SwimWOD Classes: How I'm Trying to Improve My Swimming This Winter

by - Thursday, January 18, 2018

In my post on cross-training through the cold winter months, I mentioned that I had been swimming a lot more and really enjoying my time in the pool. Usually when I swim, I follow a workout from a book or use one from my mom's swim group.


But that can get kind of boring and monotonous after a while when you're by yourself. So when two of my friends suggested I join them for SwimWOD workouts hosted by Old City Swim School, I was intrigued.

I attended my first class two Saturdays ago, and really enjoyed the structure of the workout. Classes are taught by former division one competitive swimmers and divers and remind me a ton of my old swim team workouts from high school.

Please enjoy this throwback yearbook photo of my high school swim team.

I've only been to two classes so far, but it appears most are typically structured in a way that starts with a warm-up followed by some drills to focus on form. Then we get into the main set. Sometimes the main set is entirely swimming in the pool. Sometimes it's a set of pool work followed by drylands (basically strength work done outside of the pool). Then class ends with a cool down swim.

I love having this kind of structure in my swim workouts. First, there's a coach figuring out the workout for me, so I have to do zero thinking. Then there's the general camaraderie that comes with everyone in the group being "in it together." Even if we're swimming at different paces, we all share collective groans when the coaches surprise us with especially torturous workouts.

I actually liked the workouts so much that I signed up for a ten class pass and plan to make SwimWODs a regular part of my weekly workout routine this winter.

Here's what my first two SwimWOD classes entailed.

First swim class workout

200 warm up
100 kick set

Main Set
12 x 50
3 kick on 2
3 swim on 1:20
3 pull on 1:50
3 swim on 1:20

Strength Work
Tread water for a minute, get out of the pool, do 10 squats, repeat 8 times (my legs felt like jello after this)

150 cool down

Total yards: 1050

Second swim class

This workout featured the sprint set from hell. It was a pyramid sprint set, with active recovery, instead of just regular rest. I was pretty gassed by the end.


Warm up and drills
200 warm up

50 kick

4 x 75 breathing drills

4 x 50 breathing drills

Main set: Pyramid sprints with active rest

200 hard
100 easy

4 x100
Alternate 100 sprint, followed by 100 recovery

4 x 50
Alternate 50 sprint, followed by 50 recovery

2 x 25 hard
50 easy

Total yards: 1800

I know when I first counted this up right after the workout when it was still fresh in my mind it was 1800 yards. But somewhere between then and when I wrote it down, I lost 100 yards. Maybe we swam a 100 after the breathing drills before the main set.

The coaches also wrote our times down for the sprints. I haven't been timed for real since high school, and I have to say I was surprised the numbers were not slower than they were. (Note: The time for my 200 in the picture above is definitely wrong because I shared a lane with a girl who finished before me and according to that picture, she has a slower time than me).

While I normally swim 2000 yards if I'm just going to the pool by myself, I like the structure these workouts provide. I like having coaches and focusing on different things rather than just straight swimming. I'm definitely excited to see improvements in my form and my times from more structured coaching.

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  1. If you enjoyed swimming in high school, you should look into a US Masters team nearby. The coached workouts seem pretty similar to the WOD's in this class, but without the dryland support. As much as I love Masters' swimming, adding in dryland like that does seem appealing now too. Glad you had fun!