Please find below the 8 Training Levels we use for categorising the intensity spectrum for swimming. You will find percentages of Threshold Pace (T30), Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), and a descriptive phrase of how each intensity should feel. You may notice that, unlike for cycling and running, there is no distinct Level 3 or Level 4. Due to the relatively slow speeds associated with swimming, distinguishing between very similarly paced moderate intensities - simply isn't practical.
With the use of metronomes, and the introduction of goggles that display data in the lenses, it is now possible to accurately gauge pace real-time, in both the pool and open water. However, it is essential that you never blindly follow a pace prescription. For slower swimmers who suffer with sinking leg syndrome, it can be very difficult to swim at a true 'Easy' Level 2 effort. The relatively low velocity, will often exacerbate the poor body position, resulting in significantly more power being required to overcome the increase in drag.
In such instances, to ensure every endurance swim doesn't turn into a struggle, I will often recommend the use of additional buoyancy in the form of a pull-buoy. As the swimmers training paces were established without the benefit of a pull-buoy, the improvement this produces in body position, will often allow the slower swimmer to significantly exceed his prescribed Level 2 pace, whilst still remaining truly 'Easy'.
This is a prime example of why pace should only be used as an approximate guide to inform your perceived exertion. How you are actually 'feeling' during any given workout, should always take precedence. It is perfectly acceptable to swim purely by 'feel', and check the pace of your previous interval by using the pace clock on the side of the pool. As an online coach, provided you are executing the session as intended, and are able to accurately relay your splits to me - you have my full blessing.
Please note, although the use of heart rate monitors whilst swimming is becoming more common (particularly amongst triathletes), I have not yet gained enough reliable data to be confident of correlating approximate heart rates to our Swim Training Levels. This will of course be implemented if I eventually deem heart rate to be a practical and reliable metric in the water.
LEVEL 8 - SPRINT
LEVEL 7 - ANAEROBIC CAPACITY
LEVEL 6 - AEROBIC CAPACITY
'Very Hard to Extremely Hard'
LEVEL 5 - SUPER-THRESHOLD
LEVEL 4/5 - ANAEROBIC THRESHOLD
LEVEL 2/3 - AEROBIC THRESHOLD
LEVEL 2 - ENDURANCE
LEVEL 1 - ACTIVE RECOVERY
*the pace associated with this intensity level will also apply to many drills, but the perceived effort may possibly be greater
To calculate your own specific Training Levels that are used within the THP system, and determine predicted race performances over various distances - use our Training Level Calculator