concerns about long term development

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    I coach the boys swim team at Arroyo Grande, CA. In the last two seasons I have established more and more a philosophy of doing a lot of fast swimming, and doing a lot of race pace. I have incorporated a lot of USPRT style sets, although I would not say we are full on doing USRPT.

    My question/concern is this: in USRPT and similar training methods, there is less focus on the traditional idea of “building an aerobic base.” While I saw clear benefits to my approach last season, I worry about the long term development of my swimmers with this more sprint/race pace dominated approach.

    One of my former swimmers is a freshman at Cal, and I was reassured to learn that a lot of what they do at Cal is very similar to the type of training I am doing. But it got me thinking about the idea that those swimmers have already developed their “aerobic base” at a younger age and are able to focus on race pace training. I started to worry about the long term development of my swimmers since I don’t spend an great amount of time developing an aerobic base.

    Just wondering if anyone has any thoughts on this question of long term development with mrs sprint and race pace focused training.


    I’ve heard a lot of talk about the “aerobic base” but I’m still not sure what it means and if there is any actual evidence to support it. I don’t know of any evidence to disprove it either so what I say doesn’t mean much. It just seems like a strange idea that aerobic work you do as a 12-14 year old could still be affecting you when you’re 20. I heard Bob Bowman once say that Phelps did his the aerobic work he needed when he was young so he was able to train completely differently when he was older. It sounds crazy to me.

    I am not an expert on physiology. Can someone explain the position of the “aerobic base” people a little more clearly to me?

    I also think USRPT does a lot more aerobically than people give it credit for.

    "Most people have the will to win. Few have the will to prepare to win."


    Ok. Let me take a whack at this.

    Instead of saying “aerobic base” Break it down to what adaptations occur in the “aerobic base”? Increase in collateral circulation, increase in mitochondrial density, increases respiratory functions and CNS; namely its neuromuscular co-ordination SPECIFIC to endurance activities and the list could go on.

    Then what occurs with USRPT/Race Pace or whatever you want to call it? Roughly the same adaptations occur.

    My question then becomes “If both make roughly the same adaptations where’s the advantage with traditional training”?

    The whole base development at early ages is a little baffling to me as if the adaptations at 10 years old somehow last a lifetime. Really! Man I wish it did. I’d still be a stud at 60. Use altitude training as an example. We go up from sea level to 7,000ft. The body says wait a minute need to make some adjustments here and over about a 10 day period of time you start to feel a heck of a lot better and can actual do activities without collapsing. Because the body knew it had to do something so it increased mitochondrial density, etc. Now when I go back to sea level those adjustments will go back to normal as the body recognizes there isn’t the demand any more. It’s called “homeostasis”

    Billratio is correct in that USRPT is more aerobic than most coaches think. Think about it. When you first start the season kids are making 4-6 of the repeats and then as the season progresses they can make 12-16 out to 20 and then you readjust pace. How did that occur? 4-6 x 50, then to 20 x 50 is not the same energy system. It’s the old endurance thru speed concept and it’s been around awhile.

    I know the “purists” will get all worked up about this. But if you just have to do some type of more traditional training then put it that the end of workout. Make your first two sets USRPT/RP again whatever you call it and look for improvement in numbers made in both sets and then the third set is long distance aerobic go 8-12 minutes of steady state swimming. In fact we’re doing that today with 150s. You just have to remember that it is sucking up energy stores.


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    I feel like “technical base” is the only thing that carries over through age and experience. Maybe that’s what we should say. I’ll never be a “bad” swimmer at this point in my life but I will be slow-ish and out-of-shape at points…

    For instance, I had the flu all last week and didn’t get back in the pool till yesterday. I was able to do 4x25s of my five meet events and hold my pace times for each set (except the 100 free pace). I felt drained afterwards though. Today I doubled the amount of work and felt a lot better. So my “aerobic base” was decimated by the flu but in short bursts I was still holding my pace so I didn’t lose my “technical base”. But my aerobic capacity doubled over the last day.


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