Challenge Set in a 25m Pool to Prepare for 25y Races

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

We train primarily in short course meters and compete primarily in short course yards.  This set performed in the 25m pool helped to challenge our swimmers in a meaningful way at practice.

6 rounds @ 6:00
      1 x 175 fast — 25 no free/25 free, goal is to beat your best 200 SCY time of the non-free stroke
      1 x 125 easy freestyle

We had 26 athletes and 5 lanes, so in order to avoid a drafting effect and allow for decent fly swimming without having to dodge teammates, we performed the 175 in 4 lanes with half of the group while the other half swam the 125 easy in the 5th lane.

This turned out to be a good challenge for those who did backstroke and fly.  Those who did breaststroke were generally able to make the 200 time — I would suggest setting a goal to beat it by 8 seconds or so.

Our 5 Most Popular Posts of All Time

Based solely on the number of views, here are the 5 all-time most popular posts on this blog:

1. Backstroke Workout #1

2. Speed Set for Taper Time by Coach Jack D. Roney
3. Halloween Set for Adaptation Week by Coach Clare Labowitch

4.  19.5 Ways to get Better Even When Practice Gets Cancelled

5. Important Concepts for a Successful Taper

Got any sets for Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hannukah, or New Year’s that you would like to share? Send them our way so that we can feature them in the coming months!

A Set for the Off-Week

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

This is a simple generic workout for our swimmers to do during their break IF they wish to swim.  Nothing too complicated, just keeping them moving and moving well.

10 x 100 @:20 rest individual warmup
3 rounds:
3 x 300 free @ 3:40 3:50 4:00
     descend 1-3 and always negative split
3 x 200        @ 2:40  2:50   3:00
      #1 – 100 fly/100 back
      #2 – 100 back/100 breast (+:10)
      #3 –  100 breast/100 free
3 x 100   FPA @2:30
      Round 1 – Free
      Round 2 – Choice (no free)
      Round 3 – Weakest stroke
200 ez warmdown with open turns

Top 10 Coach-Submitted Workouts of the Past Year

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

I started this blog way back in 2009 with the idea that I would share some of my workouts and hopefully get others to share theirs with me.  8 year later, receiving submissions from other coaches and learning from the creativity and ingenuity of others has been the best part of the blog.

Over the past year, many coaches submitted workouts or sets to the blog, and their posts are invariably popular.

Here are 10 recent posts submitted by coaches and links to all of their Swimming Wizard submissions:

1. The Zig-Zag Ironman and more workouts with Coach Ken Thorley from Hong Kong.

2.The set they didn’t hate and more with Coach Brandon Fain of New Braunfels YMCA

3. Empty the Gas Tank Freestyle Set from Coach Todd Kramer

4. Breaststroke Thoughts and more from Coach Gordy Westerberg

5. Max Effort 100s with Coach David Laudati

6. Wild and Wacky Kick Set and more from Coach Dan Mascolo

7. Coach Mathieu Leroy Loves Big IM sets and submitted a bunch more workouts.

8. Max Effort with Coach Scott Thacker, who is the head coach of the brand-new Roanoke College swim program.

9. 200 Focus with Coach Brad Herndon, who is one of our most avid supporters and has sent in many workouts.

10. The Christmas Tree Set from Coach Kevin Harrod

Do you have a set or workout that you would be willing to share with the world? Send it to us at!

My 10 Favorite Workouts My Team Did This Year

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

Our team is currently on a break, so I am not writing daily workouts. Many of you are probably doing the same right now, gearing up for the fall.  One of my favorite things to do at the end of the season is to look back at what worked, what didn’t, what we liked, what we didn’t etc.  Of course, it isn’t always easy to tell what worked, but figuring out that puzzle is part of the job.

Here were my 10 favorite workouts that my team did this past year (from short course or long course season):

1. Epic Saturday (LCM). This wasn’t our longest or fastest set of the year, but it was perhaps the most challenging.  Our kids totally crushed it, and many of our top performers on the set turned out to be our top performers at the end of the season.
2. 60 x 50 Friday Fly Day Set. (LCM)  I liked this set because we got a great combo of effort & technique. Fly sets might be my favorite kind to write — just ask my swimmers.
3. The Jellylegs Set (SCM).  Need I say more?  Actually, you can see the Jellylegs Set Part Deux as well.
4. Our Distance Freestylers were about 90% successful with this set (SCY)  Simple set, but one of my favorite ways to challenge our distance kids.  Many variations can be made from this one.
5. All Aboard the IM Pain Train (SCY).  You might be getting the theme here — many of my favorite workouts are also some of our most challenging ones.  We had a great year in part because our swimmers really embraced these challenging workouts.
6. What’s Your Magic Number (Any course).  This one got a great effort and also provided great fodder for some post-practice conversation about the psychology of swimming fast.
7. Back or Breaststroke Squeeze Set (SCY). This one forced our swimmers to closely monitor their effort, the clock, and to really push themselves.
8. Power Buckets (SCM) We did more resistance training this season than in years past.  This workout is a good sample of the kind of thing we did.  I like it not for its difficulty but rather because of the level of focus we were able to achieve.
9. The Set That Might Never End (SCY).  This was a group challenge that really brought everyone together and encouraged them to strive for the good of the group.
10. The Cookie Set (SCM).  This was another group challenge set with a food incentive right around the holidays.

Did you have any workouts that you felt propelled your team to success this season?  Send the to us at

Recommendations for Off-Season Learning

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

My team is currently on a break as we gear up for the new season.  One of my favorite things to do during this time of year is to spend some time reading, learning, and absorbing new ideas.

Here are some of my most popular posts on what I have read and learned in the last few years:

The Best Things I Read, Listened To, and Watched to Become a Better Coach in 2016, 2015, 2013, and 2012

My List of 13 Books Every Swim Coach Should Read

Also if you are into podcasts (or even if you have never listened to one), I highly recommend that you check out a few episodes of the Rich Roll Podcast, specifically with Aaron Peirsol and Anthony Ervin

Got something else you would recommend to readers of this blog? Please share it with The Swimming Wizard on Twitter or on Facebook.

Happy learning!

6 Fun Ideas for your Swim Practice

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

Our team is on a break right now, so I am taking a break from the workout writing.  That doesn’t mean we can’t still kick around some creative ideas here on the blog.

Here are 6 recent posts from our “Just for Fun” category that you might want to try:

1. Team Sprint Points Competition
2. Red Light Green Light with Coach Brad Herndon
3. Fun Sprint Set to Finish Practice
4. Dryland Pictionary
5. The Deck of Cards Practice 
6. Bottle Flippin’ Relays

Example Goal Sheet

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

Our team is currently on a break, so I haven’t been writing any workouts to post lately.  I hope you have enjoyed the different posts over the last few days.  Here is another one that isn’t a “workout” exactly, but I hope you will find it helpful nonetheless.

Here is a copy of the goal sheet I have given my swimmers for the upcoming season. Over the years, I have seen coaches use a variety of approaches to goal setting. My approach has changed a bit from year to year as well. If you are willing to share your process, I would love to hear how you and your team do it.

10 Creative Ideas for Your Practices This Season

Here are some of our recent posts that will put a unique twist on your workouts:

1. The Deck of Cards Practice
2. The Best Idea I Ever Had (or Stole)
3. The Hot Lava Set
4. Asking for Feedback
5. The “Wet-land” Challenge Set
6. The M & M Set
7. Blind Goal Workout
8. Stopwatch Roulette
9. Let’s Get Funky
10. The ? Set

And just in case…

19.5 Ways to Get Better Even When Practice Gets Cancelled

Animal Kicks from Coach Jim Steen

Recently, I have been enjoying Chris Ritter’s Sports Performance podcast.  He has been interviewing an impressive list of coaches, and a recent one he spoke with new Pittsburgh (former U Penn) assistant Coach Marc Christian, and in it Christian spoke about a kick set his mentor Jim Steen used to do at Kenyon.

Coach Christian used this set once every 8-10 days with his sprinters at Penn.

Animal Kicks
10 x 100 kick @ :10 rest, aiming for the fastest possible overall time.  Record total times and seek gradual improvement every time the set is performed.