Ultra Short Race Pace Training: A few weeks in…

There is a phenomenal risk to trying any new work out program and great rewards that come with it. The last few weeks I’ve been working through the ideas and concepts of the Ultra Short Race Pace Training (henceforth called USRPT) with results that have pleased me.

I will be sticking with it for the time being. I say this so you do not have to skip down to the bottom to find out.

From where I sit this training is by far a better preparation for competition than anything I’ve ever tried before and seems to actually do a decent job in terms of general conditioning. As per the Tabata Protocol and Brent Rushall post I wrote a few weeks back, this may in fact be better conditioning than any other format of aerobic or anaerobic training out there. There are always modifications and tweaks to be made for an individual or team.

On the whole, this is psychologically and physiologically more intense. Reading about training 45 minutes over the traditional 90-120 minutes seemed absolutely crazy. Everyone knows that the way to get better at swimming is to swim for 9-10 practices a week for 90-120 minutes plus dry land… Seriously, everyone. Is anyone confused on that point? Then I tried it. At peak intensity, I get out of the water after 35-50 minutes feeling just like I had previously after two hours.

This is great news for me, I only have 45 min – 90 min to swim for the most part. I do wish I could get the second practice in later in the day to match what Michael Andrew is doing, but for now, this is bringing my speed along nicely. My endurance does not seem to be suffering, I broke with strict USRPT to go swim just shy of two miles a couple weeks ago and did it in about 40 minutes or so.

Now the modifications I’ve done to the program: First off defining short is tricky. Brent Rushall and Michael Andrew use only 25, 50, 75, and 100’s. I think they’d be better off using shorter pools for turn work such as a 10-15 yard pool which I do not have access to any longer. Metabolically there’s a time cut off/distance cut off/ intensity cut off for alternating between anaerobic and aerobic pathways that’s different for each athlete.

Why is that cut off important?

Well if you take 2 minutes to do a 100, you are not engaging with the training in a way that forces you to train both pathways. You will get stuck and not improve as fast. The answer is simple, reduce the distance and up the speed until you get faster.

But say you are faster… What then?

Is a 100 yard distance really the peak distance you can go?

This is where I modify the program. I want to train for a 500, and 100 intervals is not a bad way to prepare. However, if I’m going fast enough 125 yards, 150 yards, 175 yards, or 200 yards may be a better pace distance for me. Now, I get that a 200 yard distance requires to many changes in pace and intensity to be completely effective unless it is done vary fast. So, for now, I’m using 125s to build up to 150s waiting until I achieve a certain speed for a certain number of intervals before I increase the distance.

I believe this modification is in keeping with the logic of USRPT with a better application for the 500 yard distance.

At some point this week, I plan to break down all the different areas of possible work under USRPT that can be done in 25-150 yard distances. Ultimately, I think 150s at a 1:36 or below pace would prove the ideal training distance under USRPT logic for longer distances. If the 200 yard distance could be maintained at less than 1:50 then that might be even better, but that might be just too much time at too high an intensity.

We will see how the improvement continues if it continues.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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