The OSS Couch To 5k Launch

Love swimming? Join OSS to shake off lockdown and winter, get fit and swimming. This is a three month programme designed to get you fit for a summer of swimming. It starts on dryland on the spring equinox (March 26), moves into the water on May 1st, and finishes on the summer solstice (June 21): your goal.  You can join in at any time but why not start with us?



 Launch: March 26th

Couch to 5kers! Are you ready to take part!!!!




Written by Dan Bullock, at SFT and Kate Rew at The Outdoor Swimming Society this is a three month programme that can be done anywhere: lake, lido, indoor pool or sea. The training can be done in a wetsuit or skins (pool swimmers). It is for people with a basic level of freestyle, that they wish to brush off and extend.

Whether you are a 

  • Pool swimmers taking your first season outdoors
  • Returning open water swimmers, who has deconditioned after a long lockdown
  • People wanting to work on their freestyle, through guided drills
  • Anyone who wants to extend their swimming stamina - whether blocked at 1 mile, 30-40 minutes, or the Ironman 3.8k

The first part of this programme is on land, because pools are closed and outdoor water is still cold for fitness training (only for the brave)

Work in the water begins in May,  by which time it is likely that pools are open across England, Scotland and Wales. Channel swimmers traditionally begin their training on the first May Bank Holiday, and many lidos open their doors at this time: this year we are going to join them.

The programme ends on the 21st June, when we invite you to celebrate your fitness gains by going for The Longest Swim on The Longest Day   - a virtual OSS event to celebrate and enlarge the beauty of midsummer day,  on June 21.


Throughout the program OSS will have guides to support you through each stage of the challenge. Here at Zoggs we will also try to share updates and details of this with you. 





With 5 weeks to go until May 1st, set up a three times a week fitness habit. The focus here is on moving your cardiovascular fitness up a notch, building shoulder strength and flexibility and preparing to swim after a long locked down winter.

If you have access to a pool - then begin the water work, and just repeat weeks until you feel comfortable.

Aim for three sessions a week from here till May. Four sessions is ambitious and will speed up your fitness gains, two will contribute if it’s all you can do. Vary the focus point of each session:

  • Fitness: anything cardiovascular for 30 minutes will help. Rowing is a great full body workout that incorporates many swimming muscles (if and when you have access to a rowing machine). Introduce ‘fartlek’ to increase fitness gains: this is on-off training where you push for a bit, then ‘steady-state’  for a bit, and can be applied to cycling, running or rowing. Got a stretch cord? Try Dan’s dryland swim session above <Add link>
  • Endurance: Do one longer session a week, up to an hour, of hiking or cycling. The plan is (cold acclimatisation allowing) that by June 21st, you’ll be fit and ready for a 5k swim. That means in three months time (depending on swim speed) you will be swimming for 1 hour 17 (25 minute miler), 1 hour 33 (30 minute miler), 1 hour 55 minutes (35 minute miler), 2 hours 20 (40 minute miler). Everything you do now to increase your base fitness and endurance will bring dividends later.
  • Conditioning: Work on shoulder strength and flexibility to help prepare you for the pool or lake. Yoga and pilates both provide excellent conditioning for swimmers. Use your own practise, or head to youtube for some videos such as the 18 minute Yoga for Swimmers with Adrienne, or the 30 minute vinyasa based Yoga for Swimmers. Also see the 6 poses in The OSS Yoga for Swimmers.


If and when you can get pool time, start using sessions from week one below and keep repeating weeks. Winter swims will all help acclimatisation, but few swimmers will be using open water for training at this point because most will find it too cold to put their head in.




WORK IN THE WATER: May 1 - June 21 / 7 weeks


Every session is designed to be so simple you can write them on the back of your hand. They all start with the same warm up and cool down (so you can do that bit from memory) and then the programme can be written on your hand with a sharpie :) Use a waterproof watch and you are good to go!

Short 30-60 minute sessions are fine - It is flexible as fitness levels will vary, as will access to pool time and ability to withstand cold (open water lakes that are likely to be 12-14 degrees).

Just whatever you do, do your version of the three sessions a week and keep going. Beyond that, always get out if you’re cold, and stay in if you want to add 10 minutes longer, according to your own ability.

Every week you will be asked to to 3 sessions:

  • Fitness
  • Endurance
  • Technique 

Pool space limited? Forgot to book a lake spot? Substitute a land fitness training session for one of the water sessions at any time eg 20 mins of rowing, running (even a walk run mix if knees a worry) or cycling.

At any time, add in a fourth session if you’re enjoying it.  Getting to 5k in 7 weeks is a push: think of your overall distance covered in a week as well as three sessions, and aim to be doing 10k a week in the last few weeks.



Every week throughout the session your 9 minute WARM UP and 3 minute COOL DOWN will be the same.


The warm up and cool down are the same throughout the programme, so you can commit them to memory. Use them as time to clear your mind ahead of swimming: concentrate on being streamlined, being propulsive, pulling with your hand and forearm, hiding from the water and swimming effortlessly.



Before you get in the water try several minutes of dry land arm swinging to jump start your warm up. If you find it hard to get your face in, dab some water on your cheeks and back of neck before you enter: it all helps remove the shock reflex.

Once in the water, use the first 9 minutes to warm up, consisting of the following

  • 6 min easy swimming - get in, get acclimatised, get your face in, and settle in to an easy front crawl. If it takes longer than 6 minutes to settle down in the cold week, stake longer, doing a few strokes face in, a few breaststroke, as you need till you are ready for continuous front crawl.
  • 3 min performing 10 strokes fast 20 strokes easy to actually start to warm up. Stretch the long slow easy strokes out and feel the difference to the faster more hurried strokes. This is a great way to elevate your heart rate.



3 min easy cool down swimming. If safe to perform where you are, double arm backstroke is a great way to unwind your FC focused shoulders.



If you are intending to complete your 5k in open water (rather than a heated pool), then you are looking at spring swimming temperatures, and part of your journey over the next 7 weeks is going to be acclimatisation. See the ‘Survive’ section for tips on kit, cold acclimatisation, and use The OSS social channels to ask questions of others. The FB is full of other swimmers who will give you answers.


The sea is going to be about 10 degrees when the programme starts, and 13.5 degrees by the Longest Swim.


Rivers lag behind, and vary more - they may be about 8 in April, but reached 15 in June.

Lakes will also, on average, be 10-15 degrees.


Work within your limits: if you are cold, always get out, get dry and get warm: do not endanger yourself by completing a swim session. You are responsible for your own safety. See the 8 questions Winter Swimmers Ask About Cold , Understanding Hypothermia and




  • Easy FC/Freestyle, for warm up/cool down and relaxing after any harder efforts.
  • Medium - a solid effort but sustainable.
  • Fast FC/Freestyle - a best effort but never so much you lose control of your technique.


Get tagging us using #swimcouchto5k on your swim journey as we all count down to summer solstice 21st June

Remember as Zoggs are supporting the event we are giving you 30% off all our Predator Range Goggles - Valid for the duration of the event!

Just Use Code: COUCHTO5K at the Zoggs basket