Training for longer swims 1.9km

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    Hi, if im racing 1.9km (half ironman) and swimming Usrpt sets of 200’s, should I still be aiming for at least 16 reps before failure? Also, still 20s rest intervals? For example, If I fail after 10 reps, should I lower my expectations and raise my target time, or take the extra rest and keep up the speed I’ve been hitting for the last 10?
    Also, am I right in thinking that after failure I take the rest interval (20s), the swim time and a second rest interval all as rest? For the longer distances that amounts to quite a long rest.
    Any advice most appreciated.


    This get’s a little tricky with distance swimmers. But instead of lowering your expectations to increase your chances of success. Why not reduce the distance to 150s and hold the same velocity of the 200s? More at race speed.
    Very generic set. Repeat #s are just SWAGs.
    8 x 200 @ target pace after fail move to
    4-6 x 150s @ target pace after fail maybe move to
    6-8 x 100s again @ TP.

    Couple days later reverse the set and start with 100s and see how far you can carry the speed. Stay with 20-30 rest. Remember it’s the pace you’re after and the volume covered at THAT pace.

    Use this with D1 distance kids and it works well. I use 2x distance swum as marker i.e. swim 500 have to be able to hold 500 pace for 1000 or 1000/1650 swimmer has to be able to hold pace for 2000+. Not straight, but volume at pace. This is very glycogen depleting and you have to be careful in planning and sequences or you’ll end up riding a donkey.

    Just thoughts

    ? All that is not shared... is lost.

    Gary P

    8 x 200 @ target pace after fail move to
    4-6 x 150s @ target pace after fail maybe move to
    6-8 x 100s again @ TP.

    I agree with doc, going slower is never the right response to a failure. Add (a little) rest time, decrease repeat distance, or do a little of both, but keep the pace. I’ve used a “distance pyramid” scheme similar to above, especially if I’ve been out of training for a while and am trying to rebuild my endurance. Better to get another ~1200 yards at mile pace by doing 150’s and 100s than to get 1200 yards at a slower pace, or just another 400y at mile pace, by doing 200’s. I’ve never tried the reverse, but I like that idea and will give it a shot!

    That said, I think training with USRPT for a triathlon swim leg is a little different. Your race objective is not to swim the outright fastest 1900m you can, but to swim a quick 1900m, yet emerge from the water with enough remaining energy to tackle ~4-6 hours of biking/running. There should be some considerable difference in the two paces. “Regular” swimmers maximize both race-pace specificity AND conditioning within a conventional USRPT set. You can do USRPT sets at “triathlon race pace,” but it’s not necessarily the most time efficient way to build your capacity because it should take a considerable amount of volume (and, therefore, time) to get to the failure point which supposedly is the catalyst for conditioning improvement. To advance your conditioning in a time efficient manner, you have to swim faster than your triathlon race pace, but then you don’t get the pace specificity training value.

    I dabble in triathlons in the summer, and tend to alternate between “Conditioning” swim workouts and “Specificity” swim workouts. For conditioning workouts I do regular USRPT sets for a distance or two down from the race distance. For example, if an HIM was my targeted A race, Conditioning workouts would be 100’s at 800m/1000y pool race pace, or 75’s at 400m/500y pool race pace. This would allow me to get to the set failure point much more quickly than by doing sets at triathlon race pace. It works, because there’s a lot of conditioning crossover for races 400m and up. Make yourself a faster 400/500 and 800/1000 swimmer, you’ll automatically have a higher speed potential at 1500m-1.2 miles. You just have to learn the proper pacing, and that’s where the Specificity workouts come in.

    For Specificity workouts, I aim to get ~ 1.5X race distance at triathlon race pace. So, for a HIM, I’d be looking to go ~3000M/3300yds , swimming long segments (200-400m/ 200-500 yards), on traditional USPRT rest (17-22 seconds). Failure is not be the objective. Honestly, I hope to be able to make all repeats at pace, feeling a bit tired at the end of the set, but not exhausted.


    Both Doc and Gary are right on. If you are swimming a 200 with 20sec rest then moving to a 150 with 20sec doesn’t change the pace, only your rest ratio. I’ll do 50s @200 time until failure then do 25s @200 time when I feel like I want to get more work in but need a better rest ratio.

    Triathlon race pace versus 1650 for best time is important. The missing component of this conversation is that you should be working on becoming more efficient during those triathlon race pace sets. Break open the manual and really hammer the technique items to increase your distance per stroke while maintaining the Tri race pace. This is a great time to mentally focus on 1-2 technique items since you won’t really be hitting a failure point. Like Gary said, shoot for 1.5x distance and as you near the event decrease the rest to 15sec then 10sec; still locking in the pace but replicating race day conditions a little more. If you aren’t increasing your distance per stroke you’re just trying to be “in shape” for the event.

    Side note concept: I run a 2 mile for time once a year. I’ll train by running 400-800 meter reps at my 2 mile pace. I’ve noticed that in the longer rep distances setting your rest at 25 or 30 seconds isn’t really that bad because the reps are ~2-4 minutes long. Your breathing will ramp back up 20-25 seconds into each rep. If I notice my breathing slows way down during the rest I’ll drop 5 seconds the next session. If your pace swim 200s are in the 2-3 minute range, 25-30 seconds of rest isn’t necessarily bad. Just decrease the rest over a few sessions if you’re consistently making your 1.5x volume.


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