Fun Relay Speed Work

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

Recently at practice about half of our group was missing for a high school meet. We had a block of about 45 minutes that I wanted to get in some good speed work. How to get them excited for it and get some good results? Wacky relays.

We had 12 swimmers split into 4 teams of 3, which allowed us to swim at a roughly 1:2 work-rest ratio. We did 5 relays followed by some active recovery swimming.

Relay 1: 450m each person swims 6×25 free (keeping it simple to get us started)

Relay 2: 450m, each swims 6 x 25 no free

Relay 3: 450m, each swims 25 no free, 75 free, 25 no free, and 75 free

Relay 4: 450m, each swims 25 free, 75 no free, 25 free, 75 no free

By this time, each relay team had won a single race thanks to my expert dividing of teams. The final race would decide who had to do the longest warm down:

Relay 5: 300m each person swims 2 x 50m free dragging a partner holding on to their ankle.

Result: all teams disqualified for various forms of cheating.

The 4-way tie mandated an immediate 50 fly swim-off by a single swimmer from each team.

I got way more energy and effort out of them with this strategy than I would have with a traditional set!


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Product Review: FINIS Backstroke Start Wedge

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

Over the last few years since wedges were introduced, a number of different devices have become available.  Different pools offer different brands and styles, but most in-season meets in our area don’t have wedges. Thus we seldom got to use a wedge.  I have two Junior-National caliber backstrokers on my team, and several more who are close.  It was frustrating to me that we would get to a big meet and have to fiddle with a new device that we were unfamiliar with and practice a start that we have never done before, all to avoid the catastrophic “back flop.”

In steps the FINIS Backstroke Start Wedge to solve that problem.  The FINIS wedge straps on to any kind of starting block and is easy to set up.  It is very durably constructed and performs its function well.  The straps allow for manual adjustment of the height of the ledge and can quickly be moved to suit a swimmer’s preference.  The first day we used it, the straps stretched a bit upon first getting wet, but since then they have not stretched at all.

The price point ($249.99) is still a bit high, but it is much more affordable than other devices — some cost 2-3+ times more, and because the FINIS wedge doesn’t have many moving parts that can malfunction or get jammed up, I think it will last many years.  Like the other products, the FINIS wedge CAN be used in competition.

We now use the FINIS Backstroke Wedge on an almost daily basis.  The walls in our pool are particularly slippery, and my swimmers insist on using it whenever possible.  If you value being able to practice the way you want to compete, this will make your  backstroke starts better.

Here’s a video from GoSwim with a demonstration of how easy it is to set up.


Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review other than being provided a sample product and I receive no commission for sales of this product.

Aerobic Free/Bk/Br for Mid-IM Stamina

Ryan Woodruff

This set was intended to focus on the middle part of our IM swims. Every swim has a 100 back/100 breast in the middle. That 200 is the focus of the set, and we aimed to descend that 200 across the 8 swims. Any distance before or after that 200 is freestyle. We did this in a SCM pool.

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Fartleks for IMers

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

A “fartlek” is a continuous swim where we change speeds or points of emphasis.

During the 10:00, I would occasionally bang a metal wrench on the side of the pool, signaling an all-out sprint to the next wall followed by continuation of the swim.

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Slingshot to Freestyle Success

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

This set starts with partner slingshots:

Archer 1 involves a 6-Count pause during freestyle in position just after the hand exits the water. Archer 2 is a similar pause later in the stroke, with the elbow at its highest point even with the shoulder.

Paddlehead drill involves putting a hand paddle on top of the head and using the resistance of oncoming water during balanced swimming to hold it there.

B3 = breathing every 3 atrokes

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