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Understanding the Training Cycles for Swimmers

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

I get asked often, what training cycles do swimmers typically go throughout the year. What I found is that many young swimmers do not even understand their own training cycle. This might be a helpful blog to help you see that your coach has long-term and short-term strategies in place to help you reach your fullest potential. These cycles include the macrocycle, mesocycle and microcycle.


The macrocycle is the entire training season, which typically lasts for 12 months or longer. Within the macrocycle, there are several mesocycles, which typically last for several weeks to a few months. The mesocycles are focused on specific goals and objectives and are designed to build upon one another to help the swimmer reach peak performance at the end of the season. There are typically three types of mesocycles that swimmers go through during a season:

  1. Preparation Mesocycle: The preparation mesocycle typically occurs during the off-season and is focused on building a foundation of fitness and technique. Swimmers will typically work on their strength, endurance, and technique during this time.

  2. Competitive Mesocycle: The competitive mesocycle typically occurs during the competitive season and is focused on preparing the swimmer for their key competitions. Swimmers will typically focus on maintaining their fitness and technique, while also working on their race strategies and mental preparation. The taper cycle is typically part of the competitive mesocycle, which occurs during the competitive season. The taper cycle is a specific part of the competitive mesocycle and is usually the last 1-3 weeks before a key competition or championship meet. Admittedly, during this cycle swimmers often get nervous and question their readiness. Mind you, swimmers are used to pounding it every day. During the taper cycle, the swimmer reduces the volume and intensity of their training in order to allow their body to fully recover from the previous training load and reach peak performance for the upcoming competition. The taper cycle is designed to allow the swimmer to maintain their fitness and technique, while reducing fatigue and increasing their level of readiness for competition. The exact duration and intensity of the taper cycle can vary depending on the individual swimmer and the competition schedule. Some swimmers may require a longer or more gradual taper, while others may be able to taper more quickly and effectively. In general, the taper cycle is a critical part of the overall training process for swimmers, as it allows them to reach peak performance for their most important competitions. Proper planning and execution of the taper cycle can help swimmers perform at their best when it matters most.

  3. Transition Mesocycle: The transition mesocycle typically occurs between the end of the competitive season and the start of the next preparation mesocycle. This cycle is focused on rest and recovery and is designed to help the swimmer recharge and prepare for the next season.

Within each mesocycle, there are several microcycles, which typically last for one week. These microcycles are focused on specific training goals and objectives and are designed to build upon one another to help the swimmer achieve their goals for the mesocycle.

In summary, swimmers go through several different training cycles throughout the year, each with a specific focus and goal.


The mesocycles are focused on specific objectives and are designed to build upon one another to help the swimmer reach peak performance at the end of the season. The microcycles within each mesocycle are focused on specific training goals and objectives and are designed to help the swimmer achieve their goals for the mesocycle. By understanding these training cycles, swimmers can plan their training and prepare themselves for peak performance at the right time.


The amount of yardage that swimmers typically swim in practice during each cycle can vary depending on several factors, such as the swimmer's level of experience, age, and training goals. Additionally, different coaches may have different training philosophies and may prescribe different volumes of training. We learned this in our swim community when USRPT (Ultra Short Race Pace Training) became very popular because of Michael Andrew.


That being said, here is a general overview of the typical yardage that swimmers may swim in practice during each cycle:

  1. Preparation Mesocycle: During the preparation mesocycle, swimmers may swim a higher volume of yardage than during other cycles. The focus during this cycle is typically on building a foundation of fitness and technique, so swimmers may swim anywhere from 4,000 to 7,000 yards per practice, with some advanced swimmers swimming even more.

  2. Competitive Mesocycle: During the competitive mesocycle, the yardage swimmers swim in practice typically depends on the timing of key competitions and the taper cycle. Earlier in the season, swimmers may swim more yardage in order to build fitness and prepare for upcoming competitions. As the season progresses and key competitions approach, the volume of yardage may decrease during the taper cycle. Swimmers may swim anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 yards per practice during the competitive mesocycle.

  3. Transition Mesocycle: During the transition mesocycle, the focus is on rest and recovery, so the yardage swimmers swim in practice may be lower than in other cycles. Swimmers may swim anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 yards per practice during this cycle.

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