4hrs. There were people in the pool most of the time so it didn't feel that long.

    But I didn't eat enough. I drank two bottles of powerade during the swim which seemed to be enough. But after the swim I didn't eat properly until later in the evening when I had a huge braai. But I did some more manual work straight after the swim and I felt really bad most of the day and yesterday. Only today am I feeling well again. SO lesson learnt. Eat and drink loads straight after the swim to replace what I've lost

    But I'm just happy I've down it and I now know I can Doing 3km tomorrow is going to seem too short:)
  • Belated congrats on the swims. I have been lurking on and off and finally took the plunge (excuse the pun) into the forum today.

    I was going to ask folks for some help with training plans for this years goal, a 4.8mile dog-paddle in a chilly Colorado lake. Bit of a weird distance but its a 1.2 mile loop. But this thread and others have helped immensely. Im up to a max of 3500 yds so far but building nicely.
  • hi timdex. thanks. all the best. I found loads of stuff on this site and also a site that belongs to one of the guys on this forum.
  • this week end I did my first open water 3km swim in under an hr. Time was 58min and I'm quite happy. 5km does seem like a bit of big distance at the moment
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    Congrats @mongoose. I remember very clearly my first sub-one hour 3K and it felt great.

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member
    I remember my first 5k under an hour and 10k right at 2 hours. Unfortunately, this was my first 25K and I didn't make it to 15K because I had gone out so fast. Cramp city on both of my quads, hammies, and calves at the same time. Slow and steady wins the race, but I did have some sweet tv time.
  • 2 IronMike, (and others)
    Thanks for the encouragement to mongoose. It's encouraging to this noob too.

  • Not too sure how to post a new discussion thread so ill post here, I've never swam distances in my life, i know how to swim but that's it, I hoping to do a 6km OW swim in malta in June so i have around 4 months to prepare, im a full time student so i have time to train, my stamina isnt very good, largest distance ive ran is around 5km. Am i being too optimistic? Is this even possible, thanks

  • malinakamalinaka Seattle, WACharter Member

    It really all depends on your swimming ability. Assuming you've got some background, 4 months with time to train would be fine. But there's only one way to find out. How bad can it really be?


    I don't wear a wetsuit; it gives the ocean a sporting chance.

  • NoelFigartNoelFigart Lebanon, NHSenior Member

    @saadreh The short answer is yes you can.

    A somewhat longer answer is that you really do need to be pretty dedicated about the training and do your research about the open water conditions and practice in open water when and where and as often as you can.

    FWIW, I can certainly swim 6K and I CAN'T run 5K. There is a correlation between running/swimming ability and raw cardiovascular fitness (A good runner will learn to be a much faster swimmer than I am pretty quickly, ferinstance) but swimming is so much more about raw swimming ability that regular practice is quite necessary.

    As @malinaka so wisely said, there's only one way to find out. Get in the pool!

  • ZoeSadlerZoeSadler Charter Member

    Yes, you definitely can!

    If your personal challenge is to complete the 6K distance then yes you can do it. If you want to swim it at race pace then you will need to put in a lot more training.

    If you can already swim and want to swim 6K in 4 months' time then get in plenty of swim practice over the next 4 months, but also practice for it mentally. Break it down into chunks. Once you've swum 1K, you can swim another 1K, then another 1K, and so on. If you start out saying "I'm going to swim 6K", it will be really hard.

    Malta is a gorgeous place to swim. I would love to go back there and swim.

    Good luck! :-)

  • saadrehsaadreh Member
    edited January 2016

    Ok this makes me feel a lot better about the whole challenge, Thanks for the comments, I read a few guides on training for 5K OW swims and the main idea seems to be to complete the desired distance every week, I would like to finish in a respectable amount of time, just as some benchmarks what would be some average 1K times, also would it be advisable to invest in some training gear such as a Pull buoy or should I just jump into the local pool and swim till i cant swim no more

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    Don't waste your money on a pull buoy, most pools have those available for swimmers to use as part of the admission fee. Although a pull buoy is intended to isolate the arms, many people (over) use them to correct body position.

    Your money would be better spent getting a few sessions with a coach to make sure you are swimming as efficiently as possible. Swimming is about 85% technique, so being able to maintain good form over time is more important than having strong arms. Strength and endurance will come along with the hours you spend practicing good form.

    Like Niek says, practicing in OW is critically important. Plenty of swimmers who rule in the pool really suck in open water. Getting in some long swims is also important for building endurance (mental and physical) and understanding what your body will require (nutritionally) to complete the distance. The more experience you get, the more resilient you will become at dealing with whatever nature throws at you.

    Starting off, don't worry about comparing your times to those of others. Niek mentioned times that are elite, (College/Olympic/FINA); I know a guy who's that fast, he's in college. An average time for masters swimmers for 5K might be more like 80-90 minutes, with winners coming in at 65-70 minutes. Check results of your (larger) local races if you are curious about what your competition is doing. Water/weather conditions and the number of swimmers have so much effect on times that you can't really make a comparison to pool times.

    You might want to do a 1K time trial every few weeks to set a benchmark for yourself and to track your improvements. Ultimately it's about doing your best, challenging yourself and learning from your less-than-ideal performances. I don't mind getting stomped if I gave it my best effort, but I hate walking away knowing I could've done better.


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    With the caveat that I am probably the least experienced in this thread so far:

    6K in OW, in the sea really, is not like 6K in a pool. @Niek mentions pool times being faster. You must also take into consideration your navigation. Beginners rarely swim straight in open sea, so your 6K may end up being 6.6K. Which will add to your time. Is this the Gozo-Malta swim?

    Cardio-wise, I'd prepare for a swim that is longer than what's on paper. In addition to all the great advice above.

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member

    There was a thread in here about a year ago called "Adult-onset Swimmers Unite!" wherein @ironmike proposed (and I believe consensus was reached) that 20 minutes per kilometer was the standard benchmark for adult-onset swimmers. Certainly there are many who can exceed that pace and some who never will, but I think that's a good rule-of-thumb, @saadreh.

    Like @wendyv34 said: its all about technique. If you can't do 20 minutes per K after a month or so in the pool, its probably not because of fitness or strength. More likely, you're squandering your effort with inefficiency. Your best use of money is in coaching, not toys. And surround yourself with good swimmers and try to imitate what you see.


    "Lights go out and I can't be saved
    Tides that I tried to swim against
    Have brought be down upon my knees
    Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

  • Hi guys ,

    I am very new in swimming, I've just started to go swimming in the last two weeks. But I really like it and next year I want to go on a 5km swim. So I would like to ask for some advice how to swim, I mean which from, and some kind of plan or how to do a plan for this.
    Thanks a lot :)

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    @Trabirider have a look through these forums, check out some peoples' blogs, and then come back with specific questions. That's my recommendation, anyway. And we would need more from you: what do you mean "just started to go swimming in the last two weeks." Do you mean lap swimming, or do you mean three weeks ago you didn't know how to swim? Where do you swim now? Have you ever swum in open water? Where are you? Do you have a specific 5K swim that you would like to do next year?

    5K is a wonderful distance (my preferred distance to race) and a good goal to shoot for to start.

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • TalsfanTalsfan ΕλλάδαNew Member
    edited July 2022

    Hello fellow swimmers, i am 35y.o. with only limited open water swimming experience (two times swims of 3-4k range). My goal is to build up slowly for a 10-15k swim next summer. Nowadays i swim 4-5 times a week with a weekly distance of about 12-16km. I try to encorporate two main sessions per week: one of fast (for my standards) swim 20x100 or 10x200m with a pretty mediocre pace of 1.55/100 and one aerobic session like 3x1000 or 2x1500m with a 3-5secs slower pace. The remaining sessions are mainly paddle, fins and some drills. Unfortunately i do not currently have time for gym/ strength work, although i know its significance. I wonder if this plan seems reasonable to more experienced swimmers and i would gladly hear any suggestions for current training and ideas for build up. Thanks a lot!

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