Wayne Goldsmith: How To Handle The World’s Dumbest Swimming Workout

Swimming workout
Photo Courtesy: Andy Ringgold/Aringo

Wayne Goldsmith: How To Handle The World’s Dumbest Swimming Workout

How many articles, blog posts, magazine features and text books have you read about swimming workouts?

How many web articles have you seen that start with something like “The 10 best speed workouts” or “The best ever distance workout” or “The only three breaststroke drills you’ll even need?”

20 articles?? 50 articles? 10,000 articles? More?

There are literally thousands – or maybe even tens of thousands of pages, posts and podcasts about the “best” the “perfect” or the “ultimate” workout” for swimming.

Everyone’s so caught up with the “what” of swimming workouts when the “what” matters a whole lot less than you might realise.

Here’s an article that’s the exact opposite of everything you’ve ever read about swimming workouts….here is The World’s Dumbest Swimming Workout (and how the world’s smartest swimmers would do it).

The World’s Dumbest Swimming Workout

Here it is – the world’s dumbest swimming workout – 240 x 25 yards (or metres)

And Now…How the World’s Smartest Swimmers Would do the World’s Dumbest Swimming Workout: Cooks and Chefs.

There are two basic types of swimmers – cooks and chefs.

A “cook” is someone who can read a recipe book, follow the recipe and make the cake or the pie or the dish as per the recipe instructions. Cooks see cooking as a job – as a task to be completed by necessity – as something they have to do.

A “chef” is someone who understands cooking and the art of meal preparation. They will also follow the recipe but with their superior training, high level skills and great understanding of what it takes to make outstanding meals – the dishes they prepare by following the same recipe will be significantly different to those produced by the “cook”.

Chefs consider cooking an art form – it’s their passion – it’s something they’ve deliberately and consciously pursued as their choice of career and their lifestyle.

Think about that for a moment.

Two people. Using the same recipe…the same raw ingredients…the same cooking utensils…the same kitchen appliances…producing very, very different quality dishes.

What’s this got to do with swimming workouts?


Win the Workout: Cooks and Chefs.

The “Cook” when presented with the world’s dumbest swimming workout would swim 240 x 25, count every lap, follow the coach’s instructions to the letter and, at the end of the workout, they would have swum 6000 yards (or metres).

The “Chef” when presented with the world’s dumbest swimming workout would….

  • Choose not to breathe on the first three or last three strokes in free and fly;
  • Choose to touch the wall with two hands firmly and aggressively in fly and breast;
  • Choose to swim with an even, controlled pace and relaxed stroke;
  • Choose to breathe every two or three strokes in fly;
  • Choose to streamline in perfect position off every wall until their feet were well past the backstroke flags;
  • Choose to attack their turns at race pace;
  • Choose to finish every repeat with breathing control and with excellent technique;
  • Choose to re-hydrate regularly throughout the workout;
  • Choose focus on excellence in stroke technique in every stroke;
  • Choose to complete a perfect underwater pull-out stroke in breaststroke off every wall;
  • Choose to explode to the surface with a powerful breakout off every start and turn;
  • Choose to start every free, fly and backstroke lap with fast, dynamic underwater kicking in a perfect streamline;
  • Choose to finish on the wall in backstroke on their back and with a powerful lunge at the wall;
  • Choose to finish every free lap with their eyes, head and body in the perfect position and with their feet still driving;
  • Choose to challenge swimmers in the next lanes to little contests and competitions, e.g. who can take the least strokes on their next fly lap;
  • Choose to count strokes and think about distance per stroke – particularly as they start to fatigue.

The bottom line is…it is the choices that swimmers make during even the most dull, boring and mundane training activities that makes all the difference.

Cook or Chef..Success is Your Choice.

Every swimmer and every coach in the world has the same basic “recipe-book”.

There’s very little difference in workout designs, training set formulation and training program planning across the globe.

Everyone has the same basic “ingredients”: a recipe book (the training program), cooking implements and appliances (training equipment) and a kitchen (a swimming pool).

It’s easy for “cooks” to achieve a reasonable swimming performance result as there’s so many “recipe-books” available for free or for little cost on the internet.

However, what the “recipe-books” don’t tell you, is how to complete each and every workout in a way that makes swimming success inevitable.

Once a swimmer realises that so much of the success they crave comes down to the choices that they make – and the decisions that they take in every workout – every “cook” can become a “chef”.


  1. Workouts are not what matters: it’s how you do the workouts that matters: cooks and chefs.
  2. Smart swimmers know that regardless of what the coach writes on the board – it is their attitude, their commitment, their personal standards and their engagement with their training that makes all the difference.
  3. The best swimmers are those who attack their training with purpose: their actions are deliberate and they maximise the benefit they gain from every workout by their relentless pursuit of excellence in all that they do.
  4. Doing the workout – actually completing the distance of the training session is the minimum standard: aim to “win-the-workout” – i.e. set your own training standards and your personal performance level higher than anyone in your lane, your team, your state or even your nation….and you will achieve every swimming dream you’ve ever dreamed.

And…as always…don’t count the laps – make every lap count.


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Chris Cheng
8 years ago

Well said

Dawn Pachence
8 years ago

Crystal Coleman

Crystal Coleman
8 years ago
Reply to  Dawn Pachence

Worlds dumbest set

Dawn Pachence
8 years ago
Reply to  Dawn Pachence

I like the cooks/chefs analogy

Wayne Goldsmith
8 years ago

Thanks for reading and for the comments.

Thought about this while watching one of the ubiquitous TV cooking shows one evening.

Realised that so many people now think that they are “chefs” because they watch these shows, write down the recipes, go buy the ingredients, get the same kitchen appliances used in the show that they’ll end up with the same quality meals.

It’s a bit like swimmers and (increasingly swimming parents) searching the internet for “how much butterfly is right for a ten year old swimmer”, “strength training exercises for young swimmers” and “the top ten training sets for teenage swimmers”.

You can get the swimming “recipe” on line from one of the hundreds of “keyboard coaches” selling programs and training sets on line – you can buy the swimming equipment – you can try and coach yourself or your kids but unless you’ve been trained in the “art” of coaching – the art of inspiring change through emotional connection – you’ll achieve less than optimal results.

As always – committed swimmers, working hard with equally committed coaches – supported by the unconditional love and acceptance of friends and family – with everyone working in partnership in the best interest of the swimmer as their focus – is a great way to go.

Thanks again to everyone for reading and commenting.


Chris Voigt
8 years ago

The workout doesn’t sound very dumb if the chef is doing the workout. Although he might have a problem if he “chooses” to work his/her turns….I don’t quite know why this article was written. We could say 6×1000 is a dumb workout and the same principles apply. We could say a 6000 for time is dumb as well and the same principles apply. Maybe the sport has winners and losers. Winners being the chefs. Losers being the cooks.

I remember doing 10,000 meters for time and 6,000 meters butterfly or backstroke for time and I knew exactly what I needed to get out of it in order to be a better swimmer after the workout. Chefs know what the cake should look like. The cooks just watch the timer tick to :00 and know the cake is done.

In short there is absolutely no such thing as a dumb workout.

Cameron Tysoe
8 years ago

Thomas Ramsay Ryan Hore 16x100s

Thomas Ramsay
8 years ago
Reply to  Cameron Tysoe

T-minus 5 hours…I’m so not ready

Fred Mostoufi
8 years ago

Nothing about swimming is dumb, it’s the best sport.

Walter Carpi
8 years ago

Ottimo !

Lyle Campbell
3 years ago

Another negative article

Craig Lord
3 years ago
Reply to  Lyle Campbell

I beg to differ, Lyle. It seems to me that the article simply points out that ‘it’s not what you do but the way that you do it’…. which is correct, so I fail to see how that’s ‘negative’, one of the most overused and misused words in the world right now. That you see things differently or disagree, or take a different view etc does not make something ‘negative’. Regards, Craig

What Had Happened? CSRA

“Chef” literally means “boss.” The coach is the chef, and any coach who give that workout with no direction is a pretty bad chef. The cooks (the swimmers) should be doing what the chef tells them, and not altering the recipe.

Sharon Frazier
3 years ago

I always hated this set: 5x10x100.

Daniela Zsolnai
3 years ago

where exactly are the turns in 240×25?

Craig Lord
3 years ago

That would be where you fit one of these half-way down the pool:

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