Ultra Short, in a long pool…

After a recent University Open Day and talking to some prospective swimmers – the question of Long Course (50m) training was raised. The assumption here is that for some as yet undefined reason long course training will be better for you than short course – I guess because its longer, and longer equals better, right? That’s the traditional swimmer mentality for you right there…..

Longer doesn’t equal better, BETTER = BETTER!!!

It makes no difference if you train 100’s in a 50m pool (because that is your event) if you swim that 100 in 65 seconds and then want to go to your next meet and swim it in 55 seconds! The way your body and mind operate between those two different skills is exactly that…different. Sure the environment is the same – but its a bit like training for the Marathon Des Sables (lots of running across the Sahara desert) by going sunbathing!!

Specific adaptation requires specific demands – you have to train at the tempo, rate, pace, proficiency (add  preferred noun here…) that you will use in a race – and overload this if you want to improve.

And simply put – en masse it is not possible to sustain a ‘sufficient’ amount of repetitions for motor learning and physical adaptation to take place when the repeat distance or time is too long.

Thus the beauty of Ultra Short work, whereby a ‘significant’ volume of race pace work (I use 3-5 times race distance) can be achieved without any or little compromise in technique or performance.

Just a quick ditty – It is of course possible to perform specific Ultra Short formats such as USRPT with 50m repeats in a long course pool. I assume it is practiced widely and it constitutes training I have myself administered – although the limitation is that ‘only’ 50m repeats can be done! I would always prefer short course as it gives far more scope to run 25s through 75s if desired and cater for more individualised programming as well as offering far more ‘coaching’ opportunities, and thus I have removed long course training this season…

In relation to all of the above though is the swimmer who wants to train Ultra Short – would hit USRPT if possible, but only has access to a 50m pool and the rules of USRPT are hard to adhere to. So how can it be tackled…

For any distance that is less than 50m it is difficult to time yourself, unless there are clear markings on the pool floor and clock spotting is clear and easy…

In this situation 100 effort can be used (or 50/200 etc) and this is deemed as the effort required to swim at 100 pace (or faster) as opposed to a specific pace. So whereas a USRPT set may look like:

30×25 @ 100 pace @ 30

failure = pace missed

… a Long Course variation may be:

30×25 @ 100 effort + 25 cruise + 10 seconds

failure = effort not sustained

There is a lot of impetus on the swimmer here to assess ‘effort’ against pace and also to know when that level of effort was not achieved in a repetition and a repeat should be missed. Strategies for this could be stroke counting so that when a repeat contains 4+ more strokes than the previous and a level of fatigue is being experienced it could be assumed that the pace has dropped. Other swimmers may be able to assess this on ‘feel’ and just know when they are not performing at the desired level. For swimmers less experienced, it is always better to go faster than slower, and the above set could be re written as:

30×25 full speed + 25 cruise + 10 seconds

failure = perceived full speed no longer attainable

Remember that it is not the 30 repeats that is the key goal here, but the attainment of 100P, E or FS and the ability to hit this 3-5 x race distance (12-20 x 25’s) and also that this is not the goal on session 1!! Build the qualities, improve every exposure and most importantly – focus on your technique!! And once this value and distance is achieved, next time, go faster!!!!

Keep racing 🙂


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