Tri Swim Coach

Saturday Swim Session: Thomas Groden’s Actual 8-800’s

This is a big, solid session that will build a solid base and develop the intrinsic ability to pace your longer swims. This session is great for swimmers and triathletes preparing for longer, open water swims.

Each Saturday I will post a Swim Session, most weeks I will load three options up for you to do. Option A is for swimmers who are after a workout between 1,000 & 2,000 metres. Option B is for swimmers who are after a workout between 2,000 & 3,000m and Option C will be greater than 3,000m.

The inspiration for last week’s sessions came from the former head coach of Boston College Swimming – Thomas Groden in an article by Olivier Poirier-Leroy read it here. The session was adapted to fit the purpose of these articles, as it is 7,400yds total. But last week I got a lot of people asking about what his actual workout was. The link was in the article but I’ve decided to write about the full session in this week’s article. So this week doesn’t have three options just one BIG option. I’ll also give you options on how to modify it so mare mortals can realistically complete the session as Thomas Groden’s swimmers are a lot faster than the typical triathlete that reads these articles.

Option A

  • 1 x 800   @11:00      Alternate breathing
  • 2 x 400  @5:20        Even pace
  • 4 x 200  @2:40         Change your hard 50
  • 8 x 100  @1:20        Desc. 1-2, x4
  • 1 x 150 kick at @5:00
  • 1 x 800   @10:40      Descend 200’s, 1-4
  • 2 x 400   @4:50        Build 100’s
  • 1 x 150 kick at @3:00
  • 4 x 200    @2:30     Even split
  • 8 x 100    @1:15     Desc. 1-4, 5-8
  • : 60-sec rest
  • 1 x 100 social kick
  • 1 x 300   warm down — stretch — alternate breath — few strokes
  • 8 x 25   Fly from a dive. Perfect breathing from start to finish. Start over on mistake; coaches’ discretion.
  • 100 warm down

The session starts with a single 800m rep, with the focus on alternate breathing. Thomas had his swimmers do it in eleven minutes!!! You can do this by treating it as your warm-up, I envisage it will take you a little longer than the eleven minutes.

The second set is two reps of 400m done on 5:20 minutes aiming for an even pace. If you can’t maintain that pace, just ensure you take a good (but not excessive Rest Interval (RI), I suggest 45 seconds.

Next up is a set of four by 200m. Thomas had his swimmers do them on 2:40 but depending on your ability take a 15-second Rest Interval (RI) between reps. Thomas gets his athletes to swim a hard 50m effort within these reps. Over to you if you do or not, but I’d recommend doing the first 50m hard for the first rep, the second 50m hard for the second rep, etc…..

Follow this with a set of eight, 100m reps. Thomas had his swimmers do this on 1:20 and effectively alternate a moderate and then a harder effort, repeating that four times for the eight reps. If you can’t keep up the sub 1:20’s take a 10-second Rest Interval (RI) for your workout.

To break up the 800m sets, the next set is 150m of kicking. Thomas gave his swimmers five minutes for this set so there was more rest.

Next up is a single rep of 800m done by swimming every 200m split faster than the previous 200m, descending the times as you work through the rep. Thomas’ swimmers did this on 10:40 minutes. If you aren’t a swimmer that can swim the 800m under 10:40, then I suggest you take a Rest Interval (RI) of 90 seconds.

Follow the 800m with a set of two, 400m reps. Thomas had his swimmers do this on 4:50 minutes by building their pace each 100m. Start off with a moderate pace for the first 100m, then a fast pace for the second 100m, building to a faster pace for the next 100m, and for the final 100m swim this at the fastest pace from within the 400m rep. Take a 30-second Rest Interval (RI) if you aren’t capable of swimming the reps under 4:50 minutes.

The next set is a single rep of 150m kicking. In this set, Thomas gave his swimmers only three minutes, so significantly less that the earlier set. If you aren’t following this session precisely in Thomas’ direction take as much rest as needed before the next set.

A set of four, 200m reps is the next set. Thomas got his swimmers to pace these evenly on 2:30. If you aren’t that fast take a 20-second Rest Interval (RI).

The eighth 800m set is made up of eight, 100m reps. This set is Thomas had his swimmers descend the time (or build the pace, to put it another way) 1-4 and then 5-8. A good way to think of this is to swim the first (and fifth) rep at a moderate pace, then the second (and sixth) rep at a fast pace, the third (and seventh) rep at a faster pace, and the fourth (and eighth) rep at your fastest pace. The time he got his swimmers going every 1:15 minute. If like me you aren’t that fast take a 15-second Rest Interval (RI).

That might be the last of the eight 800’s but it isn’t the end of the session. Thomas had his swimmers take a 60-second rest interval and then into a 100m social kick.

Next up is a 300m recovery before the final ‘finisher‘ set, take your time, treat it like a Cool Down (CD) stretch when needed and alternate your breathing.

The finisher set is made up of eight 25m butterfly reps, starting with a dive start from the blocks. Thomas expected perfection from his swimmers and if their breathing or dive wasn’t perfect he wouldn’t count it. Take as much rest as needed to ensure high standards.

The final Cool Down (CD) is a 100m swim. The cooldown (like the warm-up) can be any stroke you wish to swim.  You can also stop and rest after any length.  I encourage you to stop and stretch during the cool-down.

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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