No, I’m not talking about your favorite Pandora station, but rather a good mix of training techniques to prepare yourself to swim well. From long, grinder sets that focus on aerobic capacity to all-out sprint sets that train your body to better deal with its tolerance to lactic acid, mixing up your training routine to incorporate the full spectrum of training methods is important for optimal swimming. Mixing up your training is great for your overall physical and mental health as well, so that’s all the more reason to do it! If you are training with a coached team, you are probably already getting a good variety of different types of workouts, and some of this will sound familiar to you.
Last month I wrote about Ultra-Short Race-Pace Training (USRPT) as it was originally conceived by Dr. Brent Rushall (not the newer “sprint-USRPT” training), and how this training technique is actually great for distance athletes, despite the fact that the name would not indicate it as such. As was mentioned in the March-April 2019 SWIMMER magazine article on sprint-USRPT, many older swimmers are finding success with the training method as well.
As the body ages, it needs more time to rest after a hard training repeat in order to recover and be ready for exertion again on the next repeat. Maintaining intensity over long intervals becomes much more challenging for older swimmers, so the idea of breaking longer sets up into manageable chunks, such as 50s, 75s or 100s, works well for older bodies. USRPT gives the opportunity to stop and rest more frequently so the body can maintain good technique and an elevated heart rate for longer. This is great for developing aerobic capacity while training good technique.
USRPT “purists” recommend doing only USRPT sets for all workouts. With the recently defined sprint-USRPT training, which focuses more on lactate threshold training and perfect maximum sprinting technique rather than aerobic capacity, I can see how mixing traditional and sprint USPRT training would provide great results when done properly. However, I question whether or not most people could maintain such a training regimen for the long term. I suspect that many swimmers would burn out without a little variety in their training.
I’ve swum with quite a few Masters groups around the country, and my experience has been that lactate threshold training is one type of set that is not done frequently enough. Assuming that your body will allow for it, be sure to work in some “lactate sets,” as they’re commonly called, or sprint-USRPT into your training sets with some regularity. I suppose these types of sets are often avoided by Masters teams because they hurt a lot, so most people want to avoid them! There also seems to be an aversion for most Masters swimmers to resting at the wall for extended periods of time, or doing easy swimming while recovering from an all-out 100.
Many people tend to focus on a certain quantity of yardage rather than the quality of said yardage. However, doing all-out sprint sets with some regularity – once every week or week and a half – and mixing them in with traditional USRPT and longer aerobic sets from time to time, will provide an optimal balance of training. Additionally, mixing up the types of sets regularly will help avoid burnout that can come from doing the same or very similar sets too frequently.
Here’s a lactate tolerance set I came across with some quick Googling:
75 all out* + 75 ez; all on 4:00
50 all out* + 50 ez; all on 3:00
25 all out* + 25 ez; all on 2:00
*all out swims are from the blocks
This set contains 900 yards of all out swimming! Yikes! I think our Southern Oregon Masters Aquatics (SOMA) workout group will be trying this set, or a modified version thereof, a few times leading into the OMS Association Champs.
Mix it up a bit with your sets too! I’m looking forward to seeing everyone swim fast and have fun at OMS Association Champs on May 17-19!!