Start of season

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    Dave Morris

    I have a question for you all. I’ve taken a lot of good suggestions from this forum and I appreciate your thoughts. I particularly appreciate Doc’s common sense/“let the numbers talk to you” approach to determining how to structure sets and training. My question is this…

    For a group of swimmers who’ve had a long layoff (2-3 months), how long do you do basic aerobic swimming before beginning exclusive race pace training. In the past, I’ve used anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks. I know what the bulletins say, but I was just curious if any of you would be willing to share your thoughts. This would be to start the fall/winter



    “Aerobic” anything is a balance of intensity and total volume. Rushall appears to have mainstreamed the “law” that rest should always be less than 22 seconds for well-trained individuals (rest period based on blood reoxygenation timelines); how long you want them to work now depends on intensity and work period.

    In VO2max testing, a peak is reached at about 4 minutes of continuous exercise until failure. Essentially, lower intensity lasting longer than 4 minutes is stressing the aerobic central system (respiratory and cardiac muscles) while higher intensity exercise above VO2max (less than 4 minutes) will primarily stress the peripheral system (skeletal muscle).

    So you have 2 options: continuous exercise over 4 minutes that the athlete takes to near failure (less efficient and slower mean velocity) or interval training sets using a known pace for over 4 minutes. You may call this race pace if the athlete is a 500/1650 swimmer. For 100 swimmers it is technically their race pace for a 500/1650 but they would never actually race the event in a meet. 20 x 50s on a :60 at their 500 pace (whatever that may be) is about 16 minutes of “continuous” respiratory work at 90-95% of VO2max once respiration ramps up. A 500 for time will also achieve 90-95% of VO2max but for only 2-3 minutes.

    Typically, you’re looking at 8-12 sessions to significantly improve the peripheral system shortcomings due to the layoff. Early improvements are due to increased capillarization and mitochondrial genesis in the working muscle. After that, respiratory and energy delivery systems will quickly improve throughout the early season.

    The beauty of USRPT is the natural transition points embedded into the system. Instead of focusing on weeks use the transition points. Begin the training cycle by programming in sets 1 distance above the swimmer’s event distance to start every session. Take your 100 swimmers and have them do sets of 50’s at 200 pace as their “aerobic” sets and as their reps-to-failure increase, you can transition them to 100 pace and sprints. Take 500 swimmers and have them swim 100’s at their 800 pace then transition them to 500 and 200 paces.

    A little long but I just wanted to make sure I supported the concept with known physiological adaptation timelines.


    Dave Morris

    Thanks Ryan. I suppose I was using “aerobic” in more of a generic/slangy way to describe any period of traditional work prior to race pace training. But you are saying dive right into race pace, just go up a distance and be aware of the transition points. Makes sense and I appreciate your thoughtful insight.

    IKS Swimming

    Thank you Ryan!!! I’m new here and this explanation about the transition was really good for me to understanding better the usrpt trainning method!
    best regards from costa rica

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