Freestyle Option and Choice Fartleks

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

SCY. We use the term “fartlek” to mean a continuous swim where we are changing speeds or instructions. In this set, we alternated a fartlek with a brief freestyle set. Swimmers were on either the more “distance-y” left side (milers) or the more middle distance-oriented right side. We came together for the 150s FPA (fastest possible average) at the end.

Have you downloaded our FREE ebook “The Quotable Swim Coach”? You can do it here.

Big Set with Quality 100s

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

LCM. The intervals for the longer swims were pretty loose on this set, and we got some good results out of the dive 100s, particularly for early in the season. On the black sets, swimmers could pick the freestyle or FRIM (IM with free instead of fly) track. On the purple 100s, the instructions were to pick one stroke and stick with it or go in IM order.

The Dirty Thirty

Coach Lauren Harrington

300 free
200 IM drill/swim
100 pull
12×25 12 1/2 yards fast, getting the heart rate up
4x50s from mid-pool (stroke)
4x50s from mid-pool (free)

Main Set – “The Dirty Thirty”


  • 10x100s on 1:30/1:35 (may adjust interval for swimmers, but these are the two we used for the women’s team)
  • 10x100s on 1:20/1:25
  • 10x100s on 1:10/1:15

The point of the set is to hold the same pace throughout…so you start out on 1:30/1:35 going as fast as you would to make a 1:10/1:15 pace. Obviously, you get a lot more rest at the beginning, but that’s the point. It’s a test of endurance, and it’s always fun to see where the swimmers are at the beginning of the season doing this set vs. the end of the season. It’s a good benchmark for where they’re at.

EASY 100 Stretch it out

6x100s 50 catch-up drill/50 swim freestyle to regain stroke and make sure swimmers are not just spinning their wheels after a set like that…@ 1:30

200 Warm Down

Editor’s Note: This set was originally published to this blog in 2010

The Good Morning Set

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

SCY. The purpose of this set was just to wake everyone up, get some good aerobic yardage in, and get the juices flowing for an aggressive end-of-practice kick set.
1000 free swim B3 @ 12:30 (1:15 base)

100 free pull B3 @ 1:15

800 free swim B3 @ 10:00

300 free pull B3-5-3 by 100 @ 3:45

600 free swim B3 @ 7:30

500 free pull B3-5-7-5-3 by 100 @ 6:15

400 free swim B3 @ 5:00

700 free pull B3-5-7-9-7-5-3 by 100 @ 8:45

200 free swim B3 @ 2:30

900 free pull B3-5-7-9-3-9-7-5-3 by 100 @ 11:15
5500 yards, 1 hour, 9 minutes

Editor’s Note: This set was originally published to this blog in 2010

“On Your Own” Freestyle Set with Coach Erik Wiken

Coach Erik Wiken

Swimmers are working on either their 200 or 1500 Freestyle events for this 25 minute Set. For 200s, they are doing 25 x 50. They start with one easy, then one build, then one at race pace. If they succeed at making that one, they do another one pace. If they succeed at that one, they do another one build and then one at pace. Any time they fail at making race pace, they cycle back to the top of the set.

For the milers, the set is 100s @:20 rest with a similar succeed/fail flow chart. You get the idea.

Editor’s note: We love how this encourages athletes to take ownership during the set and watch their own times. Coach Wiken says “I’m still monitoring, loosely, it’s more so to keep everyone moving the same direction.. they should know what they’re holding or should be holding at this point in our season. Kids who are on are having a lot of success in the set while others are given opportunities to be successful and continue to be a part of the set.”

Improving Open Water Sighting Efficiency

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

I am an Open Water swimming enthusiast. It’s fun, interesting, and brings a different dimension to the sport. For swimmers new to Open Water, one of the biggest curveballs is “sighting,” which is lifting your head to peek forward over the water to get your bearings from landmarks or buoys. Efficient navigation is important to avoid swimming farther than necessary but most swimmers are very inefficient at sighting when starting out. The keys to doing well are:

  • Avoid picking up your head higher than you need to.
  • Figure out how often you need to sight in order to stay on course. Less is better IF you stay on course.
  • When you do pick up your head, bring your whole body up by engaging the legs a bit more intensely than before and tightening the core.

Here is a set to test how well you are doing sighting:

9 x 200 free @:30 rest

#1 – no sighting – just swim at a moderately strong pace

#2 – sight once every 8 or 10 strokes. Try to keep your overall effort close to #1, and see how close your time is to #1.

#3 – sight once every 4 or 8 strokes, again at the same intensity. Check your time.

Repeat for #4-6 and #7-9.

The closer together your times, the better and more efficiently you are practicing your sighting.

400 Free Race Prep Set with Coach Westerberg

Gordy Westerberg, Clovis Swim Club

3 Rounds

50 chute for feel

50 from dive on :50

3×100 at 400 pace on interval ~25 seconds rest

50 push all out


Goal of this set was to work on the middle 300 of a 400. I wanted them to go fast on the dive, not reckless, so they start the 3x100s with an elevated HR. Then apply pressure on all 3 100s. Once they are really tired, then sprint that last 50.

Results? They were way too conservative on round 1 in the dive and first 2 100s. Round 2 was better and then round 3 is where they should’ve been.

Freestyle with Press-Outs

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

I like incorporating dryland exercises I to practice occasionally, and deep water means it is an opportunity for one of my favorites — press-outs. A press out is essentially a vertical push-up at the side of the pool. The swimmer starts in the water with his belly close to the wall and hands in the gutter. Pressing down on the gutter, he raises himself up until his upper body is entirely out of the water and then drops back in. It is a great exercise for developing strength for all strokes. Here is one of my favorite sets to incorporate press-outs:

16 x 100 free LCM

#1 – with 4 press-outs at the 50 @1:30

#2 – with 3 press-outs at the 50 @1:25

#3 – with 2 press-outs at the 50 @1:20

#4 – FAST swim (no press-outs) @2:00

You can vary the number of press-outs and the interval to create many different interesting combinations of speed and reps. Make sure your swimmers’ shoulders are ready for the stress and don’t do too much too quickly.

4 Lanes, 4 Speeds, 1 Freestyle Set

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

This SCY set allowed us to keep the group together on the same 5:00 interval. Each group/lane swam different distances (as indicated at the bottom of the dry-erase board) based on their ability.

We started each new round together. Swimmers were instructed to descend (swim faster) across the three swims even if/when the distance might stay the same.