The Other Auburn Sprint Set, Or How I Spent 2 Hours Driving the Local Lap Swimmers Nuts

Michael Butler
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Round 1: 10 x 25 @:60

Round 2: 10 x 25 @:55

Round 3: 10 x 25 @:50

That’s 400s, not 100s. I normally wouldn’t want to swim more than 4 x 200, but I plan to do it anyway. Following the 400s are 4 x 100s with a few minutes rest between the sets.

Of course, I start on the first one a little slow, going :52s and getting frustrated. I remind myself it’s supposed to be an easy, quality swim. So I pick it up, holding :47s for the last 25 until the last 100 where I finish in about 1:49, frustrated that I couldn’t hold the last one even a little.

Round 4: 10 x 25 @:45

(1:00 Recovery)

This was a different set than the one I initially used. I thought this set would be easier for the endurance swimmers to try, as it is shorter. I asked them to swim as hard as they could, but under control. I also tried to be a little more animated in explaining this set to them, making sure that they knew that they needed to push a little harder than the other sets I used.

Round 5: 4 x 50 @1:45 (2:45) x 2 (:45) (:45)

This set was tough for the sprinters, especially because they were beaten up from the previous four sets. I explained that this was a sprint set, and that at times, they needed to speed up on different parts of the set, but that the goal was to maintain a pace where they were close to 25 or 30 seconds for each 25.

Round 6: 1 x 100 @3:30, 1 x 100 @3:20 (7:00)

The round 6 set proved to be very tough for everyone. I’d given them a max effort (even for the endurance swimmers) on round 6, with a lot of deep breaths and heavy water coming through the pool. This also caused the sprinters to get a little tired, but they managed to hang in there.

Round 5: 10 x 25 @:40

The set time for a 25 to reach the wall is 22 seconds.

Make a Set of 5 Flashes Half Way around the Pool

5 x [10,25,50,75,25].

One length of 25 is 53 seconds.

Make a Set of 4 Flashes One Third of the Way around the Pool

4 x [10,25,50,75].

One length of 50 is 65 seconds.

Make a Set of 3 Flashes One Third of the Way around the Pool

3 x [10,25,50].

One length of 25 is 53 seconds.

Make a Set of 2 Flashes One Sixth of the Way around the Pool

2 x [10,25].

One length of 50 is 65 seconds.

Make a Set of 1 Flash No More than a Sixteenth of the Way around the Pool

1 x [5,10].

One length of 25 is 53 seconds.

1 x [5,10].

Round 6: 10 x 25 @:35


To really push our aerobic systems, I had everyone swim four rounds of this gambit. The goal was to swim as much of each 25 as possible without taking a full breath. They had to recover quickly in-between each 25 and they had the option to rest during the transition between each set of 25s if they needed to.

I told everyone to train hard between rounds and the focus was to continue to swim hard even if it was getting hard.

One important note: this workout could also have been written as 25 x 25 @:35 (1:40/100m). You do not have to add the round number as a prefix. Some coaches like to do it that way because it reminds you what round you’re on. I like to write workouts using cardinal numbers, rather than ordinal numbers (i.e. first, second, third, etc.). Again, it’s a matter of personal preference.

Round 7: 10 x 25 @:30

On :30

It was The Other Auburn Sprint Set. Or “The Set”. Or “The Set That Brought Down a Sprint Set Empire”.

It was a simple, silly set. Don’t believe me? Take a look:

The first 25 was to be swum on the interval, “easy”, whatever that meant. The second 25, also “easy”, was to be swum on the interval of :30 slower. And so on. I don’t remember if the sixth 25 interval was used, but because I’d had a longer than normal tapering experience (as it was USMS Coach’s Certification time) and a slightly longer listening to myself, I decided to just go for it.

I started. We all did. The hard ones, the easy ones, it didn’t matter. People were everywhere. Not just on the deck, but in the middle of the pool, using the lanes and forcing other swimmers to the sides, around, and between. After an hour and 20 minutes of this, I’d made my way through 25 x 100 on 2:30, including a few “extra” minutes. Why was I doing this with a “rest” interval completely ignored?

Round 8: 10 x 25 @:25


10 x 25 @:25,000+ :50 RI

Round 9: 15 x 25 @:35,000

15 x 25 @:35,000 :50 RI

Round 10: 20 x 25 @:50,000

20 x 25 @:50,000 :50 RI

Round 11: 25 x 25 @:75,000

25 x 25 @:75,000 :50 RI

Round 12: 30 x 25 @1:00,000

30 x 25 @1:00,000 :50 RI

Round 13: 15 x 25 @:25 (15 Fly/15 Br)

15 x 25 @:25 (15 Fly/15 Br) :50 RI

Round 14: 10 x 25 @:30 (10 Fly/10 Br)

10 x 25 @:30 (10 Fly/10 Br) :50 RI

Round 15: 5 x 25 @:35 (5 Fly/5 Br)

Round 9: 10 x25 @:20

This one is the bitch. I always find that I’m uncomfortable in the water at this set…. So I kept kicking and splashing more than I should have.

As soon as you’ve finished your set, go straight to the nearest bathroom and get ready to go home. You’ll see the fast lap swimmers who have been watching you for the past 20 minutes laughing and mocking you. Don’t worry about them. They’re the same people who ask you if you train 100 times per day.

Hmmm…..Don’t think I’ll do that sprint set again.

In Summary

You don’t have to be associated with a swim squad to practice speed intervals. You can easily design your own workout by creating a few key rules. You can vary your speed and rest intervals depending on your ability level and fitness goals. The interval distances can be varied to accommodate different stroke lengths. This workout will allow you to better simulate race speeds and hopefully also help you shave off some time on your next race.

First, design and write your workout on a piece of paper.

Write down the distance for each interval and how you will calculate the time based on your pace per 100 yards or meters. You will want to record all the information that you need for your intervals:

  • Interval distance (i.e. 100 yards/meters)
  • Start time
  • Finish time
  • Rest time
  • Average pace for distance
  • Average pace per 100 yards/meters
  • Average speed for distance
  • Average speed per 100 yards/meters

Each interval should be performed at a set pace. For example, if you are sprinting at 1:30/100, you need to be able to maintain that throughout the rest of the workout.

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Let us indulge in a little autobiographical story now that I have you all in a good mood.

When I attended Auburn University as an undergraduate, there was another male swimmer on the team named Link. Link had a unique ability to swim sprints that absolutely baffled me. He had good natural talent, but his approach to training was what gave him a leg up on my swimming.

Now, I could never find the time to practice doing sprints like he could, so customarily, I let him take the honor of doing the sprints in Auburn’s 200 yard IM on the trunks. This was usually done because we did five 50’s, and I had no time to build up my conditioning. It was customary for the young swimmer who could not do sprints to do the IM sprint while the rest of the team swam their own events.

So from time to time, I would get to do my event in sprints. What needs to be said on my behalf is that I could always swim fast. I just did not always swim well under racing conditions, so I never had much confidence in my racing abilities.