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Sprint Set Swim Workout

Swimming is a sport that brings out a lot of feelings among athletes. I find that a lot of people who swam as a kid found themselves burned out — and so, even now, if I ask them to join me for a swim workout, they make a face:


And then, we have the folks who never really learned proper form or a variety of strokes, and invariably their response is more like:


Look, I get it — I actually find swimming a bunch of easy laps to be pretty peaceful, but, you know, I … like to swim. If you don’t, or if you’re not great at it, it can be daunting. Or boring. I know.

But doing a solid swim workout is also an awesome way to mix up your fitness routine while enjoying a sunny summer day, and I think this workout is one that anyone who’s ever watched the Olympics and thought, Man, those swimmers look so cool! can enjoy.

The trick is that these are all short, intense efforts, so you don’t have time to think about whether you’re bored, whether you’re doing it right, etc. — you’re simply getting yourself to the wall in a set amount of time. You’ll either need a watch or a clock with a second hand that you can see from the pool, and your interval is based on your ability.

Sprint Set Swim Workout

Warm up, either in the pool with 300-500 yards of easy swimming or on deck with a dynamic warm-up.

Then, see how long it takes you to swim a set distance* going hard.

*This can be just to the end of the pool (likely 25 yards in a short course lap pool), or down and back (which is probably 50 yards). You can also double the number in each interval if you’re used to swimming some distance, or, of course, cut them in half if this is all brand new.

Track that timing to the second, and remember that number — then add 5-10 seconds to it. That’s your interval, so every time you have a hard interval listed in this workout, you are going to hit the wall within that amount of time. Got it? Great! Let’s go!

Main set:

10x HARD on interval, easy swim back (any stroke, no specific interval). Rest 5 seconds before next interval.

Rest 1 minute.

10x BUILD (start with easy effort, building to all-out effort by the time you reach the other side). Rest 10 seconds between each.

100 easy

Rest 1 minute

10x HARD on interval, easy swim back. Rest 5 seconds before next interval. Try to hold the same times you had at the beginning of the set.

Cool down with 100-300 easy and high five yourself. You did it!


The first few might seem easy, in which case, yay! But by the end of this workout, you’ll be fighting through some serious build up of lactic acid and your arms will feel … well, heavy and kind of useless (or maybe that’s just me). But I guarantee you won’t get bored, and the distances are short enough that you can do it, even if you don’t consider yourself a swimmer!

So, what’s your swimming stance? Love it? Hate it? Prefer to do it with a piña colada in hand and a unicorn float at the ready? Because just think about how fast you’ll be able to claim an empty float after doing this workout a few times! —Kristen

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