Breaking Down the Workout
The generous warm-up, which when Klete does it is "the slowest this side of the Mississippi," mixes freestyle with stroke work to stretch out all muscles and prepare them for the upcoming workout.
A short pre-set of 50's serves to increase the heart rate. Concentrate on being explosive on the first half of these 50's—especially during the butterfly—and keep your freestyle long and smooth. Use this portion of the workout to wake up slumbering muscles and get your body ready for some faster swimming.
A kick set is always good early in the workout. While the legs are usually the most neglected limbs for long-distance swimmers, they contain the body's largest muscles and thus can be a valuable tool later in the workout (or race) if properly conditioned and warmed up.
For triathletes trying this workout, a kick set like the one suggested above serves not only to prepare the legs for the sprints to follow but also loosens cycling- and running-fatigued muscles to prevent possible cramps.
Better Your Breathing
Next is the hypoxic set.
A "hypoxic" set is one that focuses on breathing patterns to strengthen the body's anaerobic capacity. By limiting and regulating the oxygen intake during activity, a swimmer conditions the body to function during increased stages of oxygen depletion (which of course is what happens during strenuous competition).
A swimmer accustomed to this type of training may endure faster speeds for longer periods of time—and consequently be better equipped than his or her counterparts to recover for the next portion of their race.
A hypoxic set need not be fast; focus on keeping your stroke moderate and methodical and your turnover strong and deliberate. By the last 100 meters, where you will be breathing every ninth stroke, you may feel the burn in your lungs. If you can't make it breathing every ninth stroke, breathe every seventh and work your way up.
The Main Set
The main set features the "active rest" set described above. Work your way down during the first four 100's freestyle to the pace you want to maintain in your race or triathlon.
Do not pause between your fast 100 and your "active rest" 100 easy backstroke. Halfway through the set you are required to hold the fast pace you attained for the last four fast repeats.
Immediately after this set the next phase begins, similar in structure to the 16x100, only less physically daunting because the fast portions are only 50 meters long.
As you descend down each round to a faster pace, you may start to feel sore and fatigued. At this point—especially in the sprint portions of the final round—you should rely more heavily on the legs you warmed up earlier in the workout. They may be your saving grace and the reason behind your ability to maintain your goal times!
This is a well-rounded freestyle workout that covers lots of ground—aerobic, anaerobic, pace, sprinting, stroke and technique. Klete prefers working the kick sets, while "everything else I just concentrate on technique, and if I'm feeling good I try to get progressively faster throughout the (given) sets."
For someone who was part of a world-record breaking relay team (800m free at 2007 World Championships), once held an American record (400m freestyle), and acquired numerous swimming awards and honors, Klete can't promise identical results for anyone that subscribes to his suggested World Class Workout.
But consistently practicing and alternating his workout with his sister Kalyn's may get you at the front of the pack in your respective swimming endeavors!
A former swimmer at Stanford University, Alex Kostich has stayed strong in the sport at the elite level even while maintaining a day job. The three-time Pan-American Games gold medalist still competes in—and wins—numerous open-water races around the world each year, as well as competing in the occasional triathlon and running race.