Train 360 is our latest training column, designed to give you a deeper look at the many different aspects that go into a professional athlete executing a key workout. A key workout is considered a session that will yield significant fitness gains and is often positioned in a training program so that the athlete can hit it feeling relatively fresh and able to give it their all. As well as the key workout (which is listed in full below), there are many other factors to consider, including: “primer” sessions in the days leading in, activation and mobility exercises beforehand, fueling and nutrition (both before, during, and after the workout), mental preparation, and all of the gear and equipment involved. We’ve got it all outlined below from Haley Chura as she gives us the insider info on a rather epic swim set, 100 x 100.
If you’d also like to check out the previous features in the Train 360 series, we looked at the long run of Kona runner-up Ben Hoffman, the FTP bike session of three-time Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae as well as Mel McQuaid’s “Aerobic Sandwich” bike session and Collin Chartier’s aerobic strength swim set.
“The purpose of swimming 100 x 100 is mostly fun,” Chura said (and she 100% meant that). While swimming 10K might not be every triathlete’s idea of “fun,” it is most definitely a solid challenge, both physically and mentally. Chura said: “I don’t know if there is a big training benefit for triathletes since 10,000 meters or yards is a lot longer than the swim leg in most of our races, but it can be a low-impact way to celebrate aerobic endurance—and it is an accomplishment, especially if done with friends. It might even make your next 2.4 mile Ironman swim seem short.”
While we recognize that not everyone will want to tackle 100 x 100, you could instead take sections of the workout, which is broken down in full below, and build the total distance over a period of weeks. The beauty of breaking the sets down like this is that it helps with mental focus—and makes the overall total volume seem less intimidating.
I like to break up 100 x 100 into several sets of descending duration to help keep it interesting. I’d suggest taking about 10 seconds rest between 100s (unless otherwise noted) and a few minutes rest in between sets to refuel or change equipment. Since this workout is so long, I usually use the first 19 x 100 as warm-up. I also like to mix up strokes, but an athlete could easily modify this if they only want to do freestyle.
19 x 100 done as: 3 choice swim; 1 kick (or 50 kick-50 swim); 3 choice swim; 1 kick; 3 choice swim; 1 kick; 3 choice swim; 1 kick; 3 choice swim
17 x 100 done as: 4 steady free; 2 medley or 50 drill-50 swim; 3 steady free; 2 medley or 50 drill-50 swim; 4 steady free; 2 medley or 50 drill-50 swim
15 x 100 done as: 5 free; 4 50 back-50 free; 3 50 breaststroke-50 free; 2 25 fly-75 free; 1 as 15 yards/meters fast, remainder steady
13 x 100 done as all pull or fins: 4 steady on 15 seconds rest; 3 steady on 10 seconds rest; 4 steady on 15 seconds rest; 2 steady on 5 seconds rest
11 x 100 done as: 3 50 back-50 free; 2 free, building to a fast finish; 1 kick (or 50 kick-50 swim); 2 free, building to a fast finish; 3 50 back-50 free
9 x 100 done as all pull or fins: 3 steady on 15 seconds rest; 3 steady on 10 seconds rest; 3 steady on 5 seconds rest
7 x 100 done as: 2 50 back-50 free; 3 50 kick-50 swim; 2 50 back-50 free
5 x 100 done as all pull or fins: 2 steady on 15 seconds rest; 1 steady on 10 seconds rest; 2 steady on 5 seconds rest
3 x 100 done as: 3 25 kick-75 swim
1 x 100 easy cool-down
The Day Before
Chura said she tends to do a shorter, more lower body-focused session such as a two-hour aerobic ride the day before. She said: “I would usually do a swim like this during an aerobic training block, far away from race day, so any workouts before would be pretty mellow. In past years, I have done a 10K run after this swim to make it a very big aerobic training day. I keep the run easy and hopefully social if I can find a friend who wants to do a big 10K-10K day.”
“You’re obviously going to need a swimsuit, cap and goggles, and a pool that is open for lap swimming for several hours,” Chura said. “I also really like paddles (I use yellow strokemakers). I occasionally use fins, especially later in the workout when my arms are getting tired (the Sporti brand are inexpensive and get the job done if your pool doesn’t have any you can borrow). I personally never use a kickboard (I’m a backstroker that enjoys streamline kick on my back) but it can be fun to do some social kick with a kickboard if you like chatting with a friend while you kick. If your pool is cold or you’re nervous about making the distance, you might consider doing a swim like this in a wetsuit. I wear the Quintana Roo HydroSix in cold water races and love its buoyancy and shoulder flexibility.”
“I always eat before swimming, usually something quick and easy like instant oatmeal,” Chura said. You might also want to think about fuel/snacks that are easily accessible on the pool deck. Chura said she likes to bring “an assortment of goodies” such as Nuun Endurance electrolyte drink, coffee, Coca-Cola, donuts, gummy bears, Uncrustable peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and “anything else that might be appealing during the swim!” Afterwards she’ll have a second breakfast like pancakes and eggs, and “hopefully a fancy coffee—I love a post swim latte!” she added.
Mental Focus Points
There’s no doubt that during a swim as long as this one it’s hard to maintain focus the entire time, but Chura said she tries to stay focused on her body and how she’s moving: “While swimming, I usually focus on using my lat muscles in my back, engaging my core, and rotating from my hips, especially as I get tired in the second half of the swim.” And fueling can play a part in helping you stay focused, which is something Chura is particularly mindful of: “You still sweat while swimming, so staying hydrated and fueling is important to avoid the dreaded bonk. ‘Fuel your effort’ is mantra I use often during multi-hour sessions. And in a workout like 100 x 100 I am usually grateful to be fit and healthy enough to even attempt such a long swim. It’s a big workout!”
Chura said she tends to get right into this workout without any specific pre-workout mobility or activations. She said: “Since I usually do a swim like this so early in the morning, I mostly just roll out of bed into the pool. I just keep the first 1000-2000 meters very mellow! I’ve yet to see anyone receive a trophy for winning warm-up.”
How to Expedite Recovery
Refueling after a workout like this is important—and Chura knows it. “My primary goal post-workout is food,” she said. “I am a big fan of social recovery, so a meal with other swimmers chatting about the swim or life in general is my favorite way to start the recovery process. If I have time, I might take a nap, or else I’m just be sure to get plenty of sleep the night after.”
Coaching Points & Tips
Chura said: “There’s no mistaking that 10K of swimming is a lot of swimming. I would suggest building up to a session like this with several weeks of consistent swimming (three to four times per week), ideally doing a few 5-6K sessions. Keep the first half of the workout pretty easy, then if you feel good, build your effort. And hopefully you can recruit a friend or two (even virtually!) because big endurance efforts are more fun when you can share your post-workout stories!
“I first started doing long swims to celebrate the New Year with Coach Maria Thrash at Dynamo Masters Swim Club in Atlanta, Georgia. We would start very early on New Year’s Eve morning (sometimes as early as 3 a.m. so we could finish the swim before the work day). Maria was a master of variety in swim sets and she could often make a long swim like 100 x 100 fly by with fun variations and lots of equipment. She had a great skill for adding more rest and equipment like fins and kick boards later in the workout so we could keep ourselves going when our upper body was often fatigued. Maria passed away in 2020, but her New Year’s Eve Dynamo Swim legacy does live on!”