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Test Sets

stopwatch A good test set can help you predict how will you perform, based on your current training and fitness level – but without swimming (or running or biking) your actual race. A good test set can help you replicate the FEEL of an actual race (the lactic-acid burn, the muscle fatigue, the added resistance of the water at race pace), but in a controlled situation. It can help you plan your pace and your race. It can even help reduce some of your pre-race jitters. The only thing missing from most test sets is the adrenaline rush you’ll get in a race. But that’s part of what makes them work. It’s the adrenaline that lets you maintain your test-set pace in a race – that pushes you to hold it all together for one of those GOOD scoreboard surprises.

The Go Swim Team has put together several test sets to help you know how fast you’re likely to go BEFORE you get on the blocks. Here’s Test Set #1.

4 X 25

Some coaches like to call this test set a – broken 100, but I like the sound of "four 25s" a whole lot better. Nothing to it. Piece of cake. Well, at least it SOUNDS easy.

The idea behind a "broken 100" is that you swim 4 X 25 at what FEELS like race pace, taking just 10 seconds rest between each 25. If you add together your actual times for the 25s, you’ll come up with your actual race time for the 100.

I did this test set at least once per week when I was training for the 100 Breast at USMS SCY Nationals. I would do it only once per practice, usually at the very end just before warmdown. Here’s how I approached it.

I was hoping to go 1:20 in the 100 Breast at the meet. That’s 80 seconds, or 20 seconds per 25 (80 divided by 4 = 20). I figured that if I could hold together 4 X 25, each of them at 20 seconds or faster – and with just 10 seconds rest – I could go 1:20 at Nationals. So I would do 4 X 25 on a 30-second sendoff, starting each 25 from a push. Toward the end of my training, I was able to hold 20-19-19-20 – or 1:18 total. My time in the meet? 1:17.79.

So, if you’re shooting for, say, 1:00 in the 100 free (actually, you should be shooting for 59.99), you need to do 4 X 25 in 15 seconds each (60 divided by 4 is 15), on a 25-second sendoff (10 seconds rest). You get the picture. Try to feel relaxed and in control on your first two 25s. Easy speed. On the last two 25s, you’ll start to feel the fatigue. Try to stay in control of your technique, but crank it out as fast as you can.

Ready, set, GO SWIM!