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Dogma has certainly changed. We’d have been called “weak” for breathing every two in a 100 when I was a HS swimmer in the 80’s. Now it’s acceptable, and even trending towards the norm. But the “best” breathing pattern is still an individual thing.
I took up swimming again about 4 years ago, and started training using USRPT. The 100 free isn’t always my feature event, but it’s something I train for consistently and race regularly. Once I got into shape, I tried various breathing patterns looking for incremental improvements in my USRPT sets. When I breated every 4, I was fast at first, but failed quickly. I was slower, but more consistent, breathing every 2. Every 3 was a touch faster than 2, and I could go longer than 4. But I could feel I was “hanging” briefly when breathing to the right; a phenomenon probably conditioned by millions of yards of circle-swimming traditional long distance training sets, where my stroke rate was slower and I always breathed right so I wouldn’t suck water every time a lanemate went past in the opposite direction.
Then I tried a 4/2 to the left, and it was the “Goldilocks” answer for me. It was incrementally faster than every three (consistently 1 to 2 tenths of second per 25), and I could get pretty deep in a USRPT set or finish a race strong. So that
That finals time and those splits look pretty good. Yes, breathing every 2 probably adds a little drag. But if the additional oxygen uptake allows you to hold your power longer, that could very well be worth more than the extra drag costs.
Experiment in your USRPT sets. Try various patterns. An answer will emerge.
We’ve decided to incorporate a few more 50s at 200 pace sets to try to build that back end.
In my experience, this will pay dividends.
ryan is definitely on point when he suggests there’s little difference in technique and speed for distances above 1000 yards. Work on getting better at the 1500/1650, it’ll carry over to 3k, 5k, and even 10k. 24×125 is my staple set for mile race pace work.
Something else to keep in mind is that long distance open water racing is highly tactical compared to pool swimming. You’re not usually going to go out there and just swim a steady pace by yourself. You want to stay with a group, so you can enjoy the benefits of drafting. You will also likely have to vary your effort, going harder at certain times, like when your group splits and you have to bridge to the breakaway, and hopefully getting to go easier at times when you are in the right place in the pack to maximize the draft effect.
From personal experience, it’s almost impossible to focus on a piece of the puzzle and stroke count at the same time.
At first, counting strokes took a fair amount of concentration. It didn’t take long, though, for it to become an automatic, “in the background” kind of thing for me. I don’t even think about it anymore until a turn or touch. But I can tell you the stroke count now on just about every single lap I swim; warm up, main set, recovery, cooldown, or race; back, breast, fly, or free. It takes zero conscious effort.
As someone who does distance events, I find counting strokes extremely helpful. Counting is half of a live-time feedback loop that tells me when I need to concentrate more on stroke mechanics, and whether that concentration is working.
I would agree that for sprint event training, the target time is, more or less, the control for stroke breakdown. But you can “fake it” a little on longer reps. When training for the 400/500 free a few years ago, I would jack up the stroke rate of the 3rd 25 of a 75 to compensate for degrading quality, and the 20 seconds rest was enough recovery to repeat the cycle of one good 25, one OK 25, being just enough ahead of target pace to survive a poor quality 3rd 25. I didn’t fully recognize that’s what I was doing until later. When it came time to swim the 400M (LC) at my “A” meet, I “raced it like I trained it,” going from 42 strokes on my second fifty to 54 on the last. When I saw the video of that, I intuitively recognized that wasn’t a very good way to swim a distance event. I was more or less cruising the front half. I was trying much harder on the back half, but going slower.
After a 1/2 season of using stroke count as a failure criteria, and a season of optimizing the stroke count/stroke correction feedback loop, I was able to swim 1000y at roughly the same pace as that 400, with my stroke count holding very steady (+/-1) for every length from 100y to the finish.
It’s been a while, but I seem to recall that if I made the time but stroke count was too high, I’d go again but concentrate on technique and keeping the stroke count in line. Two in a row with stroke count too high was a fail, even if I was on time.
I struggled in the past with the downward spiral of stroking faster to make up for diminishing stroke efficiency which, in turn, leads to further stroke inefficiency. Got that under control by using stroke count as an additional failure trigger for a while. I no longer have a hard stroke count # as a failure trigger because I have gotten so much better at maintaining a steady stroke rate that I know that I’m going to fail to meet the target time if the stroke count is too high.
Compromise with him, and give him a little more rest so he can do more reps at the faster pace. How would he do at 13.25 if you set the interval at 35 instead of 30? If he can’t do many reps at that, then try 40 seconds.
In my (admittedly limited, sample size of 1) experience, “specificity” overrides all other factors. When in doubt, swim faster and adjust the other variables to accommodate.
Sounds to me like it’s time to reset the target time to 13.25. From there, the drops might be only .10 at a time.
My personal experience has been that the 1/4 total race time is pretty damn accurate, but your mileage may vary.
I should clarify, the total race time/4 works well for me in SHORT COURSE. If your goal time is a 53.00 LCM, that converts to a ~51.40 SCM. Divide that by 4, and that means you would need to work down to a :12.85 target.
FWIW, I was at 14.10 target time for my 100 free pace work mid-season, Swam a 56.43 at the mid-season meet where I prioritized that race (i.e. didn’t swim it in the aftermath of a 1650). Finished out the season at a 13.90 target time, went 55.45 in my Championship meet.
A few thoughts.
1. Yes, it’s well past time to increase the pace. You’re right that it’s better to do ~20 at 13.5 (or even 20 @ 13.8) than 40 @ 14.0. Trust me, at these speeds, a couple tenths can easily drop the # of successful reps in half. For 25’s at 100 pace, I typically advance the pace when I can get to 18 before first failure, or 26 before failing the set.
2. You’re training for LC, but training in a short course pool; I presume a 25m pool. One thing you have to consider is that the first 25 of a LC 50 is going to be faster than the second 25, due to the push off. So even if you subscribe to the “train to the back half pace,” You can’t just divide the second fifty target in half. I’d guess a 27.5 second long course 50 is split ~13.5/14.0. Since the 25 SCM replicates the front half of a LC 50, you need to train down to a 13.50, at least. My personal experience has been that the 1/4 total race time is pretty damn accurate, but your mileage may vary.
3: My best 100 performances have come when I’m cross-training for longer distance races. My opinion, based on my “n=1” experience, is that if you want him to close a 100 stronger, you’ll work in at least a couple sets of 50’s at 200 race pace every week. (If I could have Michael Andrew’s father’s ear for 5 minutes, I’d implore him to have the kid train hard for the 400/500 free for the next year, and watch what that does for his back-half 100 free speed and the free leg of his 200 IM).
I came back to competitive swimming at 45 after a 27 year layoff from the sport. Like you, I stumbled across USPRT when searching for a time-efficient way to self-train for high performance. I went “all in” on USRPT for a year, and made tremendous progress. Since then, I’ve diversified my training a little. While I no longer do everything “by the book,” I still use many aspects of USRPT in my training. Here are some of my thoughts:
-For now, keep your rest intervals consistent. Doing the set the same way, every time, is the best way to gauge your progress. When things start to plateau, then you might start tweaking rest intervals, etc. (See the caveat to this advice in the next section.) Forget the breath counting for recovery, use the pace clock or a wrist watch. Also, how are you timing your repeats? If you don’t have a SportCount Finger Stopwatch, get one ASAP.
-Even today, 3 1/2 years later, when I’ve been averaging 5 days a week in the pool for months on end, I’m still usually only good for two USPRT sets in a workout….and sometimes only one. You’re younger than me, so maybe you can pull off three, but I wouldn’t try it at first, and I have serious doubts about whether you’ll ever be able to do 4 and get any value out of the last one. The first set is always the highest quality one. That’s the one you should be most concerned with how the results compare to previous offerings. If you’re going to tweak rest intervals for now, do it on the second and/or third set. Give yourself 5 seconds extra rest, if you feel you need it, to get more quality repetitions.
-Vary the stroke. If all you do is breastroke, you’ll quickly overload yourself. I did it training too much freestyle. You’re not supposed to get much “taper effect” on USRPT, but when I was too narrowly focused, I went 5:27 in a 400 free race, then 5:09 just 6 weeks later after a “taper.” I now to avoid scheduling consecutive long-axis or short axis sets. Since I mostly race freestyle, a freestyle set is usually my primary set. When it is, my secondary set is breast or fly. For you, I would do the opposite. Do your first set breast, then do some free or back.
-Somebody above suggested “training one distance up.” I couldn’t agree more. Even if you don’t intend to race the 200 breast, train for it. It will help you tremendously on the close of your 100 breast.
-I advance the pace when I hit at least 18 consecutive successful reps, or 26 total reps before failing the set. I do make sure I can do it two offerings in a row, however.
To train for the 50, I just do occasional max effort, long-rest (90-120 second invterval) 25’s, and let my 100 training take care of the erst. I figure I’m behind the 8-ball in a 50, anyway, since so much of that race is the start, but that’s nearly impossible to effectively train for as a self-coached swimmer.
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.
For self timing, I use a sportcount finger stopwatch. It works pretty good and it’s nice to have a real time instead of trying to judge by the digital pace clock. https://www.sportcount.com/products.php?category_id=1 I use the yellow one.
I use the same. Perfect for self-timing to the high level of accuracy you need with USRPT.
Obviously there’s little value in doing 2-3 reps. You’re on the right track with more rest. If you’re getting 4.5-6 x race distance at race pace (not including the failed attempts, which are still valuable), that’s about as much as you can expect from a single set, so it looks like you have the right interval.
If you’re targeting (100 race time)/4, I’d suggest instead you target average 2nd 50 race split. That should be a little slower, so maybe you can dial back the interval to 1:05 or even 1:00 and still get into the mid teens for reps before failing out.
“Best” approach? No one knows. An good approach? Absolutely can be, even for “distance” events. I’m roughly your age, and have recently used USRPT to effectively train for the 400/500 and even 1650 free. 4 days a week is sufficient, if not optimal, to make gains.