top of page



Jumping into swimming can be daunting. The language, culture and ettiquette can be confusing at first, but this guide can help you crack the code.





Kick Board-

The kickboard is a swimming essential. You can hold the top, middle or bottom of it to use as an aid for kick sets as well as some drills. You can keep your head up out of the water or drop it below the surface. One key to successful use of the kick board is to not allow the flotation it provides cause sinking of the hips and legs, which will slow you down. If you find this to be a problem, focus on dropping your chest while holding the kickboard, or move your hands to the bottom of the board and put your face in the water.


Pull Buoy-

A pull buoy will bring help bring your hips up as you focus on the arm-pull of the stroke. In most drills and pull sets it is placed between the legs above the knee.  Some pull bouys have one end that's fatter than the other. Place the fat part so that it's facing the bottom of the pool while you swim. 







Fins are a lot of fun, but they should be used with care. They can be used in a swim to aid in resistance training and make you stronger, and they can also be used as an aid to learn technique. Anything you do while wearing fins (and paddles) will be accentuated. This means that anything you do wrong should feel wrong enough for you to notice, and when it's right, it'll feel awesome. Using fins is a great way to work on kick technique and sustain momentum when you're learning or tweaking the form in other parts of a stroke (e.g. butterfly). Fins are great, but be wary of any niggling pains and the temptation to use fins as a crutch rather than an aid.



Paddles do much the same thing as fins. The added resistance will help with muscle development, and they can aid in technique. Like fins, any wrong movement will be accentuated. This is great because it will tell you when you're doing something wrong in your pull, but the poor technique in combination with the extra force you are pulling also puts you at a higher risk of injury. So be careful! 


When starting with paddles, choose a small size. There are also many ways to use the rubber straps on paddles. Some use only a single band across the middle finger, as the slippyness of the paddle when your hand enters the water lets you know if you're entering correctly and getting the most efficient pull possible. 


Lane Sharing-

Often times when you go to swim by yourself, you'll arrive to find a full pool. Lane-sharing is often a source of greivance among swimmers, but knowing the etiquette can help reduce the likelihood of mishaps and grumbling from your lane buddies. When you want to get in with someone who is already swimming, it is important to alert them to your presence before getting in. To do this, you can stick a hand, kickboard, etc. over the cross on the wall at the end of the lane as they approach. This improves the chance of them seeing you there if they are in the middle of a set and not stopping at the wall. Assuming that they are in the middle of the set, it is important to remove your hand or kickboard before they make their turn so that you don't impede their swim. Ideally, the swimmer will pop up to say "hello" or signal that it's okay for you to join. To be sure that they've got the message, it's best to watch the swimmer for another length to see that he or she has made room for you.


In most cases, when you share a lane, you will circle swim, meaning that you will swim counter-clockwise, always staying to the right. Another option, if there are only two swimmers and no more are expected to join, is to split the lane in half. 


Pacing and Passing-

It can be hard to guess who is the faster swimmer when swimming with one or more people in a lane, especially when there are different strokes involved. The key is to communicate what you are doing with those around you and be willing to allow others to go ahead of you. If you are in the middle of a set and the swimmer in front of you is moving slower, gently tap his or her feet. The swimmer will either slow slightly and move to the right, allowing you to pass on the left, or pause at the next wall to let you pass. Once you have passed, make sure not to drop your pace.


When you finish a set and are resting at the wall, make sure to move over to allow other swimmers to make their turns and continue swimming unhindered. The best place to rest is to the left of the lane (left from the perspective of the oncoming swimmer). 




The Warm Up-

The warm up (WU) serves as an easy start to a workout and prepares your muscles to work. It is also a good time to practice good technique and drills you may be working on. If you will be swimming multiple strokes in your workout, it is good to warm up in those strokes as well. Coaches will often write a set workout, but it is usually okay to warm up in your own way so long as it doesn't interrupt the warm up of lane mates.



Drills are like games to tease out different parts of the stroke. They frequently involve over-emphasizing certain movements to allow you to focus on them more closely than usual. To get the most out of a drill, I recommend asking your coach (or the Google gods) what the purpose of the drill is and what aspect of it to focus on before beginning. 


Common Abbreviations-

Fr- freestyle

Bk- Backstroke

Br- Breast stroke

Fly- Butterfly

WU- warm up

WD or CD- warm down / cool down

Dr- Drill

EZ- easy! This is an active recovery, so take it slow.



(Individual Medley) all strokes swam in the order butterfly, backstroke, breast stroke, freestyle. For example, a 100 IM means swimming 25m of each stroke with no rests in between.

Rolling IM- 

This is an IM set where one of the strokes has a longer distance than the others. For example, 4 x 125 rolling IM means that on the first round, you will swim 50m butterfly, 25 back, 25 breast, 25 free. On the second round you will swim 25 butterfly, 50 back, 25 breast, 25 free. See? the 50m distance shifts each time.


"Distance per Stroke". On sets where you are focusing on DPS, you are trying to get the most distance out of each stroke. Often times DPS work involves increasing the distance gained from each stroke or playing games of "golf" where you aim to reduce the number of strokes it takes each 25m.


"Descend" or "descending" frequently means "descending time", meaning that each swim in the set will get faster as the finishing time descends.

Example: 3 x 50 Fr descend @1:00

In this case, the interval stays the same, but you should finish each 50 faster than the one before. 


Refers to gradually building speed within a given distance. 


Swim workouts are written in sets. Many standard workouts consist of a warm up, a technique-focused first set, a harder main set and a warm down.


Written workouts may look like advanced level math, but they are actually fairly simple to decode.

Example: 4 x 100 Fr.

The first number indicates how many times you will do the activity. The second number indicates the distance. In this case, that means 100m freestyle four times. 


If there is a bracket and a number surrounding the written work, it means that you will cycle through the whole list more than once. 

Example: 3x [4 x 100 Fr

[2x50 Br

This means you will go through the following three times: four 100m freestyle swims followed by two 50m breast stroke swims.


Rest TImes and Interval Times-

When a set has a time written next to it, that usually means the swim is done based on an interval. 

Example: 4 x 50 Fr @1:00

This means that you have 1:00 from when you leave the wall to swim your 50m and rest before you leave again. This interval includes your rest time. So, if it takes you :45 seconds to swim 50m, you will have :15 seconds rest before leaving again.


On occasion workouts will prescribe a rest time rather than an interval time. You will know the difference between an interval time and a rest time because it's usually spelled out for you. E.g. "rest :20"

To learn more, schedule a swim session!


Tel: 801-829-1495

Salt Lake City, UT

  • Wix Facebook page
bottom of page