How to Design Your Own Workout – Part 3


After reading the last two articles about creating fun and meaningful workouts, I am sure you have experience with various sets, and maybe you have changed your routine of strictly swimming a certain number of laps, without stopping and without looking at the clock.  If you have designed a very fun workout, please send it along and I certainly will enjoy doing it and share it with the group.

Here are a few specific examples of sets: remember the framework is the same for everybody but the distance, sendoffs and strokes will vary according to your level.

Warm-ups: 100 to 600 swim/50 to 300 Kick/50 to 300 Pull (optional)

Pre-sets: 4 to 8 x 50 (25) drill/swim or “thinking” swim (focusing on one part of your stroke you need to improve such as no splash, entering with fingers (not thumb), keeping kicks small and steady, keeping your alignment, etc.), preferably in the stroke you are going to do in your main set, and going one to four (easy, mod, strong, fast) to slowly get your speed up.  If you are a novice swimmer, your main set should really look like the pre-set with short distances focusing on technique, drill, kick and taking enough rest to be able to really focus and swim as efficiently as possible.

Main sets: here are a few examples:

Long distance aerobic sets: 10 x 300 free (mod, strong, fast) + last one easy.  According to your level, it can be 4 or 7 X 300 free, you can also change the distance from 10 x 50 to 10 x 500 free.  Send off should give you about 10 sec per 100, based on the first moderate speed.  Example I swim my 300 in about 4 min, therefore my sendoff should be about 4:30.  If you want to be more creative, you can add some equipment as you swim, but still go by sets of three and make sure you are going faster (one to three).

Medium distance set: you are practicing for the 200 and 400/500 free.  You will slightly decrease the distance, but increase the speed and the rest.  A main set could be 12 X 200 and/or 150.  You want to start pushing some of the 200s (either 1 to 4, 1 to 3, or one fast, one slow, or all of them very strong).  You can also build within the 200, increasing your speed by 50s within each 200, or going by group of 4, (1st– last 50 fast, 2nd– last 100 fast, 3rd -last 150 fast, 4th-all 200 fast).  Sendoff should be increased if you are pushing it hard, and will depend on your own level.  You are going strong and should be huffing and puffing but you are not going all out.

Speed set: Nothing is much longer than a 100 but are mostly 25 and/or 50.  You want to go as fast as you can, and you are taking a lot of rest.  Often you do a small set such as 4 X 50 at race pace (pace of your 100) with a sendoff that gives you a minimum of 30 sec rest or 4 x 100 at your 200 pace with at least 1 minute rest.  In between sets, you swim at least a 100 easy.  You repeat the whole set between 2 to 4 times.  Another option for speed workout is the broken swims.  For example, you swim the 200 as 4 X 50 with 10 sec rest in between or 8 X 25 with only 5 sec rest in between, and you try to swim your best time.

Specific stroke set: In this case, you are mostly doing speed, and/or medium distance set in one specific stroke.  Could be your best stroke, or your worst stroke.  In this case your pre-set should include some drills and/or kick sets in that specific stroke to get ready for it.  If you are just learning a new stroke, the pre-set should be considered as your main set with some drills, kicks and focus swim.  Do not practice bad stroke.

Individual medley set: the purpose of an IM set is to work on transition, as the rhythm of each stroke is different and your body must learn to adjust to it.  Here is one of my favorite IM set:

8 x 25 fly

4 x 50 fly-back by 25

8 x 25 back

4 x 50 back-breast

8 x 25 breast

4 x 50 breast-free

8 x 25 free

4 x 100 IM (1 to 4).

Again, adjust to your current level.  It could be 2 X 25 and 1 X 50 of each and 1 x 100 IM, up to 12 x 25 and 6 x 50 of each and 6 x 100 IM to finish.  Adjust the sendoff to your level, so it is an aerobic set at a strong steady pace.

Kick set: kick is very important.  It is your turbo to go fast, and for the novice swimmer it is your buoy to keep you afloat in a horizontal position.  Flutter kick needs to be small, fast and start from the hips, not the knee.  Dolphin kick needs to start from your core and breaststroke kick needs to be legal and powerful with the feet turned out.  Have you ever done your full main set kicking?  If not, why?  If you hate kicking, start with a very small set, but make sure you do some kicking at each practice.

Turns and streamlines: Underwater streamline is the key to very fast swimming, as you have noticed if you watch some international competitions on TV.  As you get older, you will not be able to achieve the same 15 meters underwater, but trying to streamline can help with each turn.  If you are a novice, why not start with good habits?  Practice the fifth stroke with flippers: a few 25s with 5 to 12 meters underwater streamline dolphin kick.

Hope this will help you challenge yourself and improve your swimming while having fun and enjoying your improvements.  Practice both your strengths and your weaknesses and you will be rewarded.

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