Need to Know
  1. Adding speed work can make lap swimming more fun
  2. Understand distances and swimming jargon
  3. A workout for all swimming levels

Nothing can kill a workout (or workout motivation) faster than boredom. And swimming endless laps is definitely boring. Happily, there’s more to swimming than following the black line from one end of the pool to the other. Add some excitement to your usual swim and build endurance by changing up your distance, speed, and stroke. We’ve got a fun workout for you below. (If you need a pool refresher, check out our swimming starter kit.)

First, a quick introduction to lap lengths and workout distances.

The first thing to know is the length of the pool you’re swimming in. Most pools are 25 yards long (also known in the US as short course yards), though some are 50 meters long (Olympic size). This particular workout is meant for a 25-yard pool.

Typically, swimming workouts are constructed by grouping together different distances into sets. These distances are multiples of 25 in a 25-yard pool and multiples of 50 in a 50-meter pool. To illustrate how this works, here are a few common distances:

A 25 is one lap in a 25-yard pool, half the lap of a 50-meter pool

A 50 is two laps in a 25-yard pool, and a full lap in a 50-meter pool

A 75 is three laps in a 25-yard pool, and a lap and a half in a 50-meter pool

A 100 is four laps in a 25-yard pool, and a two laps in a 50-meter pool

…and so forth. A 125 is five laps in a 25-yard pool, and a 200 is eight laps. However, most workouts don’t include odd numbered lap distances aside from 25s and 75s.

Now you’re ready to go!

The workout: 

Depending on your fitness level, you can run through the main set once or repeat for two or three rounds. If you’re brand new to swimming, start by cutting the main set in half, and then work your way up to completing the full distance. Whenever you see the word choice, it means you can choose your stroke, including using a kickboard to kick your way through the laps.

Equipment: Swim cap and goggles.

Intensity level: The workout uses a scale of one to ten, with one being extremely easy — “I could do this all day” — to ten being all-out effort.


1×200 (eight laps) Choice

4x25s (four single laps) Speedplay: over the course of one lap, pick up your pace until you’re swimming as fast as you can. Rest 25 seconds between laps. Speedplay elevates your heart rate and gets your body used to varying your swimming speed.

Main set

Rest one to two minutes between each exercise.

4x25s freestyle: Pick a speed that feels challenging, about a six or seven on a scale of one to ten. Pause for ten seconds or five exhales between each 25.

3x50s flutterkick: Using a kickboard, kick through the first 25 at an effort level of 6 or 7. For the second 25, build on that pace until you’re going at about maximum effort. Rest 20 seconds or 10 exhales between each 50. (Note: If you don’t have a kickboard, you can complete these laps by kicking on your side, back and front without using your arms.)

2x100s freestyle: This should be at an effort level of seven out of ten. Try to increase your speed on the third lap of each 100 and hold through the fourth. Rest 30 seconds between 100s.

3x50s freestyle: Sprint the first half of the first lap (an effort level of eight or nine), then go easy (an effort level of three or four) for the rest of the 50. Rest 20 seconds between 50s.

4x25s sprint (choice): These are all-out sprints (a ten on our ten-point scale). Rest 20 seconds between 25s.

Repeat main set two or three times, or move on to the cooldown.


200 easy (choice): Any stroke at an effort level of two or three.

Image Source: Flickr user Mike Carbonaro.