How They Train: The Workouts and Sets of Claire Dafoe

Claire Dafoe

From the April issue of Swimming World Magazine, Michael Stott chatted with coach Norm Wright about the training approach used with distance standout Claire Dafoe.

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This coming fall will find NOVA of Virginia sensation Claire Dafoe training under the watchful eye of Jeff Poppell at the University of South Carolina.

In February, Dafoe, a distance, fly and IM specialist and the No. 5-ranked Virginia recruit (62nd nationally), finished her prep career by finaling in the VHSL 6A Championships. In the 200 yard freestyle, she finished seventh (1:54.79) after posting a second-best prelim time of 1:50.38. Her 4:52.84 for a runner-up performance in the 500 freestyle came after qualifying first in prelims at 4:50.20.

At NOVA, Dafoe has benefited from an extremely competitive female training group that has allowed her to achieve one Olympic Trials Wave I time: 800 meter freestyle (8:46.94); two summer national cuts: 1000-1650 yard free (9:42.50, 16:53.53); and three U.S. Open winter times: 400-1500 meter free (4:18.86, 16:49.50) and 500 yard free (4:43.97).

At last year’s NCSA Spring Invite, Dafoe contributed heavily to the NOVA women’s championship showing. She scored in six individual events (second in the 1000 and 1650, third in the 500, eighth in the 400 IM, 15th in the 200 free and 16th in the 200 fly). She turned in personal bests in the 200-500-1650 freestyles, 200 back, 200 fly and 400 IM. Her best times would have allowed her to score in the 500 and 1650 at SECs.

COVID restrictions notwithstanding, Dafoe’s water time has increased in the three years she has swum with NOVA. In 2019, she logged eight sessions a week (two doubles) and did seven weekly three-hour practices. Now she is completing six two-hour with four 1.5-hour sessions as doubles.

“Claire trains all four strokes with an IM focus,” says her coach, Norm Wright. “Distance free days for her are mainly Monday, Thursday and some Saturdays. We regularly do power and resistance training two-to-three times a week, using socks and parachutes,” he says.


Set 1

“Nothing fancy,” says Wright, “but I like 30 x 100 on 1:30. Claire has done this set a few times and has improved from holding 1:01 to a 57.5 average.”

Set 2

“This is more of a progression over time, but for our distance group, I’ve done various longer sets, i.e.:

• 12 x 300 on 4:00

“Claire can hold 1:01 on straight swims and usually gets to a 57 average on broken swims. In the early season, we descend 1-3 straight swims. Mid-season, we descend 1-3, but only #1 is straight, #2 is broken at 150 for :15, and #3 is broken at 100 for :10. Late season, we descend 1-3, but break it into 150/75/50, adjusting the rest to increase intensity as we progress.”

Set 3

“We also do 40 x 50 regularly at pace (pacing from mile to 200 speeds) on 1:00,” adds Wright. “Claire holds 27 seconds for 200 pace, 28 for 500 pace and 28-29 for a mile pace. The goal is to be closer to 200 pace, but sometimes she only gets to 500 pace based on the time of year.”

* * *

“These sets are done starting with 1 easy/1 fast and getting progressively faster as the season goes on. Ultimately, we end with 20 fast and reducing the number as we start meet prep,” says Wright.

Michael J. Stott is an ASCA Level 5 coach, golf and swimming writer. His critically acclaimed coming-of-age golf novel, “Too Much Loft,” was published in June 2021, and is available from, Amazon, B&N and book distributors worldwide.