Read about day 1 at the Magnolia Masters Pro Camp here.

Tuesday January 10, 2017

Today I would try to push some speed with them.  I’ve mentioned this in previous camps, but it is worth repeating.  The best way to get improvements is what I’ve called “technique under load.”  This means that improvements in technique and efficiency happen while you are swimming hard and make the improvements in your swim mechanics that result in faster more efficient swimming.  A lot of the information about swimming in the triathlon community is centered around the idea of doing this drill or that drill and if you drill enough you’ll get faster and more efficient.  You cannot drill your way to a faster more efficient swim stroke.  It’s an appealing idea, but the only way to get faster is to swim faster with a precise focus on technique. 

With that in mind, the structure of the workouts for Tuesday were modeled after some of the work that Brent Rushall developed with his USRPT (Ultra-Short Race Pace Training) program.  In swimming, there are two general ways to get more efficient in the water.  The athlete can either train with a lot of volume or they can train with a lot of intensity.  For triathletes, the volume approach isn’t realistic.  Recent studies have shown that if an athlete is trained with a “race pace,” intensity approach the athlete can achieve similar results to a volume approach on half the training volume.  If athletes are pursuing ever greater levels of efficiency, a coach should be in pursuit of the same goal with their training.  Dave Salo, a world class swim coach and long time advocate of race paced training, said “the goal of the coach should be to find the minimum amount of training needed to achieve peak performance.”  This stands in contrast with the approach of the triathlon community that tries to see how much an athlete can take before they break or to train based on hitting certain zones. 

Here was the Tuesday morning workout: 

Warm up (A long warm up will be important to get the most amount out of the main set.  Remember the whole workout and the training adaptation comes down to how well you can do in the main set and the improvements you can drive into your stroke. Don’t skimp on the workout in the short sighted goal of getting in more “yards.” You want quality swimming and not quantity.  Every stroke counts.  Stay focused and be ready for the main set.)

400 swim with fins

400 kick with fins

400 pull no paddles

8 x 50 descent 1-4; 5-8 @ 50/55

Warm up total: 1600

Lead Up Set (The lead up set for a hard, fast swim is important.  Kick/Swim sets are a great way to tie the stroke together from a neuromuscular perspective and can make it a little easier to get a couple more percent out of the main set.  You multiple that idea on a workout over workout basis week in and week out with small gains at the end of the season it can add up to a lot.  Again, you want to focus on working the kick and improving efficiency)

6 x 100 kick/swim (50k/50s) @ 1:45/2:00


Main set (this is the basic structure of a USRPT set. I’ve tweaked the structure a little over the years through trial and error. For this first swim, I wanted to refine where they were with their swimming and break the set up so it wouldn’t be as mentally demanding on this first workout.  Ideally, this set is done with a coach on the deck to work on stroke corrections while the athlete is swimming hard.  The athlete should pay a lot of attention to the pace that they are going on each repeat.  As stroke corrections are given the athlete should do their best to implement and then see if it has any impact on pace.  Since we are measuring speed with a pace clock in a known distance it’s easy to see if the changes in mechanics are making the athlete faster.  At the start of the set, I assign the athlete the “hold pace” I think we can do on that day.  The usual structure is that if the athlete misses a pace they should sit out the next repeat to rest.  If after they’ve rested, they miss another pace then they should swim the remainder of the set easy.  The tough concept to grasp with these sets for many triathletes is that failure is ok and necessary to determining if we are making the maximum adaptation to the training load.) 

2 x [20 x 25 swim @ 35 + (hold pace per individual athlete)]

Break 1 min between rounds


Warm Down

4 x 50 swim easy @ 15 seconds rest

Here are the results from each athlete for Tuesday morning: 

Stephen 13

Scott 14

Justin 13

Jocelyn 15

Jozsef 17

For the Tuesday afternoon workout, the athletes had a good amount of rest and I hoped we would be able to push it a little harder.  If rested, afternoon swims are usually faster than early morning swims.  Again, we would do a lot of warm up to get prepared for the main set. 

Tuesday afternoon swim: 

Warm up

400 swim with fins

400 kick with fins

400 pull no paddles

4 x 100 descend 1-4 @ 1:30/1:40/1:50


Lead Up

12 x 25 swim (2 fast / 1 easy) @ 40


Main Set (When I swam these were called “lactate sets” and the design was that each effort was an all out sprint.  The rest interval allowed the athlete to go at a race effort on each repeat.  From the coaching point of view it gets athletes competing to go faster which is never a bad thing for certain workouts.  As a coach, you can definitely get some important insights on where an athlete is with their conditioning and technique.  Typically if an athlete is well conditioned with a decent “aerobic base” then in a set like this you would be able to see that they could hold the pace fairly consistently across the board.  The other thing is a lot of times with endurance athletes they aren’t able to push the throttle all the way down in the swim.  It’s good to push them outside their comfort zone.) 

6 x 50 sprint @ 3:30


Warm Down

8 x 25 swim easy @ 15 seconds rest


Justin 27.1; 26.9; 27.0; 27.2; 27.0; 27.2

Stephen 28.0; 27.9; 28.0; 27.6; 28.0; 27.9

Jocelyn 30.7; 30.6; 30.7; 30.7; 31.2; 30.3

Jozsef 32.5; 31.8; 32.1; 32.5; 32.7; 32.6

Wednesday would be an off day after 2 days of double workouts in a row.  Rest and recovery is the way for the body to crystalize the gains made in hard training.

Tim Floyd, swim coach and former NCAA Div I swimmer, founded Magnolia Masters in 2010 to specifically help triathletes improve in pool competitions and open water swimming. He is also the recent founder of the podcast Coffee, Beer, Coaching and Dogs. You can find more information about Magnolia Masters and the podcast here and here.