Workouts Don’t Matter

Lt. Shannon Scaff, an instructor at the Coast Guard Maritime Law Enforcement Academy in Charleston, S.C., takes a quick breather during a long distance swim he dedicated to a fallen Coast Guard aircrew, Feb. 27, 2015. Scaff undertook the challenge of swimming in a local Charleston pool for 24 hours to bring awareness and support to the families of fallen military members. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann.
Photo Courtesy: Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann

By Wayne Goldsmith

Workouts Don’t Matter.

All this stuff about volume, intensity, frequency, heart rates, lactate, speed, power, endurance…it’s doesn’t really matter. None of it.

Coaches spend hours and hours pondering, “do we 6 x 200 or 7”, “should we hold 1:40 or 1:35 on this set”, “should this kick set be 600 metres or 800 metres”.

And it doesn’t make any difference.

Not if you want to win.

Workout’s don’t matter….unless….

Picture this.


Photo Courtesy: Morgan Pestorius

An early morning in a wonderful, new, state of the art swimming pool.

The head coach, the coaching team and two of the nation’s leading sports scientists have spent two hours discussing the workout, debating time cycles, arguing about heart rates and physiological loading and talked about the ideal volume for the swimmers to complete in this training session.

The athletes arrive – carrying with them the latest training equipment, low-drag swimsuits, the best sports drinks and protein bars money can buy and start getting ready for training.

Workout is scheduled to start in 10 minutes.

Seems like everything is ready and raring to go for what should be a brilliant workout.

Now look closer….there’s more here than meets the eye.

The athletes were supposed to be here 30 minutes ago to start stretching and preparing for training – but most of them turned up late.

When they arrived, they sat around talking about the movie they saw on TV last night and about their best score on Halo 3.

Eventually, with a few minutes to go before workout is scheduled to start, they place their swim gear next to the pool.

Warm up starts…an easy 200 free.

Their first dive….sloppy, poor streamlining, no power.

They breathe on their first stroke and swim their first lap with poor technique and without breathing control.

At their first turn, they slow down, breathe three times inside the flags, turn half on their side, push-off without real power and with a “super-man” streamline (i.e. hands and arms apart) – and are up on the surface for their first breath before they reach the flag.

As they approach the wall at the end of their 200 warm up they breathe twice from the flags, then stop three metres from the wall and walk the final metres to the finish.

Content and Intent – The Science and the Art of Swimming.

When coaches write training sessions – when they design the “content” of the workout, they do so with one underpinning assumption…..that the athletes will complete the workout with the “intent” with which it was written.

No coach writes a workout thinking, “and the swimmers will swim this session with poor push offs, terrible technique, slow and sloppy turns and sub-standard finishes”.

It is the desire, capacity and commitment of the athlete to do the content – the “what” of the workout – with the intent behind the workout’s development – the “how” of the workout – that makes all the difference.

And therein lies the key to it all – the balance between the science and the art of swimming.

The Science and the Art of Swimming: one cannot exist without the other.

Swimmers and coaches spend far too much time worrying and thinking about the “what” of swimming – the sets, the repeats, the training volume, intensity levels, skills practices and speed work. This is the science of swimming – and it’s important – but it’s only half the picture.

The key to swimming success is in the “how” of swimming – the art of swimming.

Apr 15, 2015; Mesa, AZ, USA; North Baltimore Aquatic Club teammates Allison Schmitt and Michael Phelps swims laps during a practice session at the Arena Pro Swim Series at Skyline Aquatic Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic via USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Arizona Republic-USA TODAY Sports

The best designed, most carefully crafted, most intelligently written swimming training program – the one with the scientifically “proven to work” content is not the miracle of swimming performance enhancement everyone seems to think it is unless the athletes swim the workout with the intent with which it was written.

It is this balance – getting the content of the workout right – then inspiring, educating and coaching athletes to swim that workout with the intent with which it was written that makes all the difference.

A relatively simple program – delivered by a passionate, thoughtful coach and swum by committed, dedicated, determined swimmers will produce outstanding results every time.

Workouts don’t Matter unless… you study and learn the science of swimming – then Master the art of coaching: an unbeatable combination.

Wayne Goldsmith


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  1. Andrew Webber

    I agree, although the first half, is by far the biggest half.

  2. Pedro Mrf

    Tell that to Mr
    Phelps… Another story teller… eheheh…

  3. Pedro Mrf

    Tell that to Mr
    Phelps… Another story teller… eheheh…

  4. avatar
    Graham Smith

    Both are equally as important as each and as a coach, I think you spend your time on your strengths. If that it is in more of the ‘art’ domain of coaching then that will suit your athletes and you. If on the other hand, you are more of a ‘scientific’ style of a coach then you will spend more of your time in this area of coaching, such as the set design, heart rate monitoring etc.

    I find myself more in the ‘art of coaching’ therefore, when it comes to race meet evaluation I have the swimmers focus a lot on how they felt before racing, what you thought during the race and post race feelings.
    We still look at stroke rates, splits, etc. But the main focus is around how the athletes feel prior to racing.

  5. Lily Bellehumeur-b

    Sandrine Ménard on devrait partager ça sur la page de nat ssf hein Felix Blanchard?

    • Felix Blanchard

      hein cest donbin nice envoie le a Jo pt qui va reconsiderer le sport etude ahaaha jva la mettre moi gang de pas deniaiser 😉

  6. Calo Gv

    Karen Robles Murillo

  7. Jorge Lozano

    Sabrina Martinez Daniela Mora Ana Garay Jorge Topete

  8. avatar

    The Buddha’s Words..
    How to success..
    The first one to do..not have to do..

  9. Manjul Saha

    Hope our children understand this and our coaches make them realise their mistakes. Tagging… Meghna Saha Dhanista Dhannu Sahithi Rao Yannam Hemanth Swathi Yellu Tejas Nayar Dinesh Rajoria

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