Ryan Woodruff,  Lynchburg YMCA

I’ve posted before about The Guessing Game and The Guessing Game for Sprinters.

Tonight we tried the guessing game with a new twist: Elimination.

We had 12 swimmers in the pool near the end of practice.  Everyone swam a 100 free (any speed) and immediately had to guess their times.  Top 3 swimmers who guessed closest to their actual time got to climb out and go home. Everyone else swam again and repeated the process. Incredibly, in order to be in the top 3 in the first round, a swimmer had to guess within 0.8 seconds.  Similar results happened in subsequent rounds as the group sharpened their skills. One swimmer managed to finish 4th in both the first and second rounds.

The final three swimmers had the task of cleaning up the deck (equipment, etc.) before leaving.

Overall, it was a fun (and agonizing for some) way to finish practice.

150s Madness

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA


The format is similar to my most recent other post, with a more aerobic focus. The intervals stay the same for each part, with the quantities at each interval shifting slightly. The effect is a set that gets steadily a bit harder, with the peak intensity coming in the final 4 x 150 at the end. FPA = Fastest Possible Average.

Check Your Catch – Freestyle

Coach Molly Hebzynski, University of Northern Colorado

We’ve done set variations of this set, but the one below is my favorite, and our swimmers too! We focus on maintaining a good body line and maximizing every catch without breathing. LB = Low buoy, NB = No Breath, the strap is a band around the ankles. On the 25s, our ultimate goal is to see how fast they can move across the pool in a 25 with no out-of-water arm recovery to check their catch efficiency.



2×150 @ 2:30 50 Strap/50 Reg/50 LB (The switch at the walls is intended to be quick)

6×25 @ 1:00 NB Long Dog (Long Dog is the UW catch & pull)

R1: + LB 

R2: + Strap 

2×25 @ :45 Free NB @ 20 BB (20 Beats below Max HR)

1×100 @ 2:00 Reset/Recovery

The Best Practice We Have Had This Year

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

I know we aren’t very far into the year, but this one was REALLY good.


Swimmers partnered up. The 25s and 50s were fast off the blocks for time. Half of our group swam while the other half videoed them using their phones (“peer coaching”). Swimmers gave each other feedback. I was impressed with the quality of the feedback and the amount of teaching/learning that was happening. And we swam fast too!

Swimmer A would do all three of the 25s before swimmer B did the 25s. This allows for shorter time between performance, feedback, and repetition. Coach feedback was used to supplement and guide swimmer-provided feedback.

The Speed Machine

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

Problem: Schedules and pool availability meant we had a crowded pool and only 5 lanes.

Solution: The Speed Machine

SCY with starting blocks at one end

Swimmers start in lane 1 and progress to lane 5. All swims timed by coach to a hand finish.

We did 8 rounds @7:00. Swimmers stick with a single stroke for each round.

Lane 1: 1 x Dive 25 fast, climb out and walk back around to lane 2 @1:30

Lane 2: 1 x Dive 25 fast, finish, get time, and then duck under the lane line to lane 3 @:40

Lane 3: 1 x 50 fast from push, get time, duck under lane line to lane 4 @:50

Lane 4: 1 x 50 fast from push, get time, duck under lane line to lane 5 @:50

Lane 5: 50 easy and then climb out and walk back around to lane 2 to begin the next round.

We went in a generally fastest-to-slowest order and swimmers went :10 apart. This setup allowed for excellent racing opportunities. Swimmers always had a swimmer faster or slower than them in the next lane to race.

Race Pace Set For Split Group

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA


For this set, our training group was organized into swimmers who specialize in 200 & down (shorter) events and those who specialize in 200 & up (longer) events. For the first two rounds, the instructions were the same. For the last two rounds, we performed the 50s slightly differently.

P200 = Race pace for a 200 yard event

P100 = Race pace for a 100 yard event

P500 = Race pace for a 500 yard event

PMile= Race pace for the 1650

EZ = Easy

The 500 served as active recovery/technique work and preparation for the following set of 50s.

Distance Freestyle Ramp-Up Set

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

The basic concept here is to ramp up the challenge by adding a constant amount to the interval with each increasing 100 so that the average pace gets progressively harder. In this case, we added 1:00 each time so that all of the intervals ended in :20. Maybe for your swimmer the way to keep the set challenging but doable would be to add :55 or 1:05 or 1:15, but I like the symmetry of this set-up.

In this case, the lines are there to highlight the pattern. You could certainly insert brief breaks or recovery swims if needed.

The way the set is written, the swimmer does 5,600 yards in 63 minutes, an average of 1:07.5 for the interval.