If you swim on your own, it can be hard to come up with new and creative swim workouts. Doing the same thing over and over can get old really fast. This Whiteboard Wednesday session includes a four part series on how you can add variety to your swim workouts through: Intensity, Distance, Stroke, and use of equipment!

The benefits of varying your training are significant and include not only increasing swimming performance but also enhancing your mental engagement during a workout! Adding variety to a swim workout means there will be a qualitative difference in the structure of the sets and overall workout. Two workouts could be the same distance, but vary a great deal qualitatively. The goal of the workout has a large impact on what this difference is. Goals include: improving endurance, speed, stroke technique, taper, recovery, etc.
The four workouts below are all 2,000 yards and take around 40-45 minutes to complete. Each workout varies by a different variable as explained in the Whiteboard Wednesday. I personally swam each workout listed below and provide audio commentary on the structure of the workout and meaning behind each set and the result times. All data was recorded with an Apple Watch Series 4 with 30 seconds rest between sets and 60 seconds rest between set-groups.
Related: 5 Freestyle Drills for Advanced Swimmers

Workout Variation #1: Intensity

  • Distance: 2,000 Yards
  • Duration: 44 Minutes
  • Focus: Energy Zone Variation

Variation through intensity is a well understood scientific principle on how alternating energy zones can positively impact your swimming performance. The Main Set in this workout calls for 3 x 100s Freestyle at Threshold followed by a 50 Freestyle at Race Pace and then 2 x 25s Freestyle Sprint. The Main Set runs two rounds. The Pre-set before calls for a 200 Best Average. This workout walks through all 7 energy zones and asks for your effort level to vary greatly between the Warmup, Pre-Set, and Main Set. Focus on maintaining good technique through the duration of the high effort 50s and 25s.

Learn more about this workout and how to vary your training through intensity here.

Workout Variation #2: Distance

  • Distance: 2,000 Yards
  • Duration: 36 Minutes
  • Focus: Alternating Swim Distance

Distance is the simplest way to add variation to a swim workout. It calls for alternating swimming shorter repetitions with longer repetitions to achieve an aerobic result. This workout alternates between 50s on the warmup and Main set with a much longer single 400 Freestyle to start off the Main Set. The 400 Endurance swim is followed by 8 x 50s Freestyle at Threshold and then 4 x 100s Freestyle at the Endurance energy zone. The Main Set is a 1,200 aerobic block which will build aerobic endurance. Rather than swimming a 1,200 continuously this variation allows you to focus on stroke technique.

Learn more about this workout and how to vary your training through distance here.

Workout Variation #3: Stroke & IM

  • Distance: 2,000 Yards
  • Duration: 43 Minutes
  • Focus: Stroke Variation

Variation through stroke and IM is potentially the most taxing on your body and will burn the most calories in the shortest period of time. Swimming strokes other than freestyle will engage different muscles and energy systems that you wont train if you only swim one stroke. This Main Set calls for 3 x 100s IM (25 Butterfly, 25 Backstroke, 25 Breaststroke, 25 Freestyle) at Threshold followed by three rounds of 4 x 25s of each stroke: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke. Training the strokes broken through 25s rather than swimming a continuous 100 allows you to maintain stroke integrity. The 25s are followed by 4 x 50s IM Order at Best Average.

Learn more about this workout and how to vary your training through stroke and IM here.

Workout Variation #4: Equipment

  • Distance: 2,000 Yards
  • Duration: 51 Minutes
  • Focus: Variation By Use of Equipment

The most energy consuming variations of swim workouts come from using equipment. Depending on how intense your swimming and the equipment you use, this could make workouts take longer, but if you have the time, it’s well worth it! This workout calls for using Fins on the 50s Kick, and a Snorkel on the 25s Drill. The Main Set runs three rounds of 1 x 100 IM followed by 2 x 25s Freestyle with a Parachute, then 1 x 50 Freestyle max effort with Fins & Paddles. The Cool down calls for swimming a 300 with Paddles. If you don’t have any equipment that’s ok, I recommend starting with a set of fins. Each piece of equipment recruits muscle fibers that would not normally be engaged, increasing your work output during the workout.

Learn more about this workout and how to vary your training through stroke and IM here.
There you have it! 4 workouts. 4 different ways to vary your training! There are so many ways to configure a swim workout, it’s really up to you how simple or complicated you’d like to make your training. Always keep in mind you can vary your swim training in more than one way at the same time. It’s always a good idea to add variety to keep workouts fresh and avoid plateau.

If you thought this was helpful, checkout the MySwimPro app FREE for iPhone and Android to get started on a personalized training plan with awesome workout variety to reach your goals! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me directly: fares@myswimpro.com.
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