The 12 Days of Christmas: A Swimming Tradition

The sport of swimming can become monotonous at times – hours of staring at a black line, without much change in scenery, stroke-after-stroke-after-stroke. This can be especially true in the doldrums of the heart of winter training, when tapers and championships are still months away, and coaches think that their swimmers have nothing better to do over the holidays than go home from practice and go into a self-induced coma for 20 hours before coming back and doing it all over again the next day.

So anytime coaches can add a little flair or creativity to the workouts, even if it might be a bit corny or cliche, the variety can add some fun to the work.

Enter the ’12 Days of Christmas.” Riffing off the popular holiday song, coaches put together workouts that usually theme some kind of building from 1 to 12 or 12 to 1.

While rarely as lovely as 3 french hens (which sounds like a reasonable post-practice snack), or 5 gold rings (Olympic dreams), some of these are rather creative and fun. The premise of these workouts is usually that on each round, you go back through and repeat all of the rounds prior.

We’ve picked out a few that we’ve seen this holiday season below to get your creative juices going before those last few practices leading into Christmas on Monday. (Point of fact: the 12 days of Christmas  begin with Christmas or the day after, rather than end with it, so you’ve got another 2 weeks to use these ideas. Most people read that wrong).

Greater Tampa Swimming

Hint: right-click image and “Open Image in new tab” to enlarge

This one is fun mostly for aesthetic reasons. Because when you lay out the workout as GTSA has done on the left, it looks like a Christmas tree.

Tynemouth ASC Newcastle, England

Tynemouth, a club in England led by Chris Reekie, completed their set in just under 1 hour and 25 minutes (in short course meters), with no rest in between the days. Theirs included both dryland and wetland compoments.

  1. 12minutes Plank on Elbows
  2. 12×50’s Fly swim
  3. 30 In + Outs
  4. 9x100m IM’S
  5. 40 Tumble Turns
  6. 7×150’s Backstroke Swim
  7. 42 Press Ups
  8. 5×200’s Threshold Free
  9. 36 Burpees
  10. 30 Seconds Deep Water kick
  11. 22 sit ups
  12. 300 IM swim

East Kilbride Amateur Swimming Club, East Kilbride, Scotland

Thomas Fenwick thought that his swimmers would endure their pre-holiday workouts a little better to song – so he actually phrased his whole set in the form of lyrics to the original.


Leave a Reply

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

Read More »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!