Instructions on the 400s were to keep it steady and make the interval by :10+. Intervals for 200s are a bit faster with instructions to push the pace. 25s are to maintain an underwater focus under fatigue. A,B,C intervals for 400s and 200s. For the 25s, A group does 8, B group does 6, C group does 4, allowing us to stay pretty close together on the set.
At the beginning of my career (20+ years ago), I would have my team do a T-30 test multiple times per season. Since that time, I have gradually moved away from long steady paced swims such as that. The set below is the kind of thing I am more likely to do now. Each of the timed sets is “As Many Rounds As Possible” (AMRAP) with a set distance and rest to repeat. The amount of rest scales down with the distances, which allows for a pretty direct comparison of pace as the times decrease. We recorded each swimmer’s distances (to the nearest meter) on a dry erase board for all to see. As the time was cut in half, swimmers were urged to exceed 1/2 of their previous distance on the next swim. The 5:00 swims in between allowed for recovery and emphasis on technical reminders. Overall, it was a successful set with high levels of effort and engagement!
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.
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.
I like doing sets like this for our middle-distance races. Doing just a few 50s at 500 pace doesn’t do much, but when you add some real quantity and change up the interval with short rest, you start mimicking the burn of that 4th 100 of the race. Warning: this one hurts!
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)
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.
A favorite way to end practice: The Guessing Game. Turn off the pace clocks and swim 100s at any pace based on feel. The group is one team, with the goal to get out of practice as soon as possible with a few fun incentive possibilities. Yes, we still had practice the next day.
Some days I write the entire practice out for our group to see before we begin. Other days, I like to give it to them step by step or in parts. I firmly believe there is an enormous mental difference between these two methods of presentation, and each has its pros and cons.
This set was presented to the swimmers in parts. The first part was written on the board with the instructions to hold a consistent pace at each step and that we would be doing a total of four rounds, erasing one line from the set with each subsequent round and possibly changing the instructions. (JMI = Just Make It)
Round went well, so we upped the ante significantly for round 2:
Part 2 was a significant increase in challenge, leaving them wondering/guessing what part 3 would bring. Well, here it is. Not what they might have expected, but they could pretty well guess what Part 4 would be once they saw Part 3. And they stepped up with some great swims! OTB = Off the blocks (dive). FPA = Fastest Possible Average
Context: We are at the beginning of our third week of training and thus far we have done very little high intensity work for any significant distance. The swimmers who performed the set on the intervals listed have best 100-yard free times ranging from :43.8 to :47.3. We had a few other athletes with slightly slower best times performing the same set on intervals that were :05 slower for Part 1 and Part 2.
We ended up with many lifetime-best practice times and a challenging practice with a motivated group.
SCM. On the “fast” freestyle 150, I wanted the swimmers to push themselves but with a sharper focus on the technical aspects we have been working on than usual. “Don’t just give it a good physical effort, give it a good mental effort.”
We have days where the whole group does one workout. Other times, we split by strokes. On this day, we split along distance lines. Part of the group worked around their distance race pace, while the other group did a small number of intense 50s from a dive. The sprinters also watched their 50s back on video and did some active recovery during the 6:00 interval. This workout was in LCM.
We did this set the other day with a few of our 13-14 year-olds in SCY. It proved to be a motivating and challenging set.
In each 8:00 part, the goal was to do as many repeats of the given distance and stroke as possible. We recorded the total distance covered, which allowed us to calculate average pace and set goals for possible future sets.
The purpose of this set was for us to get some medium-intensity butterfly reps in during some aerobic freestyle. We interspersed that with some brief fly sprints on large rest. Performance was solid on this one, but not amazing probably due to a difficult practice the day before. SCM.