In a Facebook discussion, A.F. contacted me because he was having some trouble getting his 500 meter swim time down to 8 minutes in order to pass a portion of the U.S. Air Force Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST) test procedure. Though his goal was a fast 500 for the PAST test, maybe the discussion will help you too. Take a look at the discussion that began about a month ago:
A.F: Gale, My goal is 500 meters in 8 minutes for the USAF PAST test. I’m right around 9 minutes as of now and I need to improve, but still maintain energy for a run, push-ups, sit ups, and pull ups. Would using your training method (swim fast to get fast 25s and swim fast 50s) improve my speed without compromising the energy I need to complete my other specs?
Also, I don’t really do a warm up. I’ve never been taught how to swim I just kind of picked up my form from watching others. What sort of warm up should I be doing??
Confused, A. F.
Gale: Hi A.F. ~
It looks like you're managing to average 27 seconds per 25m for your 500m test and you need 24 seconds per 25m. You need a combination of speed (you can use the short workouts above) and endurance. I don't know how many swims you're doing a week, but if you are doing two swims, make one focus on speed and the second on endurance (swimming 50s or 100s with only 10-20 seconds of rest between each one). If you have access to a swim coach in your area, a few lessons might improve your efficiency as well.
If you're looking for a basic plan to get you started, here is a link to a column that outlines swim workouts in a 12-week plan.
Hope this helps ~
A.F: I have one more question. I'm in the pool at least 4 times a week swimming about 1000meter/yards each swim session. I do interval training with speed and distance. I do speed training after my warm up and main set. (Will this hurt me rather than help me improve?) The next day I do a mix of a faster than normal 500 with a 3 minute break and then an easy 500. I take a day off and then I do my endurance swim of a mile with a pace of 1 minute per lap so a total of a 36 minute mile. I guess the question is should I be doing my sprints before my main sets like stated in your fast 50's?
Gale: You're swimming more than I thought, that's good if you're looking to develop swim fitness. To answer your question, yes, do the speedy short intervals first.
Best wishes and let me know when you pass the test ~
A.F.: Gale~ I've been doing your fast 50's along with some fast 100's and I would like to thank you so much for putting this workout online. My 500 swim is now exactly where I want it. It was at 9 minutes and now it’s at 8 minutes. You've really helped me out and again I THANK YOU so much!!!!
A.F.: My big superior came down last Thursday and had us do a intense swim workout of 1 minute sprint, 30 seconds rest repeated 12 times. It was a cake walk for me since I’d been doing your workout.
FYI you said to let you know when I passed the past test, I actually take my final one tomorrow. And since I know I will pass it I leave March 29th for basic training!
Again thank you!!
Gale: Right on! Congratulations.