How Long Does It Takes To Recover After A Swim And When To Train Again?

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How Long It Takes To Recover After A Swim And When To Train Again?

One question we are frequently asked by swimmers is how long does it take to recover from a swim session and when should you train again?

The first thing to appreciate is that you normally don't want to recover completely from a training session before training again - that would leave too long a gap between sessions and your overall training volume would end up being too low. Instead you will train again with a small amount of residual fatigue from your previous session or two.

Before we get into the actually recovery periods, let's introduce something called sTSS (Swimming Training Stress Score). This sounds complicated but it isn't really - it's a single number we can give to any training session or race that tells us how hard it was and how long it will take to recover from it. The higher the number the longer the recovery afterwards.

To give you an idea, a sTSS of 40 is an easy session which you would recover from very quickly. 70-80 is a tough swim requiring more recovery. An sTSS of 100+ is a big session that will give you significant fatigue for a few days.

If you are a Guru PRO subscriber you might have noticed these sTSS numbers have been calculated for your training in your Activity Log:

TSS numbers initially become popular with the invention of cycling power meters but they can also be calculated for running, and now in the Guru, for swimming too. TSS numbers are lower in swimming than in cycling and running, and recovery tends to be correspondingly quicker. A big thanks to Andrew Coggan and Hunter Allen for creating the TSS system originally at Training Peaks*.

So what sort of sTSS numbers do we get for different training sessions and what does that translate to for your recovery and training frequency?

Introducing: The Swim Smooth Recovery Chart

Developed through all our coaching experience over the last 15 years, this funky new chart shows the relationship between sTSS, full recovery and when to train again:

As mentioned above, notice how the time before training again is always less than the full recovery time.

Also see this version where we've added in different training sessions as a guide along the bottom:
Use the recovery chart to decide how much rest to take between sessions are when to train again.

Taking classic training sessions from the Guru as examples:

Pure Technique Session (2.2 - 3 km): 36 hours for full recovery, train again in 24 hours
Technique Endurance Session (2.5 - 3.5 km): 48 hours for full recovery, train again in 24-36 hours
Sprint Session (2 - 2.8 km): 48 hours for full recovery, train again in 24-36 hours
CSS Session (2.4 - 3.2 km): 60 hours for full recovery, training again in 36-48 hours
Red Mist Session (4 - 6 km): 84 hours full recovery , train again in 48 hours

Note, if you are very swim fit you may recovery slightly quicker than these numbers and be able to train again slightly sooner.

Running A Full Fitness Model

But if you are really into your numbers and analysis you don't have to stop there, we can use the sTSS numbers from your training sessions to run a full fitness model - showing how your fitness is developing over time and how tired you might be on any given day.

In the Guru this is called the Fitness Tracker (subscribers can find it here) and it allows you to see what training is making the difference, how to improve versus previous years and when you are over-training:

Watch Paul's video explaining how this works here:

The Swim Smooth Guru

The Guru is our intelligent coaching system to improve all aspects of your swimming from stroke correction to training plans to open water and racing skills. The Fitness Tracker is just one of many powerful features within the training area of the system.

You need a PRO license to use the Fitness Tracker and sTSS calculator. Signup today, there's no tie-in period:

If you are a Standard version subscriber you can upgrade to PRO here:

Swim Smooth!

* Of course if you are a triathlete using Training Peaks user you can enter Guru sTSS figures straight into Training Peaks to assess your overall training load. Full integration coming soon.


Andy Turnbull said...

Ok, so this works if swimming is your only sport...

I end up over-relying on the pull-bouy in a lot of swim sessions as my legs haven't recovered from a run track session or a bike interval set.

This probably isn't a good thing - but I struggle to see how to fit it all in otherwise.

Cyndy said...

Yes, as a triathlete it is challenging to fit everything in and you do end up training with some residual fatigue from the other disciplines. However, you may want to take a closer look at your kick. Are you maybe kicking too much and bending from the knee a lot using your running and cycling muscles? Be careful with the pull buoy, it is more addictive than sleeping pills. :-) Cheers Cyndy@swimsmooth

Unknown said...

Hi, I have signed up for the Guru Pro mainly for the fitness/fatigue tracker graph. As a 48 yr old masters swimmer injury and illness have caused problems over the years usually in the 6 weeks prior to a big swim meet! I assume everyone is different but is there a rough fatigue numerical "level" when you should back off training? Many thanks BW Paul

Adam Young said...

Hi Paul - good question! Some people handle fatigue better than others so there's a personal element here that you need to get experience of other time. That being said, once you have a couple of months of data in there, try keeping the fatigue number below twice your fitness score. So if you have a fitness score around 30, a fatigue number around 60 is fairly high. You'd probably be OK at 2x but try to avoid going any higher.

I hope that helps,


Unknown said...

Thank you Adam,

I back dated last few months into training log and the graph was really accurate as showed where I struggled with prolonged fatigue (fatigue 64 / fitness 27)and correlated perfectly with illness.

One separate point, a blog on how CSS/Red mist equates to more common squad session terminology such as "British swimming training classifications" Aerobic A1,A2, Aerobic Threshold, Lactate Production, Lactate Tolerance & Speed. And or other common international terms. Our squad sets dependent on training cycle are clearly marked so knowing what different parts of a set are red mist or Css will help in filling in training log for accurate StSS scores.

No more questions, I promise.

Unknown said...

I was wondering about when we could expect the Training Peaks integration? It would be nice to mark a workout complete on Swim Smooth and have it loaded into my Training Peaks. Is there a way to manually do this now?

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