Workout of the Week: T-20 Swim Test

If you're trying to figure out where your swim fitness is, there's one easy way to do it with this baseline test.

Workout of the Week: T-20 Swim Test
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Maybe you’re new to swimming and you’re trying to improve your fitness—or maybe you’re a seasoned veteran in the pool and you just want a baseline to work from. Either way, this T-20 Swim Test is a great way to get an early-season line in the sand.

You’ll want to do this when you’re relatively fresh (i.e., not after a hard ride or run) so the results are reliable. Be sure to warm up well (and feel free to extend the warm-up prescribed here if that’s not enough), building your effort level to RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) 6/10 by the end of the warm-up.

In case you’re still wondering what a T-20 Swim Test involves, it’s pretty simple: a 20-minute continuous swim where your effort should be consistent throughout. Aim to hold your best average pace for the entire 20 minutes. Depending on your current fitness and experience, this might mean starting conservatively and building the pace as you progress—or it could mean starting at a solid RPE 8/10 and hanging tight!

It’s often best to do this with a group of swim buddies or training partners for increased motivation and enjoyment. And because it’s important to accurately record how far you’ve swum, either record your swim on a smart watch (new school) or have a friend or coach record your distance (old school). It’s important to have this distance logged so you can repeat the test in future training blocks to monitor progress and determine if your training is working for you. In theory, as you get fitter, faster, and more efficient in the water you should cover more distance over the 20-minute test.

RELATED: Q&A on Judging Fatigue, Overtraining in Triathletes, and the Crossover Effect, with Melanie McQuaid

Workout of the Week: T-20 Swim Test


200 easy swim

400 as 100 swim, 100 pull x 2

Main set

T-20 swim: Swim for 20 minutes non-stop at your best pace. Record distance swum/# of laps


200 easy swim

For more Workouts of the Week, check out Running Hill Sprints for Cyclists and The Big Stupid Ride