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Masters Swimming 101

What is a typical workout?

Jim Harper | December 4, 2012

This article is part of the Masters Swimming 101 series

Like a good play, a good workout develops in three main acts: the warm-up, the main action, and the cool-down. A sufficient warm-up is essential for mature athletes, and a relaxing cool-down will help to fight fatigue and sore muscles.

A typical workout lasts for an hour or more. The main part of most workouts consists of sets of varying distances. Repetitions divide each set into manageable parts, such as “5 x 100,” which means that you swim 100 yards (the length of a football field), stop to rest, and then repeat that distance four more times, for a total of five repetitions.

In addition to sets, you may be asked to complete skill drills that challenge you to think about body position, parts of each stroke, and other essentials of swimming. For example, your coach may ask you to swim with your fists clenched, to draw attention to the importance of high elbow and unbroken wrist line.

As a new swimmer, or someone returning after a long absence, you must be prepared for a challenge—especially to your lungs. Breathe often! Do not try to impress yourself or others by holding your breath, or your workout will be over very soon. Swim smart and build up your endurance over time. It can take six months before you can make the workouts as written—even for skilled athletes who have endurance in other sports—swimming is different. Give yourself plenty of time, enjoy your new friends, and communicate any concerns to your coach.

Masters Swimming 101 Article Series

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Not much! The beauty of swimming is that the water provides all the resistance...
What are the basics of pool etiquette?
Safety always comes first, and swimming's first rule is never to swim alone....
What is a typical workout?
Like a good play, a good workout develops in three main acts: the warm-up, the...
Yards and meters
Coaches will give instructions mainly in terms of distance (or yardage) and...
How do I use the pace clock?
A related question would be: Why are swimmers so obsessed with time? You'll...
More lingo you're likely to hear at practice
Here are a few more terms you'll likely hear at swim practice. Some of them...
How do I learn the four strokes? Why do I want to?
Some swimmers and many triathletes only want to swim freestyle, the fastest...
USMS Wave Seperator

About the Author—Jim Harper

Jim Harper is an All-American Masters swimmer and coach in Miami who writes about health and nature. He is a frequent contributor to SWIMMER magazine, a columnist for the Biscayne Times, and a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists. 

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