Learn to Build Your Races

By Garrett Weber-Gale//Olympic Gold Medalist

There are countless ways strategize the perfect race. Each athlete is a bit different, so there are varying theories depending upon how you race. Some swimmers go out really fast and try to hold on, others try to negative split, and some just try to stay the same pace throughout.


Here at the University of Texas, coach Eddie Reese teaches us to build our races. Although we still believe in the concept of going out fast, it is critical to be controlled and increase the intensity along the way.


One of the ways we take this theory and put it into practical application is by creating sets around the concept. Here’s a set we recently swam in order to help us build the back end of our races.
25-meter pool:


4x100 on 1:40

  • The first 100 you go fast on the last 25.
  • The second 100 you go fast on the last 50.
  • The third 100 you go fast on the last 75.
  • The fourth 100 you go fast on the entire 100.


We did this entire set two rounds swim, one round pull, and two rounds kick. Between each round we took a 2-minute break.


Exploding on parts of the 100 that started from the end allowed us to build up the entire swim so that at the finish we were really firing, as if we were really in a race. Just like in a race we realized that it was important to build up each ‘fast’ part so that we had gas at the end. For instance, really only the last 15 to 25 meters of a race is completely ‘all out’.


I swam in the group that did 100s, however, we did have some athletes who did the set going 200s. The group that did 4x200 started with the last 50 being fast, and added a 50 on each repeat. This is a much different set physically and will be much harder to get the same type of top-end speed from. If you’re not as much of a speed demon, the 200’s set might be better for you.


Work with your coach to figure out what part of this set will benefit you most. Remember, in order to execute the perfect race strategy in the race, we must practice it in workout. Keep working hard and having fun.

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