Training to Swim a Quarter Mile in One Week

Proper breathing is essential when swimming a quarter mile.
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Because swimming uses different muscles than dry-land workouts, swimming a quarter mile requires preparation and regular practice. It can be hard to devise a swim schedule that incorporates a balance of drills, breathing exercises and endurance training. A few targeted techniques will help you develop a one-week training plan so you can build up the stamina to swim a quarter mile.

Before the Week Starts

Develop a written training plan. Set aside at least one hour for training every day for the next week, plus any time that you need to get changed and travel to the pool or gym. Determine a specific time each day that you will dedicate to your training program, making sure that you have no other obligations during that time. Set goals for how many yards -- or meters, depending on the pool -- you would like to swim daily, keeping in mind that a quarter mile is 440 yards (just under 18 laps of a 25-yard pool).

Beginning of the Week

Begin day one with 100 yards of slow, easy freestyle. Count how many strokes you take between each breath and record the number. Do several laps with a kickboard and several with a pull buoy between your legs to focus on your kick and stroke. Try two or three sets of 50 yards; once you feel comfortable with these, repeat the 100 yards that you started with, aiming to maintain the same pace throughout the 100 to help build your endurance.

On day two, work on maintaining rhythmic breathing: taking the same number of strokes between breaths. This will prevent hyperventilation and wasted energy. Begin with 100 yards, followed by a slow 50 yards; the 50 yards can be done with a kickboard to give you a break from focusing on breathing. Practice freestyle drills to help your technique. Drag your fingers along the water as you take each stroke, bring your elbows up very high with every pull, or hold your arms out in streamline position, placing one hand on top of the other after each stroke. These will help you focus on technique and make it easier to swim a quarter mile. After the drills, try swimming 150 or, if possible, 200 yards.

Middle of the Week

On day three, again focus on rhythmic breathing. If your count between breaths is an even number, try to change it to an odd number (three strokes between breaths is ideal). Taking an odd number of strokes between breaths reduces strain on your neck and shoulders, as it causes you to alternate the side on which you lift your head out of the water. After your warmup, swim a pyramid -- 50 yards, then 150, 300, 150, 50. The 50s should be done at a moderate pace, the 150s at a slower pace, and the 300s at a very slow pace. To make the pyramid easier, do drills for the 150s, with a different drill every 50. Take a break if needed during the 300.

Allow yourself to rest on day four to keep from overworking your body. Stretch for 15 minutes. Use your workout time for relaxation or meditation.

End of the Week

At the end of the week, focus on heart rate. Low-intensity aerobic endurance is essential to distance swimming, according to sports physiologist David Pyne, Ph.D. of the American Swimming Coaches Association. To develop endurance, aim for a heart rate of just over 120 to 140 beats per minute. Bring a stopwatch to the pool and measure your heart rate after several 100-yard sets. If it is below 140 beats per minute, do several sprints and measure it again.

On day six, aim for 350 yards, just under a quarter mile. After your warmup, immediately try for 350 yards at a slow, easy pace. Then perform several sets of 100 or 150 yards. Measure your heart rate frequently, attempting to keep it just above 140 beats per minute.

Day seven should be an easier day since this is your last day before the quarter mile. Do several laps with a kickboard or pull buoy, followed by a few laps of drills. End with two or three slow 50s and 100s, counting your strokes between breaths to make sure you are still maintaining proper breathing.


Always start each training workout with a warm-up consisting of light aerobic activity -- a few laps of freestyle or breast stroke to get your muscles loosened up and ready to train -- followed by a few dynamic stretches such as arm circles or leg lifts. If you don't want to get out of the water, perform stretches in the shallow end of the pool, using the pool's edge for balance. Also stretch after your swimming workout as part of your cool-down.

If you start to feel exhausted during your workout, take a break for a few minutes. If you can't complete the workouts listed here, try cutting them in half or substituting some of them for breaststroke or flutter kick with a kickboard. During your training week, maintain a balanced diet and stay hydrated; drink water immediately before, during and after your workout. If you are not able to swim a quarter mile by the end of the week, give yourself a few days to rest and try training for another week.

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