A few years ago, I was hired to be a part-time assistant coach for a school in Atlanta. It took me almost a week to figure out that no one really understood how to read a workout. Today, I’ll cover the basics of how to read a set from one of my workouts. Since there are many similarities across the coaching world much of this should translate to other coaches’ workouts.

Here’s an example of a set in a workout I swam the other day:

3 x 50 @ :40 DESCEND STROKE COUNT BY 1

2 x 75 @ 1:15 BACK-BREAST-FREE

6 x 25 @ :20 [2 FAST / 1 EASY]

300 PULL – BREATHE 3/5 by 50 @ r: 15

So let’s start breaking down this set:

In 3 x 50 @ :40 DESCEND STROKE COUNT BY 1, 50 is the length in yards (this case it is 2 lengths in a short course pool). 3 is the amount of times you will do the 2 lengths. 40 seconds is the amount of time you get to do each 50. For the descending stroke count part – you need to count how many strokes it takes you over two lengths. Then, the next time you do two lengths you take *one less stroke** *(e.g. 40-39-38).

In 2 x 75 @ 1:15 BACK-BREAST-FREE, 75 is the length in yards (this case it is 3 lengths in a short course pool). 2 is the amount of times you will do each 75. One minute and fifteen seconds (1:15) is the amount of time you will get to complete each 75. The first length you swim will be backstroke, the second length you will swim is breaststroke, and the third length you swim will be freestyle.

In 6 x 25 @ :20 [2 FAST/1EASY], 25 is the length in yards (this case it is one length in a short course pool). 6 is the amount of times you will do each 25. 20 seconds is how long you get to complete each 25. The first two 25’s you do will be fast, the third 25 you do will be easy. You will repeat that (2 fast, 1 easy, 2 fast, 1 easy = 6).

300 PULL – BREATHE 3/5 by 50 @ r :15, 300 is the length in yards (this case it is 12 lengths in a short course pool). The breathing pattern is for the first 50 (2 lengths) you breathe every 3 strokes, for the second 50 (2 lengths) you breathe every 5 strokes. Then repeat until you have done 12 lengths. This is not a timed interval, it is a rest interval – that is what the r: 15 stands for (rest for 15 seconds before starting the next thing).

This is just a simple introductory to how to read a workout because coaches can write a lot of different things into one. It should give you a basic understanding of how to read one and if you don’t understand, never be afraid to ask a question!

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