This is How Fast Sarah Sjostrom Swims in Practice

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. You can join his weekly motivational newsletter for swimmers by clicking here.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom is one of the top swimmers on the planet.

She discovered swimming later than most, not getting into the water until the age of 10. Her late entry to the sport didn’t slow her down, as within a few years she was winning titles at European championships, and shortly after, setting world records.

Sjostrom’s first time breaking the world record in the 100m butterfly—arguably her best event—came in 2009 as a 15-year old. Since then, she has broken it four more times, including at the Rio Olympics.

Sjostrom’s speed and dominance is matched by her versatility. Along with her 100m butterfly world records, she’s also broken marks in the 50m butterfly, and the 50, 100 and 200m freestyles.

In Rio, Sjostrom joined a small club of swimmers—including Mark Spitz, Matt Biondi and Michael Klim—to win medals in the 100m (bronze), 200m free (silver) and the 100m butterfly (gold).

The workouts and sets below were done in preparation for the Rio Games.

Here are highlights from the workouts and sets, which were published by her coaches at NEC Stockholm, Carl Jenner and Andrei Vorontsov, Ph.D.

Sarah Sjostrom’s Training in the Lead-Up to the Rio Olympics

The swim practices below cover a broad spectrum. There is some aerobic maintenance work, a 200 race pace set, and one of Sjostrom’s workouts from when she was just a few days out from her dazzling performance in Rio.

Let’s go:

APRIL 27, 2016

Focus of the practice: 200 race pace, lactate


  • 200 drill freestyle + 4×50 IM + 100 backstroke + 2×50 Fly/BR (:10 rest between each)
  • 200 free @2:45 + 3×100 with paddles @1:30
  • 5×100 kick @1:50
  • 5×50 drill (:10 rest) + 3×50 as 15m fast, 35 cruise @:50
  • 3×50 drill (:10 rest) + 2×50 as 20m fast, 30 cruise @:50
  • 1×50 drill (:10 rest) + 1×50 as 25m fast, 25 cruise @:50


  • 100 pace @1:30 (SS: 1:04.65)
  • 100 free @1:40
  • 2×100 pace @1:30 (SS: 1:04.42, 1:04.45)
  • 100 free @1:40
  • 100 pace (SS: 1:03.41)

300 recovery + Lactate measuring. Sjostrom had a lactate level of 9.3 and 8.1

  • 50 pace @:50 (SS: 28.51)
  • 50 free @:60
  • 2×50 pace @:50 (SS: 28.91, 29.72)
  • 50 free @:60
  • 50 pace (SS: 28.09)

Lactate measuring. Sjostrom produced a lactate level of 8.4

** Sjostrom (SS) swam butterfly for the pace portions of the set.


10×50 swim

10×50 kick with fins

200 drill

Total volume: 5,200m

APRIL 28, 2016

Focus of the practice: Race pace tolerance. Find your speed, and hold on!


200 IM drill + 10×50 free with paddles @:45

200 IM @3:00 + 5×100 IM @1:30

12×50 kick @:60

8×50 drill @:10 rest

5x [25 kick underwater fast from a dive, 25 cruise]

200 drill


5 rounds through…

  • 2×25 fast @:35
  • 50 fast @:60 (SS: 28.98, 28.88, 29.04, 28.89, 29.23)
  • 2×25 fast @:35
  • 50 fast (SS: 29.79, 28.11, 28.78, 28.72, 27.77)
  • 150 recovery


3×200 pull @2:45

8×50 kick with fins @:50

200 drill

** Interestingly, Sjostrom’s second slowest and fastest 50s were on the final round (bold). Goes to show that even the fastest swimmers on the planet aren’t immune from a touch of Sammy Save-Up in training.

MAY 3, 2016

Focus of the practice: Aerobic maintenance


  • 200 backstroke + 12×50 free with paddles @:45 + 3×100 kick @2:00
  • 200 IM + 4×100 IM + 6×50 kick @:60
  • 3×50 drill + 50 at target race pace + 2 seconds
  • 3×50 drill + 50 at target race + 1 second
  • 3×50 drill + 50 go!
  • 200 drill


3 rounds…

  • 3×100 freestyle descend 1-3 @1:30

Sjostrom’s target times were 1:06, 1:04, and 1:02, which she held almost perfectly.

  • 200 with paddles

Sjostrom’s target time was 2:05. She did: 2:04.80, 2:05.11, and 2:05.44

  • 200 recovery


8×50 kick with fins @:50

3×100 as 35m fast underwater kick with fins, 65m swim easy

300 swim recovery

Total volume of the workout: 6,000m

AUGUST 1, 2016

Focus of the practice: Race day simulation. This session was completed four days before the start of the Olympics Games.


2x [200 swim @3:00 + 4×50 swim other than free @:50]

200 kick @3:45 + 3×100 kick @1:50

4×100 as 50 breaststroke, 50 free @1:40

6×50 drill @:10 rest


3×100 swim from a dive

  • #1: 15m fast, 85m cruise
  • #2: 20m fast, 80m cruise
  • #3: 25m fast, 75m cruise

Broken 100m butterfly – 2×50 @:50

SS: 25.97, 27.31 (53.28)

Dive start


800m swim

** Sjostrom’s gold medal and WR setting time in Rio would be 55.48.


Olivier is a former national level swimmer who is obsessed with helping swimmers develop a high-performance mindset in the pool. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset.

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The book was written with the feedback of 200+ Olympic champions, head coaches, former world record holders and NCAA champions.

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2 years ago

You should have said butterfly before the first set, when I read that I had to do a double take. Very impressive.

Human Ambition
2 years ago

She is tough! She swam my ass off one season. I remember 3x[4×150 @ 2:30 holding 1:38 plus 2×50 fast + 200 ez]

2 years ago

Would be interesting and relevant to know whether she uses her beta agoniste inhaler during practice, or just during meets, and what the current state of her asthma is. Pretty impressed at meets that she can no-breathe a 50 Fly LCM with asthma, but then again just about every Scandinavian Olympic athlete claims to have asthma.

London Larry
Reply to  Finlandia
2 years ago

Yes, it is kind of ridiculous that, as reported by Swedish TV (STV), nearly half of all Olympic medals won by Swedish athletes since 1992 have been won by athletes with “asthma” when only ten percent of general population there has asthma. You can look it up.

Reply to  London Larry
2 years ago

Most swimmers and skiers in Scandinavia develops asthma through the sport because of bad training facilities

Reply to  Finlandia
2 years ago

Asthma doesn’t make it hard to hold your breath.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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