How to Integrate Distance Training Into Swim Team Workouts

by Kerry O'Brien, Head Coach, Walnut Creek Masters Swim Team, Danville, CA

For the past few years, Thursdays have become a "Distance Option" day within our workouts at Walnut Creek. It's a way of meeting the needs of a combined group of pool distance swimmers and triathletes.

When we are set up for long-course training, the set is 10x400 meters on the six-minute interval. We dedicate one long-course lane to the set, and often will have as many as 14 people crankin' out 400s. At times when swimmers are given the option of a second lane, they will politely refuse and go on with their business.

On short-course training days, some workouts will continue with the 400s, while some practices will splinter off into 3x1650. The first is a straight swim as a warm-up, the second is broken into a Davis Mile (see below) and the third is done as an 11x150 on the two-minute interval.

Another way we try to accommodate our distance swimmers is to combine distance sets with sprint options. The set might read as 3x500. Those wanting to sprint will lead the lane and sprint the first 75, move out of the way and let the 500 swimmers swim through, and then fall in behind. As the 500 swimmers complete the 500, sprinters finish three more 75s, consisting of 50 easy and 25 sprint, with a short rest between 75s, thus fitting their workout around the distance swimmers and always giving them the right of way. The 500 swimmers are in charge of the interval.

A few options we use to train for the 1650 are the following broken-mile workouts:

  • The Davis Mile
    Start with 11 lengths (275 yards), rest 10 seconds, and reduce your swim by one length each time, always trying to rest exactly 10 seconds:
    11 - 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 = 66 lengths
    Subtract 1:40 for your 1650 time.
  • The Irish Mile
    Like the Davis mile, all breaks between swims are 10 seconds.
    400 - 300 - 3 X 100 - 300 - 200 - 3 X 50
    Try to descend the 3x100 and the 3x50, which simulates making a move in the middle of the race and finishing strong at the end.
    Subtract 1:30 for 1650 time.
  • 11x150 @ 10 Sec Rest
    This option is fairly straightforward; make sure it's evenly paced with 10 seconds rest.
    Subtract 1:40 for 1650 time.
  • Broken 1650
    600 Negative Split (Rest 20 sec)
    400 (Rest 10)
    300 (Rest 10)
    200 (Rest 10)
    50 (Rest 5)
    50 (Rest 5)
    Subtract 1:00 for 1650 Time

At Saturday practices, which traditionally run a little longer, distance swimmers may choose two of the three broken 1650 options. They may do their two choices in any order, but have to descend so that the second is a faster total time than the first choice.

Kerry O'Brien, an ASCA Certified Level 5 Masters Coach, has served as head coach of Walnut Creek Masters since 1980. In 1987 he was named USMS Coach of the Year, and in 1992 he was the Pacific Masters Swimming (PMS) Coach of the Year.