Shouts from the Stands: Freedom, and how I became the fastest dad in America

by SwimSwam 24

July 05th, 2015 Lifestyle, Opinion, Training

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please [email protected]

This piece comes to us from U.S. Olympian Josh Davis:

I thought about submitting this article on Father’s Day mainly to encourage the swim dads out there, but then I didn’t for a few reasons. But my journey to becoming the Fastest Swim Dad is also about Independence and Freedom. I had the courage to try something different and it worked and thank goodness I had the Freedom to try it. Many swimmers won’t have the Freedom to try different training styles on the “Race Pace-Hybrid-Old School” Spectrum until they become ‘swammers’. In the spirit of our Founding Fathers who wanted the Independence and Freedom to experiment with better practices, I hope you can learn something from my last year’s journey of life, liberty and the pursuit of happy swimming.

In the summer of 2013 I began to read about Michael Andrew and his unique training. On my birthday, Sept 1, 2013, my wife asked me what do I want for my birthday and I told her I wanted to drive up to Lawrence, KS and learn about USRPT and how Michael goes so fast off seemingly so little. So she said, “Go for it.” So I spent the weekend learning about USRPT and had a blast getting to know the Andrew Family. It was so refreshing and exciting to be around them that it got me motivated to want to train and race again. I had been mostly discouraged from 2004 to 2013. For only one meet in 9 years did I feel really strong and fast in the water and that was Masters Nationals in Austin 2008 where we had a brand new body suit.

In January of 2014 I went back to Lawrence, KS for the USRPT conference and learned even more. I decide to fully commit to race pace training and see what happened. So I trained 20 to 30 x 25’s at 100 pace about five times a week. From Jan. 20th to Apr. 20th I swam for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. No weights, no equipment, no drills…just the 25’s for about 20 minutes.

At Masters Nationals in Santa Clara, I broke the 40+ records in the 50 free with :20.8 and the 100 free with a :45.1. I was very pleased with my sprints. I hadn’t felt that strong and crisp in a long time. I couldn’t help but think about how many high school and college guys would love to go :20. and :45 low on 30 minutes a day. But my 200 back was terrible so I knew I needed something else.

I took most of the summer of 2014 off to teach and run camps and clinics but was intrigued by how to develop my favorite event, the 200 free, and prove that race pace could work for the 500 also. I had heard that Masters Champion Glen Gruber had success with race pace training for his mid-distance races so I decided to double my training and go 20 x 50’s on the 1:00, holding 200 pace. (That sounds so impressive doesn’t it? …I doubled my training). So basically from Sept to Dec of 2014 I would alternate between 20 x 50’s on 1:00 and 30 x 25’s on :30. I still only had 30 minutes a day to train but wanted to go fast at the American Energy Pro Am in Edmond, OK, where I live.

On Dec 20th, 2014 in the consolation final of OK ProAm, I broke my own record in the 50 yard free and went :20.6. How much fun did I have when I looked at the 21 year old college guy next to me on the turn and said to myself, “I can beat this guy!” and I did. Talk about the funnest sport, beating college and high school people when you’re 42 is a blast!

Starting in January 2015 I committed to only train 50’s at 200 pace. By the end of January I was really getting good at the 20×50’s on 1:00 averaging :25.0’s. So February I bumped it up to 25×50’s on the 1:00 averaging :25.0’s. Then in March I bumped it up to 30×50’s on the 1:00 averaging :25.0’s. Only once did I ever reach my ultimate goal of going all 30×50’s on the 1:00 averaging :24.9. It was at Men’s NCAA’s in Iowa City in between prelims and finals. With several college coaches watching and getting my splits, I averaged :24.8 on all 30. I am sure being so pumped up for my alma mater, Texas, and being in the fast Iowa pool helped me that day, but I was still wearing my baggy suit and I done a clinic earlier that day with Anthony Ervin and only had a few hours sleep.

In April I tapered down to 20×50’s on the 1:00 averaging :25’s to get ready for Masters Nationals in my hometown of San Antonio. Then 2 days before Master’s Nationals I tapered to 15×50’s on the 1:00. And one day before nationals I did 10×50 on 1:00 averaging :25.0s.

It was now the moment of truth. I would be swimming the 200yd free and 500yd free, two events I avoided for years because I knew I didn’t do the work to get ready for them and I hated the physical and emotional pain they usually brought since I retired in 2004. I remember getting up behind the blocks of the 500yd free and I had the thought, “Holy cow, I haven’t swum more than a 50 in a year and now I’m going to do 10 in a row without stopping!” But then I reminded myself that I have done over a thousand 50s averaging :25.0’s in the last 4 months so surely I can do 10 in a row at say :26 or :27.

I had my amazing streamline start as usual and all I can say is that 500 free was one of the most enjoyable races of my career. I felt amazing in my new BlueSeventy jammer. My body just went into auto-pilot. I wasn’t sure exactly what pace I was holding but I was just doing what I had trained my body to do. I watched the numbers of my counter go by on each turn side….7,9,11,13,15 and yet I wasn’t getting super fatigued and tight like I normally did in the past. Then the craziest thing, on lap 17 I felt fine so on the bell lap I just started kicking like crazy because I felt so fresh. I touched the wall and felt great and instantly realized I could have gone faster. I had a good amount of energy left and immediately got worried that I had missed the record.

I looked at the clock and saw that I had broke the record of the great distance swimmer Alex Kostich by almost 6 seconds! Here are my splits:

  • By 50’s : 1) :24.09 2) :27.07 3) :27.89 4) :28.04 5) :28.21 6) :28.43 7) :28.20 8) :28.23 9) :27.72 10) :25.49 = 4.33.36
  • By 100’s: 1) :51.16 2) :55.93 3) :56.64 4) :56.43 5) :53.20

My time in the 200yd free was my best in 8 years also. When Missy Franklin went 1:39.1 in March I was so inspired. I thought surely there is a way I can go under 1:40 also even though I hadn’t done it in 6 years.

My 200 splits:

  • By 50’s: :22.35, :24.88, :25.87, :25.13 = 1:38.23
  • By 100’s: :47.23 and :51.00

100 free was close to last year at :45.3. 50 free was about the same at :20.8

Training only 35 minutes of only 1800 yards consisting of the exact same thing every day for 4 months (300 warm up and 20 or 30×50’s on the 1:00 averaging :25.0’s) I had become the fastest dad with 5 kids in America in the 50, 100, 200 and 500 free! I felt like I had robbed a bank and cheated the swimming system. I had way to much fun, going that fast off so little.

Thoughts, questions and comments I have received about my race pace experiment…

People said…”You see, Josh, you’ve got this base from being an Olympian.” My question is when does a ‘base’ stop being a base? I didn’t do anything significant for almost 10 years! Sure, I had a technique base but their was no physical/endurance base. I had been struggling with my 200 free for years so much so that I never raced it and would never even think about doing a 500. What I found was that doing 30 x 50’s at race pace builds speed and endurance at the same time and I achieved significant results in only a 3 to 4 month cycle.

People often ask “don’t you get bored with that set?” and I respond with, “Does a surfer get bored with surfing 30 waves a day?” Never!! Even though I am not a surfer, I imagine learning the intricacies of a how your board and the wave work together to achieve maximum speed and enjoyment is a something you’re willing to do over and over again every day and never get bored with it. And that’s what I feel like as I look forward to riding my wave every day!

I’m never doing 100’s or 200’s again. I am only going to do race pace, so that means I’m only going to go a distance where I can go that race pace. I have done 75’s here and there and it was ok but I really prefer 50’s going :24’s and :25.’s. Say for example, I go 8×200 free on 2:30 and I average 2:00. Averaging :30 per 50 for that whole set is actually a pretty good set. But I would never want to go :30 per 50 in a race. Nothing is more boring than going a pace you would never do in a meet and getting unnecessarily tired from doing it.

Bottom line is that I don’t have all the answers and each swimmer should do what makes them successful and happy in the sport. All I know is this race pace works for me and I love it. I have now reset my goals and I’m excited to see how fast I can go at the next Masters Nationals in North Carolina next April. Hopefully, I can encourage some swim dads and coach dads to keep swimming however little and however fast without taking time away from your family.

In conclusion, 300 warm up and 30×50’s on the 1:00 is how I became the fastest dad in America. But the main reason I became the fastest swim dad is because of my amazing wife. She’s the real Olympian who gave us 5 kids in 8 years who are now amazing young people at ages 17, 16, 14, 12 and 10. I couldn’t have been a dad without her and I wouldn’t be as fast either. When I do my race pace I always go faster when I thank God for her and our kids. I am grateful for the motivation and unconditional love my family gives me and I am thankful for race pace training that has given me more time to enjoy them. I hope this gives encouragement to all the other ‘Swim Dad’s’ out there who are trying to live healthier lives without compromising time with your family.

I’m glad Will you join the Race Pace Revolution too?
Happy Fourth of July!


Shout out to my other Olympian and USA Team Swim Dads who inspire me…
Ryan Berube
Matt Biondi
Rowdy Gaines
Mark Gangloff
Gary Hall Sr.
Gary Hall Jr.
Brendan Hansen
Lenny Krayzelburg
Jason Lezak
Glen Mills
John Naber
David Plummer
Roque Santos
Brad Schumacher
Mel Stewart

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Tom McGowan
7 years ago

I am curious about how to use USRPT for I.M. training for a 100 or 200 I.M. race? Would you do one 50/25 of each stroke, switching strokes during the set? Or, would you train for each stroke separately, and do your 25s fly then do a set of 25s Back,then breast and free? The interval would need to be different depending on the stroke so I’m not sure which would make more sense.

Sean Kelly
7 years ago

Any suggestions on how RPT can be used for fly and breast?

Glenn Gruber
Reply to  Sean Kelly
7 years ago

It is the same for all strokes. The rest interval is 20 seconds for 50s and 15 seconds for 25s. You choose your goal time and do sets of 20 or 30 x 50.

Read the tons of stuff written by Dr. Brent Rushall. All of it is on-line.

Sean Kelly
Reply to  Glenn Gruber
7 years ago

Thank you for the reply. I just received the video for USRPT and look forward to trying it with my high school swimmers and in my own swimming.

Sean Kelly
7 years ago

Any suggestions on how to use RPT for fly and breaststroke?

7 years ago

With all due respect to Mr. Davis – and it IS impressive what he has accomplished, no doubt – I’m troubled by the fact that he’s touting USRPT as the training program that helped him achieve those results…yet he didn’t actually DO USRPT. Given his roughly 25sec 50s @ 200 pace, rushall prescribes (and that really is the key to USRPT, the prescription) no more than 20sec of rest. So, to train under USRPT, Mr. Davis should have been doing n x 50 @ 45 holding 25-whatever, not a 1:00 interval (not even @ 50, as he has said in other posts). I’m not taking away from USRPT, and I’m not taking away from Mr. Davis, I’m just saying he… Read more »

Swim Genius
7 years ago

I like Josh and am glad he did well at Masters Nationals. Congrats to him!

But I would offer the following caveat: just because USRPT “worked” for Mr. Davis, doesn’t mean this proves it is an effective training method at the elite level.

Glenn Gruber
Reply to  Swim Genius
7 years ago

Josh currently holds the 200 free record in two age groups. What can be more elite than being the 35 – 39 record holder in the 200 free at 1:36.56 and also the record holder in the 40 -44 age group at 1:38.23?

If you look at the USMS records there are MANY Olympians who currently hold or once held National and World Records in Masters in every age group from 18 – 24 to 90 – 94, men and women.

So I would say it does “prove” that USRPT is an effective method at the elite level.

Swim Genius
7 years ago

I like Josh and am glad he did well at Masters Nationals. Congrats to him!

But I would offer the following caveat: just because USRPT “worked” for Mr. Davis, doesn’t mean this proves it is an effective training method at the elite method.

Jack baker
7 years ago

Thanks Josh

I find it interesting that USA Swimming is doing everything they can to NOT bring up USRPT. I would be fine to call it RPT – but what I’ve found is in order to have it work – the kids need technique training. They need someone to watch over their stroke and help them with proper stroke technique – but SO MANY coaches either don’t know how to teach it or don’t want to.

You would think coaches would get excited about helping their swimmers improve – and seeing kids excited about coming to practice, being on time, and TRYING to get better.

USA Swimming needs to embrace these principles. It’s good for the kids – and the… Read more »

Craig Zettle
7 years ago

Awesome article and inspiring as usual Josh. I’m headed back after a layoff spanning back to 91 NCAAs. I’m targeting short course masters nationals in 2016 – just after turning 48. If I make it, I will see you on deck.