11 Creative Ways to Spice Up Your Swim Practice

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

  1. Have swimmers do a number of cycles rather than a certain distance.  You can do this on a rest interval or on a regular interval. For example, instead of doing 6 x 100 free on 1:15, do 6 x 50 cycles freestyle on 1:15 or 10 seconds rest. 1 cycle  = 2 strokes of free or back, 1 cycle = 1 stroke of breast or fly.
  2. Do swims or kicking for distance rather than for time.  Instead of seeing how fast you can cover a certain distance, see how far you can go in a certain amount of time.  Example set: 6 x 3:00 swim for distance on 4:00.  Descend (increase distance) 1-3 and 4-6.
  3. Do swimming “fartleks”  Have swimmers swim for a set amount of time, and change their skill, stroke, drill or speed according to instruction each time you bang a wrench on the side of the pool.  This is good for getting aerobic swimming accomplished while sprinkling in technique work or speed work.  Especially good in a large group with lots of different speeds.
  4. Leave your stopwatch at home.  Time nothing for an entire day (or longer). This can free you up to focus on the quality of the movements your athletes are making and not worry about how fast they are going.
  5. Turn the pace clock off.  This can help your athletes focus on their movements without worrying about making an interval or going a certain time.  Put everything on an approximate rest interval.
  6. If you coach in a co-ed environment, separate the boys and girls into their own lanes and have them start at opposite ends of the pool.  Watch how not having the genders interact for an entire workout changes the social dynamics of your practice.
  7. Take the lane lines out. Do a pool open water (POW) practice.
  8. Have your swimmers write the workout.  A few days ahead of time, split them into groups and ask them to come up with the sets. Give them total time, distance, intensity, or whatever instructions (or lack thereof) that you want.  This will tell you a lot about the kind of swimmers you have.
  9. Start everything from the middle of the pool. This will add more turns to your workout and cut down a bit on excessive socializing while hanging on the wall.
  10. “Jungle Workout.” Start a set. Part of the way through, give one swimmer the details for the next set (which needs to start ASAP). Repeat again partway through that set and keep repeating.  Keep them on their toes.  Once you are done giving them sets, they have to go back and do whatever remains from each uncompleted set.  This practice will be chaotic but fun, as long as you have attentive swimmers.
  11. Write three different practices… Give them fun names.  Let your athletes choose which workout they want to perform (on an individual basis).


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