Build or Descend

I was having a discussion with a fellow triathlete about what the difference between a “build” set and a “descend” set is when you are swimming.  In both scenarios the goal is to swim faster and faster but they are a little different.  When you “build” you usually do so within each interval of the set.  So if you are swimming 4  X 100 build, you swim each lap in the hundred faster than the last (building).  But if you are swimming 4  X 100 descending, then you swim each hundred in less time than the previous one (descending).

You may not have needed this explaination and it is quite possible that I have just confused you even more.  The reason I bring it up is because I was lucky to get new training tool this weekend that really helped me see the difference between the two types of sets.  I got a Garmin 910XT which is a great tool for analyzing your swimming.  I am a decent swimmer so I don’t really look at my times or worry about them.  But now I have a ton of data at my hands due to this new watch.  When I was looking over the graphs of my swim this morning I noticed how the build versus descend was evident in the graph.

Set #1 shows 6 X 50 build.  You can see that I was building because each 50 (except for # 4) shows my second lap was faster than the first.  Building!

Set #2 shows 6 X 50 descending every 2 (swim two at slow, then two at medium, then two at fast).  You can see that intervals 3 and 4 are faster than 1 and 2, and 5 and 6 are faster than 3 and 4. Descending by 2!

I am SUPER excited to use this new watch and I think it might give me the little extra push I needed to kick my butt in the pool.

Click here for all the Garmin data.


  1. This is very cool….thanks for posting! You know, I knew the new Garmin gave swim splits, but I hadn’t thought about how I could actually analyze the effort and results. It’s no different than looking at the other data you can get out of the Garmin.

    Makes my overall desire for this watch go up. Now I just need to convince my CEO/CFO (wife) that the purchase is justified and has a return on investment….

    1. It really is helping me apply myself in the pool since I can see it on a lap by lap basis. There have been some issues reported about this watch so don’t be shocked it you are all the sudden at 65,000 feet someday. But for swimming, I am totally digging it!

      1. It’s worth the money just for swimming…. yes the elevation data from the barometer (in some parts of the World) is garbage most of the time and following courses makes it crash…… I personally don’t recommend the quick release kit, makes it too bulky – as it stands its great on my wrist and sat there quite happily for 140.6 race recently with no issue in any discipline….. Simple key lock/unlock feature stops inadvertent presses during a wetsuit removal.

        Good analysis Becca – my favourite 100m intervals are EBEH for the 4 laps, Easy -Build -Easy -Hard, mix in some catch-up sets and it helps gain pace to a longer stroke.

      2. EBEH sound great! I have always been content to just “swim”but now that I can see how I am swimming I want to work harder in the pool and simple sets like EBEH would work well!

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