View Full Version : Newbie with a question about setting intervals

July 19th, 2012, 11:27 PM
Hi guys,
So I'm sort of new to this whole 'super intense swimming' thing. I swim on and off over the school year, but this summer I've really been trying to up my game and I've been going to the pool everyday for about an hour. So far it's been going great, but I'm having some trouble picking appropriate intervals for myself. The focus has been on working on my endurance thus far, however swimming straight miles got really old fast.I could do a mile in a little under 45 minutes when I started. I then changed it to 15X100 on 2:50 which was a good pace, but not terribly challenging. I did a sprint workout today, which was nice but only the rests were timed. I timed one of my 100s once, and I swam in 2:14 which I know is pretty awful. Basically, I'm hoping to speed up my longer distance stuff, if only for the sake of being able to cover more distance in each workout and do more stuff without being in the pool for 5 hours.
So if anybody has any advice for me about this or just in general, I would love to hear it.
Science Geek

July 20th, 2012, 09:39 AM
The section that stood out, to me:

... I timed one of my 100s once, and I swam in 2:14 which I know is pretty awful. Basically, I'm hoping to speed up my longer distance stuff ...

It doesn't sound like setting intervals is the problem, it's stroke mechanics, and it sounds like you know it. If you want to go faster, do a better job avoiding water resistance.

This is my favorite video. See how Karlyn's body is perfectly level. Her feet are right at the surface of the water; her body is streamlined from head to toe. Watch her head position. She gets a nice glide at the start of every stroke. The water does not resist her!


One simple way to measure your efficiency in the water is to count strokes per length. How many strokes do you take per length? Work on trying to reduce that number until you can effortlessly swim a length of a 25 yard pool in no more than about (ymmv, depending on lots of factors) 15 strokes, preferably 11. Ride the glide!

The ultimate: Ande swims a length of freestyle in zero strokes:


Allen Stark
July 20th, 2012, 03:16 PM
If you want to focus on endurance mostly then do things like 100s with 15-20 sec rest.If you want to focus on going faster then the advice to work on your technique is correct.Ideally get a coach or someone knowledgeable to give you pointers. Failing that at least post a video for us to comment on.

July 20th, 2012, 06:44 PM
Or if you want to get all geeky about your swim, there's color zone training:


July 21st, 2012, 10:57 AM
... I've really been trying to up my game
If this means swimming faster then above is excellent advice. Get the fundamentals down now and you can almost double your speed in no time, possibly at your current fitness level.

Apply intervals and other training methods later once you're on track with the basics. I made that mistake when I started out and after a year of training, all I had to show for it were injured shoulders and the despair of little improvement. I had to relearn the basics the proper way and still strive to improve this skill now. If I find myself getting sloppy I allways back off.

July 21st, 2012, 01:06 PM
Hi Guys,
Thanks so much for all the advice! I think you guys are totally right about technique. I'm taking a few swim lessons over the next few weeks, and even just one half hour lesson yielded big improvements. So I'll definitely keep working on that. Does this mean that I would be better served spending more of my workouts on drills?
I love the color zone training too! I'm definitely going to have to study up on this. I totally fits my nerdy approach :)
Also, I just wanted to say that these forums are really cool! You guys seem totally awesome :D

Thanks so much

July 21st, 2012, 01:27 PM
Earlier you wrote,

I could do a mile in a little under 45 minutes when I started.

If you can swim for 45 minutes straight, you are in pretty good shape! There's nothing wrong with your aerobic capacity. You can do a lot of work. The problem is moving through the water in an efficient streamline. You want to convert more of your work into moving forward, and less of it into overcoming water resistance. Swimming lessons are a good idea. Drills are a good idea. Swimming with fins is a good idea, if the purpose is to learn what it feels like to move smoothly and quickly through the water.

Geeky fact: Water is approximately 800 times denser than air.

Therefore water resistance is approximately 800 times more important to a swimmer than air resistance is to a runner. Learn to avoid it!

July 21st, 2012, 03:40 PM
I change up my intervals depending on what I want to work on. If it's endurance, i might take 10-15 seconds rest, if I want to work on speed, I'll rest anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. I try to emphasize different objectives on different days. For example, I might do a middle distance workout on Monday with shorter rest intervals, followed by a recovery workout (lots of drill) or nothing on Tuesday. Then Wednesday, I will do a speed workout with high rest. Then again, I'll do a day light or no swim and then the next workout will be something different - I often do broken 200s and kick sets breast stroke, since BR is my forte.

July 22nd, 2012, 11:36 PM
As a relative newbie myself I would say that technique work pays big dividends. But it can be a little overwhelming at first; think about mastering one drill at a time and then alternating drill and normal freestyle 50s or 100s, so you can make the transfer.