The Other Auburn Sprint Set, Or How I Spent 2 Hours Driving the Local Lap Swimmers Nuts

As someone who trains exclusively on their own, there are times where I will freely admit that I could be pushing myself a little harder.

Not having a coach, or someone next to me to push me when hitting peak levels of mental and physical exhaustion is a bit of a downer on occasion, but for the most part, I love the solo aspect of training.

That being said, when crafting together swim workouts I have been pretty stagnant recently, leaning on the same handful of sets over and over again.

Sprint swimming is basic enough: Jump in, latch on to one of your favorite swim workouts for sprinters, and off you go.

But I was ready to try something new.

Deciding it was time to punch my routine in the face with some fresh hotness, I hopped onto the old set of interconnected tubes in order to find inspiration for today’s workout.

The set I landed on was designed by Brett Hawke and the Auburn Tigers. Hawke is the head coach at Auburn, who have long been one of the dominant sprint programs on the planet.

(Hawke himself repped Australia at the Olympics twice in 2000 and 2004.)

As for the workout, it is no joke, featuring 2,500 yards to be swum at 100 race pace.

Sure, why not!

(In case you are wondering what the *other” in the title refers to, it is a set that was done with Coach Hawke and several Auburn athletes, including Cesar Cielo, that involved 100’s all out and crushing Gatorades.)

To make sure that I didn’t back out, I called my shot, as well.

To which Coach Hawke replied:

Here is how the set was laid out:

Auburn Sprint Set

Unfortunately, I had to make a couple alterations to the set:

  1. The pool I swam in today was meters, not yards.
  2. Because of this (and mainly because I didn’t notice that there were two rounds of 25’s at :60) I did 9 rounds instead of 10.
  3. As I progressed through the set, I had to take less rest between the last few rounds. This was because there was an aqua fit class coming in at 6:00pm, giving me *only* 2:15 to do the full workout.

My goals for the workout weren’t necessarily time based, although I would be happy holding 13’s all the way through:

  1. Maintain deadly streamlines and breakouts throughout, with a minimum of 4 dolphin kicks on each push-off.
  2. To keep awesome technique for absolutely as long as possible. In other words, to delay FTD (Full Technical Disintegration).

So with my workout in tow, I skipped on down (not really) to the local YMCA pool to torment the local lap swimmers.

Here is how the workout went down:

Round 1: 10 x 25 @:60

Feeling pretty glorious! Was able to average 13 flats without having to go fully all out.

The public swimmer I was sharing the lane with didn’t look overly impressed as I went through the reps. All the waiting at the walls and then the suddenly violent swimming was causing some confusion apparently.

Note: swimmers in moderate lane not overly pleased. Waves are washing over the lane rope into their lane, making head up breaststroke challenging.

Round 2: 10 x 25 @:55

Still rollin’, crushing the 13 flats. The streamline and breakout felt tight, and relatively drag free.

Clearly frustrated, the public swimmer gets out, stares at me, then stomps off to the change room. Apparently not a fan of the waves.

Round 3: 10 x 25 @:50

Starting to get a little sweaty. You can tell that you are doing work when you feel the sweat rolling off your forehead at the walls.

On rep 5 a blur of a body and what appeared to be XXL swimming trunks pass through my vision. More critically, the blur’s foot crosses the black line and I nearly head-punch it with my face. By the time I get to the wall they have moved over to the “moderate lane.”

Round 4: 10 x 25 @:45

Mostly :13’s, but was fairly winded by the end of the round. At this point I realize that I have had Rihanna’s “We Found Love” in my head for the better part of ten minutes on repeat in my head. Racking my brain to figure out where I heard it earlier…

New public swimmer gets into the lane. We split it, giving me the wall side. Left hand and pool-side ladder become acquainted on two occasions, and somehow manage to straight arm one of the lights on the wall. Still not sure how.

Round 5: 10 x 25 @:40

The reality of the set is beginning to set in. I manage a 13 sec rep on the first one, and then steadily slow to a series of 14’s.

In crunching the numbers I am realizing that there is no way I am going to have time to finish the set with how much time I have left. Accept that I will have to cut the rest between rounds down to a couple minutes of wall-hugging at the end of each round.

Also, if they “found love” did they lose it in the first place? Why would you go and lose it, RiRi?

Round 6: 10 x 25 @:35

Starting to slow down a bit. The speed isn’t quite as peppy as it in previous rounds.

Nevertheless, I am convinced that the water jug I’ve packed full of enough BCAA’s to clone a dinosaur will help me get through it.

Too tired to take goggles off my eyes at the end of the round.

Round 7: 10 x 25 @:30

The struggle has become real struggley. Form is starting to deteriorate, fast. A few of the push-offs include a slightly longer glide than in previous rounds.

Shoulders are starting to seize up, and the heels of my feet are beginning to cramp up. Getting the feeling that my stroke is starting to T-Rex a little bit.

More notably, “We Found Love” has suddenly been supplanted by Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5.”

I have officially entered my nightmare.

Round 8: 10 x 25 @:25

On the first two reps I am able to keep some semblance of technique. On the remainder I contracted a serious case of FTD.

Breathing to my off-side in order to give dominant shoulder a break. Doesn’t seem to be helping much. The streamlines are still pretty legit, but am now breathing every two strokes, and hand entry is starting to slip.

Manage to swim an ugly 15 flat on the last rep. Hang onto the side of the pool for 4 and ½ minutes before the final round…

Round 9: 10 x25 @:20

Sweet molasses this got ugly. Debated strapping on the fins, but figured I had come this far, might as well finish it off with a bang, even if it was more of a whimper.

The first and last reps were 15 flats. The remainder of the reps were completed in around 16 to 17 seconds, just enough to take 1-2 haggard breaths at the wall before setting off.

In terms of technical proficiency, I wouldn’t say it was very impressive. Both shoulders were essentially numb and locked up for after the first rep, with my stroke count sky rocketing as I fully engaged my little T-Rex arms.

The last couple were…well, agonizing.

As the aqua fit class seized the pool, I beached myself onto the deck of the pool and lay there like a dying whale for somewhere between 2 and 15 minutes. I am not totally sure how long for certain. Had a bit of a fatigue blackout.

In Summary

I learned and remembered a few things today:

  • Rihanna found some love.
  • No wonder Auburn has a world class sprint program doing sets like that.
  • Public lap swimmers generally don’t like people sprinting up and down the pool. (Sorry I’m not sorry?)
  • Limits are meant to be punched in the face. Before today the most meters of high quality work I had done in one session was 1,100m. Doubled it and change.
  • I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight.
  • And yes, Coach Hawke, the hunger pangs were out of this world when I finally managed to scrap my life together and walk off the pool deck.

More Stuff Like This:

How to Develop Easy Sprinting Speed: The “Look Good, Feel Good” Set. Talk to any sprinter about what it feels like to go really fast and they will mention feeling relaxed. Here is a set to help you develop that relaxed, easy sprinting speed.

The 36 Ultimate Sets and Workouts for Competitive Swimmers. Our ever-growing list of swim practices from some of the top swimmers and programs on the planet. Includes sets from Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps and much more.

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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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