USRPT and new stimuli? (aka boredom is an issue)

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    Miklos Petras

    Hi Everybody!
    I plan 90% USRPT sessions for my swimmers (age 8-16, most of them 12-14 yo-s) and most of the time it works well. (Our swimming conditions are… unique, so USRPT is actually the ONLY type of training I can do)

    After 8-12 weeks of practice though, the kids are getting more and more nervous, and they complain, because they’re just getting… well, lack of a better word… bored with the training. Always the same 20-30x25s and 15-20x50s, 4 strokes, starts, turns, DL kicking sessions, sometimes 75s and 100s, but they say they would really LOVE to swim some ‘oldschool’ 10x400s or 4x(4×100-400)s and the like…

    Aaaand, I think I understand what they mean. When I planned ‘oldschool’ sessions for them (before USRPT) I mostly used 8 or 12 weeks macrocycles. Then the body adapted and I started something… well, sometimes TOTALLY different. And they were getting better. Because humans always get used to anything. And when they do, the same stimulus won’t be effective any more. (Hell, I started USRPT 2 years ago, 6 weeks before their Nationals and USRPT actually WAS a totally new stimulus for them – they perfomed extremely well at the Nationals because of this and everybody was excited because I seemed to find the holy grail.)

    Sadly, USRPT – like anything else – can get boring. Swimmers just get used to it, and that’s when they suddenly aren’t developing any more. (It’s tricky, because kids grow and they get better even if they don’t do anything, but you know what I mean.) They need something different, and a goal time drop to 15.5 instead of 16.0 is… well, not enough.

    MENTALLY they always do the same thing: swim at race pace. (It mosty means flat out.) They literally crave for something different after 8-12 weeks of practice. No dryland, no drills, no kicking, nothing but race-pace swimming and some starts&turns is just too exhausting for them.

    I started to use the 10×50 @ 2:00 and nx25 @ 1:00 sets doc mentioned here, and more 75s and 100s @ 400-1500 race-pace. (I almost ignored them before) But I feel that a different type of variety may be needed. Is it? Or a 1 week ‘rest’ may be enough to shake them up?

    Last year I made a ‘mixed’ program for the Nationals and it was disasterous. ( From jan-march they always got ill, every one of them lost their speed AND endurance as well. So I decided they need some ‘founding’ before ‘real’ work and I planned 4 weeks of ‘oldschool’ high mileage low(er) speed sessions then followed it up with 12 weeks of USRPT. It didn’t work: they stopped developing and most of them swam 0.5 seconds slower at the Nationals than their more-than-half-a-year-ago PBs)
    From sep-dec they did an 11 weeks USRPT sessions (competition at the end, good results, 80% PBs), then they got 1 week rest (1 training session/day, mostly technique improving drills, low mileage low speed) and then 3 weeks of USRPT remained till the final meeting – and they performed well (60% PBs, most of them were quicker than 4 weeks before). The year before they did full USPRT (without the rest week) and they were amazing at the competition at the end of the 10th week but got totally drained at the end of the year 2015 and the final competition was a total failure. So the rest week-theory worked.

    What I concluded of all this?
    1. Continous USRPT make my swimmers too tired to perform well. 12 weeks are top, after that they begin to fall.
    2. Classic ‘oldschool’ high mileage low speed work is not needed at all.
    3. Need to find the ‘new stimulus’ after 8-12 weeks of USRPT. New goal times are not enough. USRPT is getting boring.

    I’d like to know how any of you handle this phenomenon.


    They’re bored or you’re bored? You have to think outside the box a bit. USRPT is not some magical training system. It follows general training principles that have been known for a very long time. The uniqueness (shouldn’t be, but is) is letting them stop when they can no longer hold pace regardless of the distance. Which in just about any program on the planet, just doesn’t happen. I think that coaches are in the mind set of practice is from 4-6pm and I have to OCCUPY that 2 hour block of time. It’s not about what they need it’s about entertaining or filling that 2 hours.

    When I became the Director of Performance the kids came up and asked “are we still going to have 400s on Wednesday and then the next week on Wednesday 200s?” They were bored! They knew what was coming everyday of the week. They had no idea of how their training relate to race performance. Well now they try and guess what’s coming and usually only get it right once every 10-12 days and now have a damn good idea of what it is they have to do in order to go faster. They see the correlation and they ain’t bored any more. By wanting to do 10 x 400, I interrupt that as they don’t want expectations. My distance kids do a 400 time trial which must be within 5% of LTB before it counts. From that TT I determine practice training pace which is usually .942 to .99 of TT time. As an example for SCY TT of 4:03.00, they would have to hold a NO SLOWER THAN SPEED of 4:17.96 on :30 rest so the interval would be 4:40 just for workout management. I will tell you right now. They will NEVER ask to do 10 x 400, NEVER! Note: the 400s have a very loose correlation to 1650/1500 pace.

    What I concluded of all this?
    1. Continuous USRPT make my swimmers too tired to perform well. 12 weeks are top, after that they begin to fall.
    Look at your sequence of work. Both Vertically (daily) and horizontally (weekly). READ THE RECENT BULLETIN DR.RUSHALL POSTED.
    2. Classic ‘oldschool’ high mileage low speed work is not needed at all.
    You got that one right!
    3. Need to find the ‘new stimulus’ after 8-12 weeks of USRPT. New goal times are not enough. USRPT is getting boring.
    The “new stimulus” is the adjustment in speed. This is on going throughout the season not after 10-12 weeks. Once they make a “shift” it’s time to adjust speed. AGAIN READ THE RECENT BULLETIN DR.RUSHALL POSTED.

    If going faster is boring then maybe the need to take up another sport. You have to standardize your work or otherwise how in the hell can you know where your athletes are at?

    Some things to think about.

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

    Miklos Petras

    Thank you, doc for your thoughts!

    Now that you mentioned I checked out, downloaded and read Rushall’s new bulletins and he actually is writing about my problem there – and specifies some suitable solutions as well. Makes me see that I haven’t done USRPT correctly and now I change my planning and coaching process according to those findings. Thank you for directing me that way!

    I specify things a bit.

    Outside-the-box thinking is ALL I must do on an everyday basis. Why? Well, I’m the only coach at the club, I got no help at all. The training possibilities (pool time) are: 6:45-7:00 and 14:30-16:00 every weekday. I got 2 lanes SCM. Aaaaand, 16 kids, the youngest 8 years old, the oldest 16. The needs of a 8 year-old is far from the needs of a 12 year-old before adolescence or from a 12 yo adolescent, not to mention a 15 yo girl who actually is a full-grown woman… Furthermore, at 14:30 there are mostly 3-5 kids present: most of them arrive at the pool around 14:45-14:55. My best swimmers (16 yo male, 14 yo and 15 yo females) can train 45 mins every morning and ~1 hour every afternoon – and that’s all. Their competition train 4-5 hours daily (yes, yes, ineffective, but still…) USRPT actually is my ONLY option if I’d like to keep up. (What I do is I make 2 groups (fast-slow), and begin the training session with the slow group, and as they finish their first USRPT set, the fast group arrive and begin theirs. The slows are getting dryland low-intensity gymnastics at the time the fasts are swimming USRPT and vice versa.)

    This situation is far from optimal, but I can squeeze 1 techniqe-set (turns&starts) and 1 USRPT set at the mornings and 2 USRPT sets at the afternoon. They sometimes complain of boredom because they got used to the same settings: ‘Is it morning? OK, then we’re gonna make some turns, followed by 25s or 50s. Is it afternoon? Then we’re gonna swim 50s then 25s (sometimes 25s then 50s)’ That’s what I (they) mean ‘bored’. Bored of the setting not the exact set they need to swim! When they swim, they do all they can, they’re focused and we can’t speak of boredom and race pace at the same time of course. Oh, I AM guilty of making boring plans I agree. Most of it comes from my opportunities but still… I’ll try to change that.

    What they did last week? Swam some 25s @ 95%-100% speed. What they do this week? Swim some 25s @ 95%-100% speed (but this week 95%-100% speed is faster) – it’s nothing really new. Just what they did in the last x weeks. Okay, last week they did it tuesday this week at friday, but for them it’s still the same thing. That’s what my swimmers mean by saying ‘boring’. The traditional ‘oldschool’ method was far more varied. (not better, but more varied) They needed to swim slow, faster, fast and max speed, they swam kicks, drills, swam with paddles, fins, etc, they did varied dryland training as well – way much more variation possibilities. I love USRPT because I can see the pure logic and I experience the method’s truth on an everyday basis. (Hell, my better swimmers with our far-from-optimal conditions actually CAN keep up with the 1st tierce of the country’s best and LOVE swimming – and it’s Hungary we’re talking about, home of some real talented and fast swimmers) So my kids love USRPT as well, but sometimes they complain though. They say boredom I say no new stimulus. I’d like to find a way around this problem. Or, realise it’s not a problem at all… 🙂

    You (and Rushall) say that the new stimulus is the adjustment in speed. In my experience ‘new stimulus’ is ‘something very different than before’. We’re saying the same thing, I only fear speed adjustments in a USRPT set may be to small to be ‘very different than before’. I believe you it isn’t. So far I mostly changed TTs only when a swimmer swam a new PB at a competition. Now I see it’s too rare, I gotta change TTs more often. So I made a new sheet for the kids and taught them how to track their progress. I see now that this is a necessity, thank you for directing me that way!

    I still have some reservations about some of Rushall’s words though (especially about how small amount of work volumen may be beneficial) but we’ll see. I’ll try to steer my group to the higher speed insted of the higher volumen and see what happens.

    Thank you again for your thoughts and advice!

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