Repeating 200's with Olympian Lindsay Benko
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This World Class workout comes from 26-year-old Lindsay Benko, a 2000 Olympic
gold medalist (800-meter freestyle relay) and world record holder in the short
course 200-meter freestyle.
Primarily a middle-distance swimmer
though also an accomplished backstroker Lindsay offered a departure from
some previous World Class Workouts in that her workout was based in a
short-course 25-yard pool.
Some readers have requested short-course
workouts because they lack access to 50-meter facilities, which become
increasingly difficult to find in the winter months.
In addition, Lindsays contribution
differs from former columns in that its main set emphasizes continuous
repetition of her primary middle-distance event, the 200 freestyle, rather than
break the distance down into a ladder, or a series of shorter-distance
As such, the workout is not easy but proves
effective in building speed and endurance ... and self-confidence for those
swimmers that manage to complete it.
An explanation of Lindsays World Class
Workout follows the breakdown listed below, along with a few ideas on how to
modify it to your specific needs.
Lindsay Benkos World Class
900 swim (middle 300 kick)
600 swim (middle 300 stroke drill of your choice)
300 individual medley
8 x 100s variable sprints
(two times through):
1st: First turn fast
2nd: Second turn fast
3rd: Third turn fast
4th: Finish fast
3 @ 2:20
3 @ 2:10
3 @ 2:15
3 @ 2:05
3 @ 2:10
6 x 50s @ 1:15 (two times
1st: three breaths
2nd: two breaths
3rd: no breath
TOTAL: 7,100 yards
Lindsays warm-up is a generous mix of
swimming, kicking, drills, and multiple strokes. The more varied your warm-up,
the better prepared you will be for a main set (or a race).
Remember to incorporate some other strokes
into your warm-up even if your main event is freestyle/triathlon. Backstroke
loosens shoulders, breaststroke helps warm up the legs, and even a few hard
strokes of butterfly can stimulate groggy muscles and prepare a swimmer for
Kicking and drills are also good ways to
ensure adequate pre-race preparation.
Because Lindsays main event is
essentially a long sprint, flip turns are an integral part in her success.
Therefore the warm-up set she supplies incorporates attention to flip turns
while requiring short, fast explosive bursts of speed at varying points within
each repeat. Such bursts of speed bring her heart rate up (as a warm-up set is
supposed to do), yet do not require the type of physical exertion that will
tire her out for the main set that follows.
The main set of 21 x 200s may look
daunting on paper, and it is its 4,200 yards of swimming on a
demanding interval. However, the set should be approached as seven mini-sets of
3 x 200s each, and suddenly it becomes more feasible.
The first two sets should be on a manageable
interval: In Lindsays case thats 2:25 and 2:20. For you, that may
be 2:45 and 2:40. Pick an interval that you will be able to make, but one that
you will be able to drop for a select few 200s later in the set. Your
first two sets of 3 x 200s should be at about 80% effort.
The third set of 3 x 200s is a fast
one, and you should be exerting at least 90% effort since your interval drops
by 10 seconds on this round. Do not overexert yourself, as you are not even
halfway through the set and there are two remaining sets on a faster interval
ahead of you.
The fourth set of 3 x 200s is somewhat
of a recovery since your interval jumps back up by five seconds. Note that it
is still faster than the first two sets, so you are slowly forcing yourself to
swim at an elevated speed for a sustained period this helps build
Also, doing this set a few times will teach
you how to pace yourself; if you start out too fast the first time you attempt
it, you will find yourself not able to make the intervals or finish the set
toward the end.
Start out conservatively and for the
athletes training for a long-distance event or triathlon, remember this
approach as you set out on the first leg of your race!
The fifth set of 200s is the crux of
the set. You should be swimming at 95% effort, but able to maintain the same
steady pace for all three 200 repeats. This is where you should reach your
aerobic threshold: the point where you are sustaining race pace and a steady
heart rate consistently.
The sixth set is a recovery of sorts,
although in Lindsays case she is required to repeat 200s at 2:10,
not an easy feat. Whatever interval you work your way down to on the (previous)
fifth set, increase it by five seconds for this sixth round and simply swim to
make the interval. Do not worry about your time. You need to recover as much as
possible for the seventh and last set of 3 x 200s.
The last set of 200s is an all-out
100% effort sprint. Of course, it is preferable that you maintain the same time
on all three 200s, but whatever you need to do to make the interval is
After 3,600 yards of swimming mostly at
aerobic threshold, these last 200s will be painful and you may feel your
stroke begin to fall apart. Do your best to maintain proper technique
better form under duress will come in handy during a race, and you will swim
faster than your more fatigued counterparts when their technique falls
This entire set builds to a crescendo of
effort through the interval, not through the distance of the repeats (which
remain consistent throughout the set). So while swimming 21 x 200s may
sound monotonous at first, it is much more interesting to approach the set as a
series of smaller sets where the variable is the interval and not the
Break it down into seven sets of 3 x
200s and not only will the set become more interesting, but it will seem
more surmountable too.
Not making the last set of three is not the
end of the world, so if you fail then simply regroup and attempt to get farther
through the set the next time you try it. As your endurance and strength builds
throughout your season, the set will become more and more attainable the more
you do it.
The final short set is an anaerobic
challenge designed to force the body to perform on decreased levels of oxygen
after a period of sustained aerobic activity. This builds endurance and
VO2 max efficiency, but be wary of attempting
50s on no breath if the main set has you worn out.
The reason for doing this set so late in the
workout is to duplicate the feeling of oxygen depletion and anaerobic fatigue
that you might feel at the end of a particularly hard race. The more accustomed
you are to swimming under these conditions, the better prepared your body will
be to handle the physical challenge that comes with racing at these intense
Understandably, some swimmers will not need
to do Lindsays 7,100 yards to cover their daily yardage. A simple way to
modify her workout is to make the 200s into 100s the main
set is shortened from 4,200 yards to 2,100 yards.
The intervals should be such where the
all-important fifth set of 3 x 100s is done with minimal rest at aerobic
threshold: If your race pace is 1:12 per 100 yards, then your interval for this
fifth set should be at 1:15 per 100. Then, building out from that, the rest of
your main set would look like this:
3 x 100s @ 1:35
3 x 100s @
3 x 100s @ 1:20
3 x 100s @ 1:25
3 x 100s @ 1:15
3 x 100s @
3 x 100s @ 1:10
Regardless of how you choose to model your
workout after Lindsays, it should challenge you in both aerobic and
anaerobic ways, while increasing your overall speed and endurance.
When I first heard the main set (of
this workout), I thought I wasnt going to make it, Lindsay admits.
But I ended up going under two minutes for the last three 200s.
"I didnt wake up easily the next
morning, but I loved being able to finish it. It makes you feel great, even if
it might be painful during the process. The end result is pure