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by Terry Heggy

April 22, 2019

Take full advantage of your workout intervals by engaging your mind

Each time you finish a repetition, there’s a break before you swim again. Depending on the purpose of the set, this break could be anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. It’s common to refer to this break as “rest”, but if all you’re doing is resting, you’re missing a fabulous opportunity for additional improvement.


Sendoff interval

A sendoff is where you begin the next repeat after a specific amount of time has passed since you began the previous swim. In other words, you’re always leaving the wall at a predetermined time, and that time isn’t affected by your swimming speed.

Example: On a 1:30 sendoff, you would begin each repeat exactly 90 seconds after you started the previous one. If you finish in 1:25 (85 seconds), you get five seconds rest. If you finish in 1:00 (60 seconds), you get 30 seconds rest.

Going on a sendoff interval means:

  • Simple math enables you to calculate exactly when you’ll begin each repeat throughout the set.
  • The faster you swim, the more rest you get.
  • You’ll be more aware of your pace and—on an aggressive sendoff—you may be challenged just to make it to the wall in time to start the next repeat.

Rest interval

Swimming repeats on a rest interval means that you begin the next repeat a set number of seconds after you finish the previous swim. Your speed does not impact the amount of rest you get.

Example: On a 10-second rest interval, you would begin each repeat exactly 10 seconds after you touch the wall. If you finish in 1:25, you’d start your next swim at 1:35 since the most recent time you started a swim.

Swimming with a specific rest interval means:

  • You must look at the clock as soon as you touch, so that you can add the rest to your finish time.
  • Because you don’t worry about the clock, you can focus solely on effort.

Rest intervals may also include a range.

  • When the coach describes your rest as “about two minutes” or “about 10 seconds,” it means that you can stretch or compress your rest a bit so you can always start on a clock time that makes sense to you. If you finish on 2:07 on an “about 10” interval, you could start your next repeat on either 2:15 (eight seconds rest) or 2:20 (13 seconds).
  • “As much as you need” means to take as much (or as little rest) as is appropriate to meet the intent of the set. If you’re trying to maintain top speed with all-out sprints, then you’ll want to rest until you feel fully recovered (up to several minutes). If your goal is to hold your 1650 pace for a series of 100s, you may only take enough time for an extra breath (a second or two) before starting the next repeat.

Stationary Training

Muscles need recovery time to fully repair themselves after effort, but the bulk of that process occurs after your workout ends (refueling, sleeping, watching TV, etc.) Even so, the rest you take between swims provides essential benefits to your workout.

  • Rest intervals allow your body to flush waste products and reallocate nutrients to prepare for additional work.
  • Even a brief interruption in effort allows your mind to refocus for the next effort.
  • Any time you’re not swimming, you can be thinking about swimming!

Stationary training occurs when you actively enhance your swim expertise while you’re not moving. Here are some suggestions for effective use of those moments between repeats.


Rest with focus.

  • Straighten your core (don’t bend over) to allow your diaphragm to fully inflate your lungs. Exhale fully to avoid hyperventilation.
  • Drink fluids for proper hydration.
  • Shake or stretch your appendages to stay loose and flush muscle toxins to avoid cramps and mitigate fatigue.
  • Monitor and maintain your body functionality. Consider the workout flow when you plan refueling (gels, etc.) and potty breaks.
  • Concentrate on breathing, alignment, and form during any cool-down swims and long breaks between sets. Never allow yourself to swim sloppy just because the effort is low.


A strong swimming network makes you a better athlete. Use rest time to build supportive group energy.

  • Follow all etiquette rules, especially regarding how you touch the wall and move aside to allow room for all swimmers.
  • Watch other athletes swim and learn what you can from their successes.
  • If the intervals are long enough, build friendships through social interaction. Be positive while encouraging everyone in your lane to get the most from each set. Congratulate lane mates who swim well and distribute high-fives all around when everyone dominates the set.


Think about what you just did, and what you’ll do next.

  • How fast did you go, and how fast do you plan to go on the next repeat? (It’s OK to be aggressive and risk failure.)
  • What stroke flaws crept into the last swim, and how will you fix them? Stretch your arms up into streamline position during your break to help visualize how you’ll leave the wall on the next repeat.
  • What can you do to overcome fatigue? What imagery will toughen you up to overcome impending challenges? Who can you chase (or try to leave behind) to stay motivated?

Stationary training includes everything you do when you’re not actively swimming down the pool. Listen to your coach, sweep your hands in sculling motions between sets to enhance your feel for the water, and discuss strategy with your teammates to improve while your competitors are merely “resting.” Take advantage!


  • Technique and Training


  • Mental Training