Heretic Here – Training for the 200 Free

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    Greg Tucker

    USRPT coach here. Now in third season. Two for HS girls, one for HS boys.

    To date, we have not had a non-club swimmer qualify for the 200 free. We had a state record 31 state qualifiers last year, 12 of which were non club, our HS girls team.

    I am increasingly convinced – at least with my experience to date – that we are coming up a bit short on our 200s dues to lack of aerobic training.

    Here are splits for our best non-club 200 girl:


    50s analysis: First 50 is good, second is OK, third and fourth are too slow.

    75s analysis: First 50 is good; first 75 (50-125) is OK (48 low); second 75 (125-200) is too slow (50).

    We routinely train 25s, 50s and 75s for this group. 8-10 X 75 with RP of 48 on 1:15 (have some slower girls in lane), 13 X 50 with RP of 31 on 55 (again, some slower girls in lane)

    Thoughts appreciated. Especially on blending in some traditional aerobic training 2 days a week.

    I now, I know… Mixed training, mixed results.

    Looking for a solution.

    Greg Tucker


    Couple of questions. 1. How many “n x 50s on :55” have they been offered? 2. What percent have they made? Low numbers “made” means they probably don’t have mastery yet of the 31s. The standard deviation of .94 for the 3 50s is very high (should be in the low .34s). Which says to me that something technically is up be it tempos slow (should be 1.32 to 1.25), turn speeds above 1.0 (1.0 would be great, but normally see 1.2) or speed on underwater work slows. So your question about blending “aerobic” work to me doesn’t seem to solve your problem. Executing at a slower speed does what to solve the issue?

    Just my thoughts


    "Only in America. Dream in red, white and blue"

    Gary P

    “Low numbers ‘made’ means they probably don’t have mastery yet of the 31s.”

    My first thought was that if they aren’t holding 31’s for 50’s past 13 reps on 24 seconds rest, I’m not surprised they’re failing to hold 31’s, or even 32’s, on the back half of a 200. More consecutive 50 reps at race pace is what they need, not “garbage yardage.”

    I would increase the target time to 32 or 32.5 with the aim of getting in more reps before set failure. When they can consistently get into the low-mid 20’s before failing the set, start dropping the target. When the can do ~18 @ 31 without a rep fail, or ~24 without failing a set, you should see the back-half performance on the 200’s that you expect.

    For the 75’s, you want to see mid-high teens for the # of reps before set failure, not 8-10. Increase the target time to the point where they can do that, then start shaving it.

    Greg Tucker

    Thanks Gary P. Good food for thought. Low to mid 20s for 50s and high teens for 75s, puts us a little beyond 5X for the 200 free. Do you consistently train at the higher level of the 3-5X rule for your mid-distance swimmers?

    Thanks again for your help. Much appreciated.

    Greg Tucker

    Greg Tucker

    Thanks, oldschool.

    You always make me think. And that’s what I want.

    Yes, tempo is an issue. I hear you on mastery as well. Turns and UWs can certainly be better.

    Two question for you.

    1. How do you time turns to get 1.0 – 1.2?
    2. Do you use mostly 25s, 50s or 75s for 200 free training?

    Thanks again so much.


    Greg Tucker

    Gary P

    Low to mid 20s for 50s and high teens for 75s, puts us a little beyond 5X for the 200 free. Do you consistently train at the higher level of the 3-5X rule for your mid-distance swimmers?

    I’m a self-coached Master training primarily for the 200M free. My personal experience is that the training:race correlation is indeed closer to 5X than 3X race distance for this event. Given that your athlete’s rest time is at the long end of the optimal range for 50’s, I suspect she needs to be at the high end of the repetition range, too.

    You could work it backwards to check for yourself. She swam a 2:07. See how far she can get in a USRPT set of 50’s on :55 with an target time of 32 instead of 31. It will probably take a few practices to adjust to the slightly slower pace and not go too fast early in the set, but I bet within a week or two she’s getting to somewhere in the low 20’s.

    One thing to remember: “USPRT training” and “aerobic training” are not mutually exclusive. USPRT sets do increase aerobic capacity.


    The 200 pace training has been a big problem for me as well. I think it’s a combination of adding turns (using 50y sets) and the rep time that exceeds the ATP-CP storage.

    For sets of 50’s, I started at :31 target @ 55 interval but as soon as I was at 16 reps without a miss I tried lowering the target to :30 @ 55 but I had a hard time holding the target and at the same time didn’t activate my aerobic system. It was very much a problem of finding the pace/turnover/stroke length etc.

    I instead went to :31 @ 50 and within a few exposures was at 9 first miss and abandoned at 16. With this set I was breathing forcefully.

    I find that 22 seconds of rest is the absolute maximum you should program. This includes the 1-2 seconds to setup/pushoff and I check my wristwatch underwater after the touch as well.

    Yesterday I varied up the 200 pace training with 25s, :15 @ 25. My goal was 28 reps and I ran to 36 without a miss. So what does that mean? Not sure. Next exposure I’ll go 50s, :31 @ 50 and see if I can lock in a :29 pace. Maybe next week I’ll try 25s, :14 @ 25 and see what happens.

    I also find that “warming-up” with high speed turns before 50 sets gets me tuned up for the UW and breach that I’m adding in the next set. Remember, you have 3 variables (reps, target time, interval) to mess around with and If changing one doesn’t work go back to previous exposures and change a different variable.



    I think she could have gone faster if she paced it a little better. My two 200 girls with similar times to your girl had these splits at sections.

    29.3, 32.1, 32.3, 32.1 for 2:05.9

    29.4, 32.0, 32.7, 31.8 for 2:06.0

    The first girl was 2:07.5 in prelims because she went a hard 28.5 on the first 50 and couldn’t hold on at the end. They were both swimming a goal time of 31.7 and 31.9 i think (i’d have to look back at the data) by the end of the year.

    When you add in the turn they were close to what I was expecting. I believe in the 1-1.2 second add per turn that old school talks about. I have theory that a good tech suit can account for a bit of the turn time though.

    I was happy with them if they could make it up to 12 straight 50s without stopping. The first girl did make 18 without a miss one time during the year. Sometimes we would do 2 rounds of a 200 set with a mini recovery in between. I think whatever you can do to get more yards at race pace is good. I know they are supposed to only go until 3 failures but sometimes my girls swam even better on the second round than the first round.

    I’m just letting you know what we did and what our results were. It’s only a sample of a few 200 swimmers so do with it what you will. I guess you could argue that all the 500 training they did helped them aerobically. I only had one 200 swimmer who didn’t swim the 500 so I can’t say if there was a difference.

    I also should add that they were 2:10.5 and 2:09.7 respectively going into sections. So the rest and tech suits seemed to be necessary for them to hit their pace.

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


    With regards to your “2 rounds of a 200 set” I think you are dead on! I have used 3 rounds of 12 x 50 free on :50 at 200 pace. We use the “rules of USPRT” per round so kids can be out during 1st round. But back in for the 2nd and out during the 2nd and back in for 3rd. I have the same belief the more they can do at race pace the better. We also do a mini-recovery :30 between rounds. It’s like a group “miss” If you watch respiration rates you’ll see they don’t fully recovery and they sure aren’t talking every much. I believe that it fits within the USRPT guidelines with a little bending.


    "Only in America. Dream in red, white and blue"


    I like what Ledecky’s coach said. Essentially he likes Ledecky to do as many race pace 50s as possible, but from different angles – a few on short rest and many on longer rest, etc. There is no need to be bound by Rushalls 20sec formula.

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