The first step in writing a is determining the TYPE of set you want to create. We've already covered skill. Let's get into the rest.
Level II- Endurance or Speed. We’re going to split level II into speed and endurance. One is not necessarily more challenging than the other, they’re just different. When focused on speed, you’re going to be pushing the envelope while keeping the distances SHORT. There should not be much fatigue. In contrast, the endurance work will be longer, but the intensity should be LOW.
They key here for Level II is the relative absence of fatigue. While it should still be work, you shouldn’t feel like your exhausted. We’ll save that for the racing.
Level IIa- Endurance. The focus here is more on volume and continuous movement. The emphasis is NOT on intensity. It’s not about performing these sets as fast as possible. It’s about performing them with consistency and control. You should be able to finish the sets at the same speed and quality of swimming as when you started. If you can’t, you’re swimming too fast or too long. We’re developing physical endurance and technical endurance, the ability to sustain your skills. While there might be some struggle to keep your skills perfect, if your skills are falling apart, you’re going too long or too fast.
Sample set structures
5x300 with 30 seconds rest
20x100 with 20 seconds rest
500,400,300,200,100 with 30 seconds rest
Now, please keep in mind that endurance is a very relative concept. In terms of volume and the duration of your swims, it is HIGHLY individual. Think about performing repetitions that are long for YOU. Perform total volumes that are high for YOU. The sets structures above could be much too large for you, or they could be much too small. To grasp the concept, simply take a look at the structures for speed. You’ll see how they differ. Adjust accordingly.
These structures are also VERY basic. You can certainly use lots of different repetition distances and combine them all. Look for basic concept and use that when designing a set that makes sense for you.
Level IIb- Speed. For a speed-based set, the purpose is to practice your skills at faster than normal speeds. As with the endurance focus, the purpose here is NOT to race. You are swimming fast over short distances and taking longer recovery periods. While you will elevate your heart rate, it should come back down while you’re resting. While there won’t be zero fatigue, there should not be building fatigue after each repetition.
In terms of how fast you’re swimming, there should be a focus on going as fast as you can with a reasonable standard of skilled execution. While you don’t have to execute your skills perfectly, they should continue to meet a high standard. If you don’t feel this is the case, be patient, slow down, and swim well.
Sample set structures
12-20x25 with 45-60 seconds rest
6-10x50 with 2+ minutes rest
The focus is on fast swimming over short distances with plenty of rest. The name of the game is quality- quality technique and quality speed. Swim well, keep it short, and take more rest. Less is more.
Level III- Racing. In racing sets, you’re going to be going fast for longer periods of time with shorter rest periods. You’re combining aspects of speed sets (fast!) and endurance sets (long with short rest) to simulate racing conditions. If you expect to execute any of your skills in competition, you need to practice racing sets. These sets do not need to be included often. When they are included, the focus should be on performing them very well. It should be high quality speed and skill. If it’s not, do something less intense. The last thing you want to do is ingrain poor habits
Sample set structures
6x25 with 20-30 seconds rest at 100 race effort
4x50 with 45-60 seconds rest at 100 race effort
6x50 with 20-30 seconds rest at 200 race effort
5x100 with 20-30 seconds rest at 400 race effort
10x50 with 15-20 seconds rest at 400 race effort
These are very basic racing type structures. You can certainly mix and match between different. The basic idea is to complete several repetitions at the appropriate racing effort, and hopefully racing speed. As I’m sure you can tell, these sets are hard.
Level IV- Other. Are there other types of sets? Sure. You can combine different levels, you can do long and hard endurance sets, and various other options. I would only include these types of sets if you enjoy them, or if you have particular training goals you feel are best addressed with types of sets that go beyond what I’ve outlined.
I include the three levels because they work, they’re easy to understand, and they’re easy to implement. Anyone can understand the concepts, and there is very little confusion.
Do it right.
Do it longer.
Do it faster.
Do it in a race.
That being said, there are no rules here, just results. If you feel that including a specific type of set and practicing your skills during that set is going to be beneficial, do it! If you’re looking for any inspiration, just search the internet and you can find all sorts of set structures that are available at your disposal.
Once you've decided the GOAL of the set, it's time to determine how complicated of a set you can handle performing. In part III, I'll show you exactly what that means.