4 Bucket List Swim Workouts

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Some swim sets challenge you as much mentally as they do physically. Finish one of these workouts and you’ll have a new sense of confidence in the water.

My swim coach at the University of Florida, Greg Troy, used to refer to certain workouts as the ones you’d want call home about—workouts so challenging they counted as news. It took extra mental and physical fortitude in order to get to the end. But once completed, swim sets like these offered an incredible feeling of personal accomplishment and success—just like when you’ve crossed the finish line of a big race. Talk with your coach about how to individually structure these Bucket List Sets to match your swimming level.

  • 3,000 Time Trial – A straight swim to challenge any athlete’s ability to keep track of laps! Even pacing, mental focus, and physical grit are the keys to a successful 3K TT. It’s regularly used as a season opener to judge the fitness and endurance levels of athletes returning to training. This can be modified to a 1K or 2K swim to fit multiple ability levels.
  • 1-Hour Challenge – The swim set with the simplest goal: How far can you swim in one hour? Often called the “Postal” or “ePostal” swim because many national federations (like USA Swimming and US Masters Swimming) collect individual results and compile them into age-group results. In January and February, you can submit your results to US Masters Swimming to be recorded and scored. Look up the 2017 results at usms.org/longdist/ldnats17 to see how you would’ve fared against others in your age group. Add personal flair by creating your own pattern to repeat during the hour (ex: 100 free, 100 IM, 100 pull, 100 kick, repeat).
  • 8 x 100 with 2 minutes recovery – This set makes the list for the effort level required, rather than the total distance. Every single 100 must be swum at the maximal effort possible without considering the remaining repetitions. A full two to five minutes rest can be prescribed between each effort. You’ll learn how to dig deep within yourself for the last two to four efforts. You’ll achieve your best performances when you do this with a group and your teammates can encourage and race each other.
  • 100 x 100s – A 10,000 yard/meter workout for the well prepared athlete. Traditionally done on holidays (New Year, birthday, etc.) or you’re your coach thinks you need a mental and physical challenge. Like the 8×100 workout, this one is best done with training partners for motivation—a and to help keep count. Bring hydration and nutrition to the pool deck and don’t let your form get sloppy when you get tired! See an example of how to do this one below.

Quick Set: 100 x 100s

A: The Whole Enchilada
10 x 100 @ 2:00 (easy, warm up)
20 x 100 @ 1:50 (IM)
20 x 100 @ 1:40 (25 fast, 75 smooth)
20 x 100 @ 1:30 (pull)
20 x 100 @ 1:20 (swim fast)
10 x 100 @ 2:00 (cool down)
*10,000 total*

B: The Meat
10 x 100 @ 2:30 (easy, warm up)
10 x 100 @ 2:20 (IM)
15 x 100 @ 2:10 (25 fast, 75 smooth)
15 x 100 @ 2:00 (pull)
15 x 100 @ 1:50 (swim fast)
10 x 100 @ 2:30 (cool down)
*7,500 total*

C: The Cheese
10 x 100 w/:20 rest (easy, warm up)
10 x 100 w/:15 rest (25 fast, 75 smooth)
10 x 100 w/:10 rest (pull)
10 x 100 w/:05 rest (swim fast)
10 x 100 w/:20 rest (cool down)
*5,000 total*