[Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2002.]
The second World Class Workout (check out the first one) comes courtesy of Lisa Hazen, an open-water legend who has competed in distances up to 88 kilometers!
A four-year All-American swimmer from Stanford University, Lisa briefly retired to pursue a career in high-tech in Silicon Valley. When a skiing accident forced her back to the pool for recovery, some friends convinced her to try open-water racing, and she took to it naturally. By 1994 she was competing in U.S. competitions up to 25K as well as internationally-sanctioned events over triple that distance.
Raking up victories and international acclaim as one of the more enduring (and endurance-prone) athletes of the sport, Lisa continues to build her reputation as a Distance Diva even though she is nearly two decades older than some of her competitors. Although she is mostly swimming for the fun of it these days, Lisa still trains like a pro, and some of her workouts are indeed jaw-dropping.
Here, she has agreed to share one of her favorite endurance-building workouts. Beware: It's not for the faint of heart! But regardless of your fitness level, there will be ways you can participate in Lisa's challenging set, so read on.
Climbing the Ladder
When I asked Lisa what her favorite workout was, she couldn't decide. But after some pause, she concluded as follows:
"If I didn't have a coach one day and someone asked me to come up with a workout and no one was going to complain, I would suggest this set:
1 x 800
2 x 400
4 x 200
8 x 100
"For me," Lisa explains, "it's a way to get a lot of yards in in a relatively short amount of time. Plus, by the 100's I'm nice and warmed up so I can try to do some good repeated intervals."
The ladder set above equals 3,200 meters—or a little over two miles. For swimmers who only train half that distance, the best way to modify the set would be to divide the distance in half by swimming a 400, 2 x 200, 4 x 100, and 8 x 50. This way, by the time you reach the 50's you will be warmed up (as Lisa says) to practice your pace on the short 50-meter repeats. Avoid reducing the workout by swimming an 800, a 400, a 200, and a 100, because you will not be doing any repeats by the end and will thus miss an opportunity to train for pacing.
Swimmers hoping to develop endurance couldn't ask for a better set: by starting with an 800, they're forced to swim a half-mile nonstop and then take a short break before completing a broken 800 (2 x 400 = 800). At this point, they've already done a mile and yet are only halfway done. Rather than quitting from fatigue or boredom, swimmers have the opportunity to complete another mile with more breaks and rest (with the 4 x 200 and 8 x 100).
The key is to complete the entire distance (regardless of how much rest you take) so that your endurance is tested and improved over time. Although you are covering long distances, as you proceed down the ladder the repeats get shorter, facilitating the set.
For novices looking for a way to start formal training, the ladder set above can be reduced to laps. For instance, in a 25-yard pool, you may want to try:
This equals 750 yards, or a little less than a half-mile.