An Olympian’s Favorite Set

By Fitter and Faster Staff

Swim practice allows an opportunity for athletes to improve technique, make adjustments and measure how well they are improving from week to week.  As an athlete begins to master the fundamental skills of technique, we can introduce more training and conditioning into their program.

Mastering Technique and Intensity

One of the most challenging tasks in swimming is performing well on very difficult training sets while maintaining good technique.  When you watch Olympic swimmers, it may seem that this comes relatively easy to them.  However, the truth is that even Olympians have to focus and challenge themselves to think about the fundamentals and maintaining perfect technique during hard training sets.

We asked three Olympian clinicians from the Fitter and Faster Swim Tour to share some of their favorite workouts and to give us insight regarding what they think about during each set.

Photo Credit: Domeyko Photography

Claire Donahue, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist‘s Favorite 100 Meter Fly Set

Some of my favorite sets are where I have to go all out and give a maximum effort.   One of my favorite sets to help me prepare for the 100 meter butterfly is:

4×75 sprint on 1:30, 300 easy recovery on 6:00 (4 rounds)

This set is designed to go as fast as I can on all the 75s.  I usually go two rounds fly & two rounds free. When I do this set, I have two main objectives:

  • Speed and Technique: My goal is to go as fast as I can with good technique, which is really hard to do when I am tired. Without focus, my stroke would fall apart.  I have to make a conscious effort to make sure my technique is still perfect on the last round.
  • Practice what I want to do in a meet: I really try to make sure I am rehearsing what I want to do in a meet: 8 underwater dolphin kicks off each wall, making sure I’m keeping my elbows up and catching water, while keeping my kick strong and rhythmic, and keeping my head down when I breathe.

Each season, we do the above set about three times; however, every Wednesday and Saturday we will do very similar “maximum effort” sets.  I really like these types of sets because even if my times aren’t my best, I know I gave that workout everything I had.  You can always measure your success not by your times but by the effort you put in. Sometimes it’s about giving it your all even if you fail.

Photo Credit: Domeyko Photography

Chloe Sutton, 2012 Olympian, Shares her Favorite Set for the 800 Meter Free

One of my favorite sets is 32 x 100 on 1:20 (LCM). Every 4th 100 is swim all-out for time.

The goal of the set is to try to add up my 8 fast 100’s to equal my goal 800 free time.  During the set, I focus on:

  • Technique first:  Perfect swimming = fast swimming.  I drive my stroke from my hips and try to make each stroke as powerful and perfect as possible.
  • Stay engaged: I try to keep myself completely focused on the task.  Even on the cruise 100s (1-3), I’m still making sure my stroke doesn’t fall apart.  It’s really easy to create bad habits during hard sets.  Don’t let it happen.

This set helps me become aware of the speed that I need to hold in a race.  It also challenges me aerobically, since the interval is rather quick, while still working on my speed on the fast 100s.  I will do a set like this once a month.  It is a good indicator of where I am in training and helps me build confidence. Or, it lets me know what I need to focus on to improve.

Photo Credit: Domeyko Photography

Jimmy Feigen, 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist, Shares his Favorite Set

One of the hardest sets I have do involves maintaining my freestyle technique, kicking speed and endurance all at the same time.  The set is completed in LCM:

  • 2 x 100 free @ 1:00 + 1 x 100 kick @ 2:00
  • 2 x 100 free @ 1:05 + 1×100 kick @ 1:50
  • 2 x 100 free @ 1:10 + 1 x 100 kick @ 1:40
  • 100 easy recovery @ 3:00
  • 2 x 100 kick @ 1:10 + 1 x 100 free @ 1:45
  • 2 x 100 kick @ 1:15 + 1 x 100 free @ 1:40
  • 2 x 100 kick @ 1:20 + 1 x 100 free @ 1:35

The intervals were very tight, so I had to really push myself outside of my comfort zone to make the set.  A set like this forced me to think about the following:

  • Using a “leg driven” stroke: You do not get a lot of rest on a set like this. By the time I have reached the last round of 100s kick, I am pretty fatigued.  This is how I learn to bring home my races strong and “drive” my legs during the last 25 meters.
  • High intensity: The whole set adds up to less than 2,000 yards, but it really pushes me to train at a high intensity while switching between different muscle groups. Performing well on a set like this really builds confidence for meets where I have to race multiple times over a long period of time.

Testing the Waters

So go back to your pool and try out some of these practices. You may be on your way to becoming a fitter and faster swimmer!