Yikes! Coach just said to “Do five fifties on the one fifteen. Go on The Top.”
What the heck does that mean?
It's OK, Relax
This is how interval sets are communicated to swimmers in Swim Speak
Intervals are a type of workout set where the times for the swim + rest are performed over a constant time period, or interval.
It sounds strange if you don’t know what it means, but it is not complicated. It may take a few times doing this before you get the hang of it, but once you get it, you got it!
So, coach wants you to swim 50 yards, 5 times (“do five fifties”).
In the Saddlebrooke lap pool, each length is 25 yards, so 50 yards would be two lengths.
But what about the one fifteen? And what’s this “Go on The Top” stuff?
Since this is an interval set, you will start a new swim every 1:15 (1-minute and 15-seconds), regardless of how fast or slow you do the swim.
“The Top” refers to the seconds, on the pace clock.
“The Top” is when the seconds on our digital pace clock read :00 (zero, zero).
The reference to “The Top” is left over from when our pace clocks had hands for minutes and seconds.
You remember those old fashion clocks with hands that pointed at numbers, right?
Swim 50 yards, 5 times on an interval of 1:15 and he wants you to start on The Top.
This type of interval set is often written as:
5x50 on 1:15
(They never write “Go on the Top”, it’s implied)
Thus, You start your 1st swim when the digital seconds read :00
(“Go on the Top”)
What makes this easier than it sounds is that you only need to keep an eye on the seconds. The minutes take care of themselves, you'll see.
Since we are starting when the seconds read :00 (“Go on the Top”), the seconds on the Digital Clock will Look Like it Does Above.
Again, Don't Worry about the Minutes, they'll take care of themselves.
Then, 1:15 (1-minute and 15-seconds) later, you leave on your 2nd swim. (“On the one fifteen”)
Then the Digital and Analog Clocks would look like this.
You then start your 3rd swim when the pace clock looks like this...
Notice how we can ignore the minutes. We just leave for our next swim, when the seconds are :15 more than the previous swim.
In this case, since we left on the :15 for our 2nd swim, we leave for our 3rd swim on the :30
The 4th swim of the set starts when the seconds on the pace clock are :45
Why? Because we are doing our intervals on the 1:15 and because we can ignore the minutes, we leave :15 later than our previous swim (which was :30).
Thus, the 4th swim starts on the :45
Remembering that we can ignore the minutes, 15-seconds later than our 4th swim (when we left on the :45) is 60 for the Analog clock, but for the Digital Clock, it is :00
Since you were asked to do 5 swims, this would be the end of the set.
With this type of set, the faster you swim the more rest you get. But the faster you swim, the more rest you need. So, strive to find a balance to complete the set.
In the example above, you know that your sendoff seconds will always be in the order of :00, :15, :30, :45 and this pattern will repeat if you're asked to do more than 4 swims.
Below are additional examples with different interval times to help you better understand how intervals work.
See, it's a Pretty Simple Pattern
Just add the interval seconds to your last start time!