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Just A High-Intensity Inspirational Swimming Set

Written By: Casey Charles

I believe the best training sessions occur at the collision point of fun, intensity, and teamwork. When these three words come together, coaches are able to engage at a higher level, and swimmer motivation increases. By no means is this a novel thought, but the execution of a set that meets this criteria is the crux of every swim coach in the world.

Some sets are one swimmer specific while others are blasted out to the entire group - however, most sets in an age group pool fall somewhere in between those groupings. The hardest sets to write are ones that attempt to capture an entire heterogenous group of ages and skill levels with fun, intensity and teamwork.

With that said, the set I submit today is meant for an entire group, and, in the last decade, I have delivered this set dozens of times to a wide range of 13 and over swimmers from “BB” to NCAA qualifiers (in the same practice at the same time). The results have always been consistently great amongst all participants. Now granted this set takes just under an hour to complete 1750 yards, but I think the results are well worth the yardage trade-off (not that I’m a big yardage guy any way).

My group used to have a name for this set, but I have long forgotten it (feel free to send me a name). For now, I just call it “Seventy 25s” and everyone knows what I mean.

Just to make sure we are all on the same page - RD 1 is 25 @ 1:00 then 2 @ :50, 3 @ 40 and so on. After completing RD1, swimmers will move to RD2 with no additional rest.

When we swim this set, I challenge my swimmers with three goals:

  1. Stay as close to race 100 pace throughout the entire set - stroke rate, intensity, foot speed

  2. Understand that there are two main pain points in this set - transition from RD1 to RD2 with 25s on :20 and then during the ending rounds where you are getting lots of rest, but your body is burning up.

  3. Talk to each other - race and have fun.

Additionally, I might challenge higher-level swimmers in their own way - something like underwater kick distance or breathing pattern execution.

As I stated above, the results on this set have been uniquely remarkable. I’ve had college swimmers run out of the pool and throw up; I’ve had swimmers choose butterfly instead of freestyle; I’ve had swimmers get really intense with one another. But, I think my favorite part of this set is when I see the high-fives at the end. When I see the 52.9 100 breaststroke say good job to the kid who hasn’t broken 2:00 in the 200y freestyle - that’s a great moment.

I believe it is our job to create practices that motivate athletes and facilitate moments, and I believe this is one of those practices.

Entering his 18th season with the ECA, Coach Casey has fostered the meteoric rise in not only the number of swimmers on the team, but the success of those swimmers at championship meets. In 2003, as the head assistant coach, ECA (then GSC )numbered 85 swimmers. During the 2011-2012 season, ECA numbered close to 300 swimmers from 4 to 78 years old spanning three counties. During that 18 year period, ECA swimmers have won over 100 state titles, 15 sectional titles, 1 national title, and 1 Olympic gold medal. In addition, Coach Casey has directly worked with 3 swimmers who have achieved World Rankings and 8 swimmers who have achieved over 20 US Olympic Trials Cuts. Coach Casey stresses personal accountability, time management, and an arduous work ethic with all of his swimmers. Structure, progression, and adaptation are also staples in his swimming philosophy, which dictates the overall goals and mindset of ECA.

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