Don Henshaw Distance Swimming Workout

Via SwimSwam contributor Chris O’Linger, an assistant coach at the University of the Incarnate Word.

The Gulf Coast Swim Team in Fort Myers, Florida has produced several competent distance swimmers, and still holds a reputation for doing so currently.

Coach Don Henshaw, Gulf Coast Swim Team

Don Henshaw, Sr. & Masters Head Coach at Gulf Coast Swim Team

Swimming Coach Don Henshaw likes to emphasize a smooth and efficient stroke with a powerful “palm-down” underwater catch. He has found much success in age group distance swimmers who display a quick stroke tempo and a purposeful 2-beat kick, although recently, he has fostered several swimmers who successfully implement a consistent 4 or 6-beat kick. He now preaches that each individual athlete experiment with various techniques early on in their careers, so that they can utilize the most promising method for optimal training and performance.

Don Henshaw conducts a top-notch–encouraging yet humbling–distance program, helping his athletes gain awareness of semantic points, including consistent pace work, tempo, and stroke count. Pace work is done with swimmers who compete in distances ranging from the 200 up to the 1650, and the sets are done constantly. Don finds it important for the athletes to be able to recognize and perform at pace on a daily basis.

Gulf Coast Swim Team pool (courtesy of GCST)

Gulf Coast Swim Team pool (courtesy of GCST)

Concerning the distance team, Henshaw has found that a wide variety of training keeps the athletes motivated and well-rounded. Butterfly and IM training is thrown in on a regular basis, and the freestyle sets are evenly split between long repeats (200-1000’s) and shorter durational distances (50, 75, and 100’s). There is very little emphasis on recovery in Henshaw’s program. The underlying motive is that pushing the athletes past their point of comfortability daily, along with the incorporation of butterfly and IM training, will create tougher athletes at the end. In summation, the progressive and integrated program being run in Fort Myers has produced, and will continue to produce, several elite distance competitors. The success has been correlated with perfection of the basics.

Don Henshaw shares a main set on a Wednesday afternoon in Fort Myers:

1 x 1000 w/ paddles @ 12:00

12 x 100 swim @ 1:10

1 x 500 w/ paddles @ 6:30

10 x 100 swim @ 1:05

1 x 300 w/ paddles @ 4:30

8 x 100 swim @ 1:03

(4800 yards/~1 hour)

teamlogo_345_1380382764106.jpgFollow Gulf Coast Swim Team on Twitter here. 

Like Gulf Coast Swim Team on Facebook here. 

Chris O' Linger, assistant coach, Incarnate Word swimming & diving. (Image courtesy of UIW)

Chris O’ Linger, assistant coach, Incarnate Word swimming & diving. (Image courtesy of UIW)

See Gulf Coast Swim Team’s HQ here.

About Chris O’Linger via UIW

O’Linger is an assistant coach for the Incarnate Word swimming and diving program.  He swam collegiately at both the University of Florida and University of Tampa.  He earned a degree in social psychology from Tampa.  He is studying kinesiology.

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Ouch! If you can do that set, safe to say you or near or at jrs in the distance evebts

Thank you.


And the list of athletes that gcst runs out of the sport will continue to grow.


Don Henshaw has produced a LARGE amount of great national level athletes that continued to train at a high level for a long time. As one who swam for Gulf Coast Swim Team for over 17 years and also worked under Don, I can tell you that he KEEPS athletes in the sport. Yes he’s old school, and yes the program is difficult, but the amount of success he still has with kids today is tremendous, and the swimmers he has love him. It is due to that work that I’ve became not just a better swimmer, but a better man. Take 15 minutes to speak with Don about swimming, and you will leave that conversation a better coach, I… Read more »


Don’t worry I’ve heard don’s rhetoric on many occasions as a coach in Florida. Sorry it doesn’t change my opinion.

Coach 2

As with any discussion on what coaches are doing with athletes, we should always examine the athletes produced by the coach or the team. Who are the “LARGE amount of National level athletes” ?! That’s a serious question. Because there are people we should listen to and some who we really should not listen to when it comes to fast performances. And there are a lot of people who read things online and think that because these things are on a derservedly-reputable site like SwimSwam that they are about higher level training. This concept is old school; these days, there is a place for this sort of article within all of the online content that’s out there, but it’s simply… Read more »

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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