There are a lot of different ways to accumulate 3,000 yards in a swimming workout, but most 3,000-yard workouts designed by professional coaches or knowledgeable swimmers typically have four stages: the warm-up, a drill set, main set and cool-down. A lot of swimmers are content to swim continuously for 3,000 yards, and that is excellent, beneficial exercise. But swimmers who want to get faster, stronger and more efficient in the water will break up the swim into parts, each of which has a specific goal.
Your warm-up should be from 400 to 600 yards. Technique, rather than speed, should be the focus for this portion. Swim easily during the warm-up, and concentrate on smooth strokes. Warm-ups, like other stages of the 3,000-yard workout, can be broken into several shorter swims, such six 100s with a short rest between each. Another common warm-up is to break a swim into three parts where you pull (using just your arms and no kick) the first part, kick the second part and then perform a full stroke for the third.
Know the Drill
Swimmers use drill sets to improve their technique. There are a wide variety of drills you can do, including swimming with your hands closed in a fist, dragging your fingertips along the surface of the water during your stroke recovery, and exaggerating your stroke recovery by tracing your fingers along your side. Drill sets are not as hard as the main set of your workout, but they do elevate your heart rate and are an important part of training.
The Main Event
Main sets are the core of the 3,000-yard swimming workout. This portion is from 1,000- to 1,500-yards long, and it’s where you will work the hardest. The goals of this set are to elevate your heart rate, build speed or endurance, strengthen your breathing muscles and increase lung capacity. Very often the main set involves steadily increasing your speed -- called descending, because your times go down -- or steadily decreasing the amount of rest you get.
The Hard Part
One example would be doing five 100-yard swims with 25 seconds rest between each, followed by five 100s with 15 seconds between each, and concluding with five with five seconds of rest. Another example would be four 300-yard swims with a goal of decreasing your time by five seconds for each successive 300. Main sets can also include pulling sets, in which the swimmer steadily decreases the number of breaths he takes per lap. For instance, he would breathe every third stroke on the first lap, every fifth stroke on the second and every seventh stroke on the third, and then start the pattern over again.
Cool-downs are Cool
Cool-downs are nice because the hard work is over and the job now is to swim easily, maintain good stroke technique and work the lactic acid out of your hard-working muscles. The harder your main set, the longer your cool-down should be. A cool-down can be a 100- or 200-yard easy swim, six 50s with long, easy strokes, or a longer continuous swim while wearing fins for added propulsion.