Erik Vendt Swimming Workout

Sets of Champions: Broken 1500s with Erik Vendt

Distance swimmers put in the work.

There is a certain pride in being a member of the Animal Lane, where the workouts are longer and the yardage out-paces what most people drive in a week.

Few swimmers in recent years personified the relentless work ethic necessary to conquer the distance events than American Erik Vendt.

While Vendt’s accomplishments in competition were storied, it was the appetite for hard work that was particularly noteworthy. Michael Phelps, in his 2009 auto-biography “No Limits”, detailed just how driven and competitive Vendt was in the pool.

“If I was willing to work hard in practice, Erik had perhaps an even greater appetite for it,” Phelps said of his Club Wolverine teammate. “If, on a scale of one to 10, I was now turning in consistent eights at practice, very few sinking to a two, rising every now and then to a 10, Erik was maybe a nine each and every day. I had, and still have, never seen anyone work out so hard and be so competitive, both in workouts and in the racing itself.”

Vendt’s work ethic resulted in some epic performances in competition:

  • In 2000, at the US Olympic Trials, Vendt would break the 1500m freestyle American record, which had stood for 16 years.
  • He was the first ever American to dip below the 15 minute mark in the mile.
  • Later that year, he would win silver at the Sydney Olympics in the 400m individual medley behind world record holder Tom Dolan.

Erik Vendt Swimming

  • He would win silver again in the 400m individual medley four years later at the Athens Olympics, this time behind Michael Phelps.
  • At the 2002 US Nationals, Phelps and Vendt would duel in the 400m individual medley in a hard-fought battle that saw both swimmers dip under Dolan’s world record.
  • He posted the world’s fastest time in the 1500m freestyle (14:46.78) in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics (but would place fourth at trials).
  • He would pick up a gold medal in Beijing as part of the 4x200m freestyle relay.

Training with Erik Vendt

The following swim workout was done in June of 2007, while Vendt was training at the University of Michigan under Bob Bowman and Jon Urbanchek. At the time, Vendt had considerable endurance, with Bowman noting he “has enough endurance right now to swim the English Channel twice.”

The focus for Vendt was developing the speed to be able to get out fast and maintain that speed in order to challenge Hackett.

The below workout was typical on his training during the summer of 2007. It was done in long course meters. Some neat-o things that stick out include Vendt’s incredible kicking speed. The main set is a round of broken 1500s on descending intervals.

Warm up

  • 1200 as 3x [200 free breathe alternating sides by 50 + 200 IM drill]


  • 400 cruise @8:00
  • 6×100 best average @1:45 (Vendt averaged 1:14.8)


  • 2x [200 IM drill @3:30 + 4×50 free Fast/Easy @1:00]

Main set

  • 5×300 @3:50 (avg: 3:22)
  • 5×300 @3:40 (avg: 3:19)
  • 5×300 @3:30 (avg: 3:11, last one 3:05)


  • 600 with snorkel as 4x [50 free, 50 kick with arms at side, 50 breaststroke]

More Stuff Like This:

This is How Fast Katie Ledecky Swims in Practice. Here are two more mid-distance sets that Katie Ledecky performed in the months leading up to her world-shattering performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Good luck!

Butterfly Sets: How to Dominate Your Next 100m Butterfly. Two awesome sets for developing a monster back-half on your 100m fly (equally applicable to other strokes as well). The sets were developed by Bob Bowman for Mr. Butterfly himself, Michael Phelps.

H/T to Michael J. Stott for reporting on this workout in the December 2007 issue of Swimming World Magazine. Image credit: Alamy Stock

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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