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by Scott Bay

July 6, 2015

They do matter and yet they don’t…

As swimming coaches, we hear the following six things (or variations on them) just about every day from swimmers:

  1. Is today going to be hard?
  2. How far did we go/are we going to go?
  3. When is sprint day?
  4. When is taper?
  5. My (name of body part) hurts. I'm going to take it easy today. 
  6. Is there a lot of kicking?

It doesn’t matter if you’re coaching age-group, senior, high school, college, or Masters swimmers, you’ve probably heard (maybe you’ve even uttered) at least one version of each of the above at some point during your coaching and swimming career. Despite the variety of ways swimmers have developed to ask the coach about the workout in advance, all of these questions revolve around two variables: volume and intensity. 

Now, truth be told, any coach could make a swimmers feel like they went 10 rounds with Floyd Mayweather in less than 2000 yards, but then, really, what’s the point of that? Are we trying to kill our swimmers? The answer is no. Honest! The most appropriate response is, “I have a plan.” 

Of course the next step is to have a plan. Let’s take one of the most tried and true sets of 10 x 100s on whatever interval you want to make up. How many ways can you do that set based on the numbers?

The answer is: Too many to count. You have to ask yourself if what you’re doing is reaching the needs and wants of each swimmer.

The following is a fun set that will appeal to a variety of skill and speed levels while providing a challenge for everyone. I call it the Nearest 10.

Nearest 10

Swimmers swim a predetermined set of, say, 100s. They use a rest interval that sends them off on the next nearest 10 on the clock (60/0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50) after they come into the wall. The most rest you can get during this set is 9 seconds.

So what’s this good for? Everything!

Tell them you’re doing 20 (or 15, or 10, or 3.14) and give them instructions on how to swim these based on what you’re trying to do. Easy speed? Aerobic threshold? Lactate? Red zone? Race pace? Faster? You can customize this to your needs. Better yet, they can too.

For example, swimmers who specialize in the 500 should do 5 x 100. At the conclusion of the set, they should have swum all five so that they add up to the same or faster than their race pace 500 time.

Now, is “100” the magic number? Nope! You can do this with 50s, 75s, 125s, or whatever distance you desire. 

Want to make it more fun? Do it multiple times with different strokes. Or better yet, try it with IM.

Swimmers will self-select their pace based on those six questions at the start, but you’ll still get to control the workout. Is it a little chaotic in the lanes? You bet! But, it’s structured so that swimmers of all ability levels and speeds can challenge themselves and each other and get a great workout at the same time.  


  • Coaches Only


  • Coaches