Saturday Swim Session: Swolf - Coach Ray

Coach Ray

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Saturday Swim Session: Swolf

This session will enhance your technique and efficiency through the water.

Each week I will load three options up for you to do. Option A is for swimmers who are after a workout less than 2,000 metres. Option B is for swimmers who are after a workout between 2,000 and 3,000m and Option C will be greater than 3,000m.

Option A

  • 400m Warm Up;
  • 8x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 8x 50m Swolf 20sec RI;
  • 8x 50m on 1/2 T-Time + 10sec;
  • 200m Cool Down (1,800m)

Option B

  • 400m Warm Up;
  • 8x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 8x 50m Swolf 20sec RI;
  • 8x 50m on 1/2 T-Time + 10sec;
  • 8x 50m Swolf 20sec RI;
  • 8x 50m on 1/2 T-Time + 10sec;
  • 200m Cool Down (2,600m)

Option C

  • 600m Warm Up;
  • 12x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 8x 50m Swolf 20sec RI;
  • 8x 50m on 1/2 T-Time + 10sec;
  • 8x 50m Swolf 20sec RI;
  • 8x 50m on 1/2 T-Time + 10sec;
  • 400m Cool Down (3,200m)

Start the workout with a Warm Up covering 400m (Option A or B) or 600m (Option C). During the warm up feel free to stop and stretch as needed.  It doesn’t need to be a continuous swim.

Drill Sets

Swim 25m doing an appropriate drill prior to continuing on with normal freestyle swimming to complete 50m continuously. Pause prior to conducting the next repetition for a total of eight (Option A and B) or twelve (Options C) repetitions.

The pause referred to above is a stop of about 10 seconds. It’s a chance to grab a drink, review the programme and think about the next drill you will do. If you need 15-20 seconds or longer, you are welcome to take it because the rest duration isn’t physiologically critical to the aim of this set. Having a quick break is neurologically critical though, so make sure you don’t just roll straight from one rep to the next.

Some examples of drills can be found by clicking on the name below:

After the drill set we are into the main sets.

The first main set involves Swolf. Swolf is swimming golf and involves counting your strokes (each time your hand enters the water) for 50m. Also record your time for the 50m in seconds and add them together. Therefore 50 strokes and 50 seconds equals a Swolf score of 100. If you were to swim more efficiently or faster without impacting the other your Swolf score will improve i.e. if you swim 48 seconds whilst maintaining 50 strokes or if you swim further with each stroke and only take 48 strokes whilst maintaining the 50 second time.

Complete eight reps of 50m trying to improve your Swolf score each rep you do.  After the 50m take a 20 second Rest Interval (RI).

After you have done a set of Swolf the second main set involves eight 50m reps utilising T-Time which you can read more about here, here and here. Take half your T-Time and add 10 seconds to it.  This is the time you push off the wall on each rep.

If you are doing Option A, it is now time for the Cool Down. Options B and C both have another set each of the Swolf and the 50’s.

Complete the workout with a 200m Cool Down (Options A & B) or 400m (Option C). Feel free to pause and stretch when needed and/or include stretching as part of each break until the distance is covered.

The Swolf concept has been around for many years.  I don’t know who developed it originally.

I am the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi Coaching.

I specialise in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. I can be contacted at and 021 348 729.

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If you enjoyed this workout, here is a similar session I published previously.

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Ray has competed in triathlons from sprint to ironman distance (both IM Taupo and Challenge Wanaka). Consequently he is aware of the importance of balancing training with lifestyle, thus complimenting other important aspects of an athlete’s life (family, work, study commitments etc…). • Entering your first triathlon? • Stepping up to a longer distance? • Looking to go faster? • Wanting to turn previous negatives into positives? Ray has coached athletes to achieve these and more. Training programmes are accessible online, so athletes can be located anywhere and still reap the benefits of Ray’s coaching. Contact him to discuss how he can assist you to achieve your goals.
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