This World Class Workout is a legendary set that has made the rounds for years and years at U.S National Team training camps and college swim programs around the country.
This Challenge Set's origins are unknown, but nearly every swimmer who has stepped onto the blocks of a major national or international competition will have endured this drill at some point in their career.
What makes this set different than previous contributions to this column is the fact that it requires as much mental concentration in reading the pace clock as it does physical prowess in achieving the descending intervals.
The pace clock has stumped many a swimmer (especially those in Masters programs who may have gotten a late start in aquatics), which is all the more reason to attempt this set and force yourself to follow the second hand as it goes round and round. Within one attempt of this drill, the mysteries of the pace clock should all become clear.
Make sure to start your workout with a comfortable warm-up. Depending on your ability, anywhere from 1,500 meters to 4,000 meters of preparatory swimming is recommended. Obviously, the longer you swim this portion of the workout, the more opportunity for variety you have; consider doing a few mini-sets, working your legs and upper body separately.
8 x 50 kick easy/fast @ 10 seconds rest
4 x 200 pull @ 15 secs rest, descending each by effort
When you feel primed to dive into the main set, something like this is what you will face:
3 x 100 @ 1:40
12 x 100 @ 1:35
2 x 100 @ 1:30
12 x 100 @ 1:25
3 x 100 @ 1:20
4 x 100 @ 1:15
6 x 100 @ 1:10
12 x 100 @ 1:05
??? x 100 @ 1:00
(TOTAL: approx. 5,500 yards/meters)
No rhyme or reason, right? It just doesn't make sense, does it?
Take a closer look at the set above: Each group of 100s is on a descending-by-five-seconds interval (the first set on 1:40, the next on 1:35, then 1:30). Notice that each group ends up on the 60-second mark if you start the set on "the top" (the "top" of the clock is the 60-second mark, or 12 o'clock on conventional clock faces).
So, the first group of 100s is on 1:40, which means that if you start on the :60, your third 100 on this interval will end up on the :60 again. This is your cue to drop the interval by five seconds.