by Shawn Klosterman 24

February 25th, 2015 Lifestyle, Opinion

Not intended as medical advice, please consult with a doctor before starting any new diet.

The following is an opinion piece courtesy of the Swim Viking, and does not necessarily reflect the views of SwimSwam’s staff or management.

Catching up:

THE VIKING MANIFESTO: Piecing Together a New Approach to Nutrition and Training for Swimmers from Scientific and Anecdotal Evidence.

Part 6: USRPT. Duh…

Okay guys, it’s time to add one more thing to the list of topics to avoid when you are drunk:  the list is now religion, politics, nutrition, your friend’s mom, and USRPT.  That’s right SwimSwam commenters, I know which of you loudmouth regulars is playing that game where you take a shot every time Braden mentions Michael Andrew’s name in an article.  If the SwimSwam comments section was a bar, I know which of you guys I would want to party with.
Yup, in case you haven’t already pieced it together, the Viking does Ultra-Short Race Pace Training.  What other type of training could I fit in with only 20-30 minutes, two or three times a week to swim?

Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and don’t waste a lot of time training old-school when you could be doing USRPT.

I decided after reading through Dr Rushall’s work that the science made sense and some of his claims seemed to fill in the gaps for me. There was something missing in the translation from training to racing with the way I was running my program.  I was frustrated with the inconsistency and guess work involved in managing the various aspects of coaching so many athletes and I figured that since none of my athletes are world-class there really wasn’t that much risk in making the switch to USRPT to see how it goes. I essentially threw the old EN-SP chart out the window.

“Let go, Viking. It’s outdated science.”


I also decided though, that if I am going to do it, I cannot make an informed decision without these two things:
  1. Making sure I do it by the book so I am not still left with questions later.
  2. Getting in the water to try it myself.  Hey, why not?  I had been jogging and had lost some weight, and I had to know what it felt like to truly make an educated analysis.


At the end of last summer I gave a presentation on USRPT to a group of high school coaches to talk about how it worked in our first seasons of training.  I had to admit to all of these coaches that while it was great for my team, it seemed to work better for me over the summer than it did for my athletes even though I trained significantly less than any of them. I usually did one USRPT set for 200 breast one or two nights a week in the LCM pool and one USRPT set for 100 breast pace one or two mornings per week in the SCY pool.  My training was very inconsistent, usually less than 90 minutes per week, and at times throughout the season I was stuck with up to ten days straight with no exercise at all due to my work and family responsibilities. When the dust settled I was confused that I had done so well and showed continuous improvement throughout the whole season, even after being sick for the last two weeks before sectionals. Some people think that USRPT isn’t for younger athletes and might assume that my age somehow made it more ideal for me.  I almost bought into this, even though there really isn’t any logical reason why this might be.  Now that I have spent some time investigating, I am certain I know why:  I started my LCHF journey several months before starting my USRPT journey.  It was not my age that helped me adapt better– it was my diet. It is clear as day now.

One of my favorite classes as a PE major was called Perceptual Motor Development.  It had a lot to do with neurology, the brain, and how we learn movements through different developmental stages.  The class was designed so that we coaches can have a better understanding about how to teach students of different ages physical skills in a progression.  When it got really interesting though was when we would talk about neurology and training because several researchers out there, (including Dr Tim Noakes, remember him?) have shown us that the brain is so specific in regard to motor learning that, as those of us who have bought into USRPT like to point out:  “the brain doesn’t even treat slow swimming and fast swimming as the same activity.”  This means that much of the traditional training I did in my first swim career served little more purpose than to increase capillarity to slow twitch muscle fibers.  In my opinion, when we train that way, only the most talented continue to improve and a lot of kids are left to fade away. In Bob Bowman’s cup analogy, I guess I just don’t buy that we need the Big Gulp. I believe we can throw a better party with shot glasses as long as we fill them with the right stuff. I guess my idea of “capacity vs utilization” is a little different than his.

Now, for most people who have skimmed Dr Rushall’s work, the concept of specificity usually stands out enough to have a little bit of a conversation.  As a matter of fact, John Leonard somehow scrounged together $23k of our USA-S membership dollars to try to prove to us that Dr Rushall hardly knows what specificity is.

It is time to tell John Leonard what he can do with that $23 grand.

While I do believe that most of us understand that with the way the brain works, specificity is king in athletics, I feel that many of us neglect it in traditional training.  Dr Rushall claims that technique specificity and mental training are vital throughout his works and are just as important as the actual sets they do.  It’s just that when I hear anyone talk about specificity, it focuses on the neurological, and it almost sounds as though many coaches think we can just not worry about it after we have taught our swimmers proper stroke technique as long as we mix in some sprinting once in a while.  Worse, I hardly ever hear coaches talk about specificity regarding muscle fiber recruitment and adaptation, even among those who use USRPT.  In my opinion, this is just as vital.  This is why LCHF can optimize USRPT, why USRPT can optimize LCHF, and this is also why so many people don’t quite understand why USRPT is truly a brilliant and unique way to train. Lots of people love to talk about Ultra-Short Race Pace Training, but it is very apparent that not many of those people have actually read Dr Rushall’s work.  I can’t even count how many times I have heard coaches on deck rail against it with gems such as:

“we have been doing that for years.  It’s just race pace.”

“it’s the same as the Sprint Salo book. Why is everybody acting like this is some new thing?”

or the best one–
“It’s just lactate tolerance work all the time.  What’s the big deal?  Developing kids need aerobic training.”

Read it or keep your mouths shut guys.  USRPT is far from any of those things that people assume.  I would recommend USRPT to anyone at any age or any level of competition, especially in conjunction with the LCHF diet.  The following passages from Dr Rushall’s work should help tie the two together:

“Some think that USRPT neglects the aerobic system. On the contrary, USRPT exerts nonstop, maximal stress on every oxygen-using source of energy. Its format of short repeats and rests creates a training stimulus that 1) energizes aerobic, slow-twitch muscle fibers beyond the capability of standard aerobic sets; 2) converts a substantial fraction of anaerobic, fast-twitch fibers to the use of oxygen; and 3) binds oxygen to hemoglobin and myoglobin. The overall training effect is to maximize not only base aerobic capacity but also the subsuming “oxidative capacity.” The result is greater speed endurance ― the ability to bring home a race before acid build-up takes its toll…
Ultra-short training produces maximal aerobic adaptation because the aerobic system (Type I fibers) is stimulated continually and maximally and the production of oxidative fast-twitch fibers adds further aerobic function. That contrasts with “aerobic training” or lower-intensity training that, at best, only stimulates maximal aerobic energy production in the Type I fibers. Higher intensity work (race-pace in swimming) is needed to develop maximal aerobic capability (Type I plus Type IIb fiber adaptations). Ultra-short training stimulates maximal energy source production for race- pace techniques. It trains the body to use its alactacid and lactacid energy resources for race-specific tasks better than does traditional (irrelevant) “lactate training”.

Traditional training gives us capillarity through distance, and mitochondrial density through intensity, and there is no doubt it can work. This is how Bob Bowman’s “capacity/utilization” concept applies to developing athletes.  I am not trying to tell anyone that traditional training won’t work. We see it every day.  I just believe it is inefficient and not optimal, especially with the standard high carb diet.  Now just imagine that you are eating a diet that is shown to make changes within muscle fibers that enhance the ability to work at high intensity without spilling over into anaerobic glycolysis, essentially maximizing your ability to tap fat and oxygen as fuel at high intensities. Then add to it a method of training that converts more fast twitch muscle to be oxidative, meaning a higher percentage of your muscle fibers are programmed to burn oxygen and fat at high intensity rather than relying on the glucose and lactic acid system. Then we basically have an abundance of the right fuel, the right method of fuel injection to make the most of it, and the right engine attached to the car to crank out all that power with less fear of locking up.

Remember these points I made earlier in the manifesto?:
  1. The formula for success in swimming should be technical efficiency and speed at the intensity as close as you can possibly hold to your VO2 max, for the specific distance of your intended race without the negative impact of lactate clearance not keeping up with production.
  2. If we want to improve supply and utilization both, we should focus on high-intensity swimming done in a way that is designed to cause type 2b muscle fibers to convert to type 2a, and the LCHF diet is the key to unlocking a higher level of potential if we can train for this specific adaptation along with it.

Essentially, USRPT, when done properly and consistently, is designed to maximize the conversion of fast-twitch muscle fibers to be oxidative, rather than glycolytic. KABLAM!  The ultimate bio-hack.  Fast twitch power optimized to use oxygen and fat as fuel.  LCHF plus USRPT is a lot of capital letters, I know, but I truly believe that this is the optimal way to train swimmers at any age.  Better oxygen utilization, better oxygen supply, and all of this applied specifically to fast twitch muscle fibers, while also warding off the fatigue associated with depending too much on fast twitch glycolytic muscle fibers and anaerobic glycolysis. What better combination could there be to help an athlete go out fast and finish strong in a race?. I believe that this could truly revolutionize our sport.  Add to this all of the general health benefits that we get from leaving the standard high-carb diet behind, and we have a winner.

LCHF plus USRPT.  This is the Viking Method.

Think about this.  I don’t care who you are– once you start creating more lactate than you can clear in a race your performance is going to suffer.  No amount of “lactate tolerance” training or mental toughness is going to change that to the degree that it should be the focus of high-intensity swim training.  Also, training slow-twitch muscle fibers to optimize a race that lasts less than two minutes doesn’t seem that smart either.  These are flaws in the most basic concepts of swimming training.  We have been shooting arrows at either side of the target, with very few of us lucky ducks ever actually hitting the metabolic bullseye.


and then there’s Vlad Salnikov… apparently he could train however he wanted, smoke a couple cigarettes behind the blocks and then get up and sprint a world-class mile. That guy had it all.

Again, most aerobic work done in a traditional swim practice serves to maximize the aerobic potential of slow twitch fibers, and any speed work with enough rest between repeats to recover beyond the optimal time will train fast twitch muscle fibers to be more dependent on anaerobic glycolysis.  USRPT brings about a better training response to fast swimming due to the short repeat distances short rests between repeats allowing for maximal oxidative adaptations and allowing more actual swimming time to be devoted to accurate race-specific swimming.   In USRPT the amount of rest between repeats is probably the biggest factor that sets the reality apart from what people assume about USRPT.  When you also consider that USRPT is self-regulating to avoid neural fatigue as well as the cumulative fatigue that can lead to over-training, it is like the cherry on top of a really huge sciency sundae.  Not that I would eat the cherry… or the sundae.  Just making a point.  This is the best of both worlds in specificity, as it covers the neurological side as well as the metabolic side with pointed specificity regarding muscle fiber recruitment and adaptation.

Doesn’t it make sense to focus on recruiting more fast twitch fibers to fire aerobically with fatty acids and/or ketones rather than through glycolysis?  Before reading my manifesto, many people might say no, because glycogen is the “preferred” fuel and fat is the “slow-burning fuel,” but, oh yeah, the textbooks were wrong about that. Aren’t the high adaptations shown in the UCONN study enough to convince you that the longer we adapt to the LCHF diet, the more we can take advantage of this metabolic software hack by increasing our ability to oxidize fat as a fuel at increasingly higher intensities? Since it is possible to train our muscles to burn fat and ketones more efficiently through the LCHF lifestyle, it seems to me that there could be a compounding effect when combining it with USRPT.  How fast do I have to swim in my forties to give y’all proof?  I fantasize that a swimsuit company will sponsor me and help me afford to drop one of my stipends and free up a couple of hours to train like the young pups again.  My 15 hour work days just don’t leave much time for training… but I don’t think I need it.  I am gonna keep getting faster just doing what I am doing.  Watch and see.

not me im in my prime.gif

Too old to swim lifetime bests at 40?

The only negatives I have found with USRPT so far are that it can be hard to expect kids to have the mental will to make the most of it day in and day out (hence Dr Rushall’s insistence that mental training is just as important as physical;) organizing a crowded practice can be tough (although my team has gotten pretty damn good at it;) and that one of my swimmers who had been accustomed to high yardage gained about 15 pounds after the switch (which would have never happened with LCHF.  He has dropped some carbs and already lost most of it in a few weeks.) Anyone who has never tried USRPT probably would not guess how damn hard it can be when an athlete wants to improve.  Last night my workout was a total of 300 warm up and 15×50 breast on 50, holding 32 high’s in the yard pool.  Holy crap it hurt.  By my third fail I was nearly hyper-ventilating.

amy- hurts and dying.GIF

The best parts of it:  the kids on my team get into it and it gives them more accountability.  I love doing it and feel I am wasting so much less time. My role as a coach has changed for the better.  My swimmers can expect to race well all season, yet we have had very few disappointments when they suit up at the big meet at the end of the season.  So far, it has been a win, win, win, win, win for us.  I am happy to give coaches advice for implementing this with their teams, but that is a post for another day.  I made a few mistakes in the transition to becoming a USRPT team, but right now it is a pretty well-oiled machine. My greatest recommendation if you are thinking about giving USRPT a try?: Read every damn word of those Swimming Science Bulletins.
The next chapter in my manifesto is a pretty important one…  “How in the heck do I even get started on a Low-Carb High-Fat Diet?” Yes, I realize I have talked a lot about LCHF without really talking about what I actually eat.  More to come!

The Viking is a delusional swim blogger who has made a commitment to train for the next sixty years to breaking every masters swimming record in the 100-104 age group. Watch for his masterpiece, “A Completely Made-Up History of Competitive Swimming” to hit bookshelves soon. This series is being published concurrently on SwimSwam and

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9 years ago

Great post and judging by the intensity of the comments everyone else agrees. I am not a swimmer but my daughter is. I have been looking for a way to bring how I train (HIIT and HIT) to her swimming. There is so much more I need to research and learn. I will continue to read your posts Viking (A pic in your Viking gear would be cool).

As for research results; if we look at general fitness as opposed to swimming, the trend is toward high intensity, short rest and shorter overall workouts. This is the training I do and the results are awesome to say the least. I do not think it is much of a leap… Read more »

9 years ago

A big thank thank you to the Screaming Viking for putting together these articles. They sure are a lot of work. I’m sure I can learn a lot from it. I’m still working through them. Is it at all surprising that those who are most ardently against USRPT are also the ones who haven’t and don’t plan to try it?

9 years ago

He has posted five articles on swimswam that have shattered my view on eating and performance. A few comments.

He posts one article saying he swam fast while using USRPT. Everyone goes nuts.

Reply to  Rich
9 years ago

haha. Yeah, Rich… I kind of worried these posts were so long no one would even pay attention until I brought up USRPT. I hope this post makes them want to go back and read the other stuff now.

swim reader
9 years ago

I must admit, I don’t understand the in’s & out’s of USRPT. And nor do I have time to read a ton of research literature on the subject. But I kind of look at this whole debate in light of “one size does NOT fit all.”

Think of it like you would a doctor treating a disease or medical condition. ** Most of the time ** Treatment A works, but it doesn’t work for everybody. Then you need an alternative. And sometimes A works for awhile, but then your situation changes and you need to try something else.

Maybe it works that way in the land of teaching & coaching. I don’t know. But that is my layman’s view of… Read more »

wave rider
9 years ago

Viking, do you ever take your heart rate after the fails? I always like to take my heart rate after the third fail even though it is probably irrelevant. During my first few months I would get heart rates as high as 240 which I didn’t even know was possible. I was actually concerned at one point that I was going to be one of those people that drop dead due to a pre-existing heart condition. Now I’m into a safer range, usually somewhere between 170 and 200.

Do you ever do any sets for strokes other than breast? I do 100 fr/fly/br sets and breaststroke is the only one that is inconsistent for me. If I’m feeling tired… Read more »

Reply to  wave rider
9 years ago

with my swimmers breaststroke does seem to be the most hit/miss. I can usually tell by watching them whether it will be a good set or not, but that is from watching for mistiming in the stroke obsessively. I am more consistent lately but it is still breaststroke and sometimes the timing is tough to find. I don’t practice any other races but if I had more time I would like to race a 100 fly and 200 IM someday. I just don’t see my schedule getting any lighter for the next 14 years. haha. that still gives me 49 years to train to break Jaring Timmerman’s records though.

I have not messed with heart rate other than that I… Read more »

9 years ago

“Aren’t the high adaptations shown in the UCONN study enough to convince you that the longer we adapt to the LCHF diet, the more we can take advantage of this metabolic software hack…”

Actually, no. One study is not enough to convince me of anything, but its a start! Of course I also haven’t read it (tsk tsk). A link would be greatly appreciated.

Honestly, I would be disappointed to hear that beta oxidation is as fast as glycolysis. My exercise physiology professor would certainly disagree. Goes to show you can’t even believe everything your professors say.

Reply to  MaineSwimming152
9 years ago

Seriously great post though 🙂

Reply to  MaineSwimming152
9 years ago

There is a link in one of the older posts. I think it was part 3. Even if fat metabolism can’t quite match glycogen, the glycogen sparing effect has value, and the dramatic change in RQ has value. The RQ (some studies call it RER) phenomena has been shown in multiple studies that I believe are also linked out somewhere in the manifesto.
No matter what, the ability to generate fast twitch power aerobically is most likely what sets the best apart from the rest. Phelps’ intensity in a 400 IM was about the same as many good (national level) swimmers could hold on a 200 IM. I have a theory on why I think Phelps was a freak… Read more »

9 years ago

Perhaps there is another “Training System” Swim Swam would like to write about, other than USRPT? For me, as a loyal Swim Swam fan, I would like to see you guys take that direction and look into other programs a little more. Garrett does a great job with his training videos and did a great job with Floswimming, back in the day. Anyone remember the UT, Auburn, Arizona workouts he posted? Those videos were awesome, informative, and showed the swimmers in action.

Just a thought….

Reply to  Adam
9 years ago

Time, money, access all play part in something like that. I would love to see things from other programs as well, especially how teams approach dry-land (like that Larry guy everyone seems to hate) and approach start/turn work. Being able to hear about how Cal-men doing things or Georgia-women would be great too, but again, that comes down to time, money and access. The biggest obstacle I see, coaches and programs being willing to share.

Reply to  Adam
9 years ago

Adam – this is an opinion piece submitted by a coach. If coaches who use other training systems would like to submit their own opinion pieces, we’re always happy to publish them.

Reply to  Jared Anderson
9 years ago

Jared, did you swim for the U of M? What club did you swim for? Sorry this is so unrelated. 🙂

Reply to  billratio
9 years ago

Hey Billratio! I did swim for Minnesota in college, and actually didn’t grow up in a club background. I swam for my local YMCA, the Brainerd Dolphins, up through high school

9 years ago

With all due respect to Dr. Rushall and the Viking (who I actually saw at the OCCC pro-am in December walkout for finals in a full viking costume and almost lost it I was laughing so hard) I will never buy into USRPT. I’ve given my reasons why before, but I would ask that everybody look at the “science” that Dr. Rushall published and tell me with a straight face and a clear conscience that it doesn’t remind them of a seventh grade science project. Just look at these solid comparisons he published

Reply to  Breaststroker
9 years ago

Oh, I know that the USRPT camp will never sell everyone on it. I just hope I swim fast enough someday that I sell some people on it and the rest have to start dismissing me as some kind of freak like they do Michael Andrew. 🙂

I did my best to try to not refer to Dr Rushall’s works throughout this series when laying out the foundation for why I believe LCHF + USRPT is optimal because I thought that the anti-USRPT camp would immediately dismiss it without considering my argument. The stuff about metabolism and specificity is all pulled from the accepted standard beliefs on training used in all sports. I just enjoyed having success with… Read more »

Reply to  The Screaming Viking!
9 years ago

The argument isn’t about if it works at all or not. Only truly oblivious people who have some personal vendetta against USRPT would say it can’t/doesn’t work at all. That’s ridiculous. The argument is over weather:
a.) It works better than anything else
b.) It works best for more people than anything else
c.) In Dr. Rushall’s case, weather there is any way to improve it
In my opinion, which, mind you, is based on quite an extensive research in Dr. Rushall’s research and presentations and a successful 14 year career, the answers to the above questions are
a.) No
That’s why I can’t buy into it at this time.… Read more »

Reply to  Breaststroker
9 years ago

BREASTSTROKER – you do realize that it’s probably a good idea to read the referenced articles listed in Rushall’s table (yes, ALL 64 OF THEM) prior to criticizing Rushall’s paper?

Reply to  Sprintdude9000
9 years ago

[continued] doing so should confirm that they are indeed ‘solid comparisons’.

Reply to  Sprintdude9000
9 years ago

I wouldn’t say you need to read all of them. Only the last ten or so deal with USRPT and honestly some of his earlier articles (from the 90s) can be contradictory.

Reply to  Sprintdude9000
9 years ago

SPRINTDUDE9000-I’m a swim nut. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about USRPT. I wanted to research so I could formulate my opinion on it fairly. I’m not looking for things that could disprove it intentionally. I’ve read all of the attachments at the end of that paper, so I can criticize it. Furthermore, if you think, and I’m quoting here, that “Trains race skills (e.g., turns, underwater kicking)” or “Trains race techniques”, which Dr. Rushall CLEARLY states that USRPT does and anything else doesn’t, your’e oblivious.

Reply to  Breaststroker
9 years ago

Also, this is really the only type of training that has actual studies published to back it up. Everything else out there vehemently says that “traditional” training is not only not conducive to making swimmers faster, but most of the time its a detriment to racing.

Of course there will always be those who doubt usrpt, but its the only thing I’ve ever heard that makes perfect sense and shows results. You can say that traditional training gets the job done, just look at all the fast swimmers out there. But I say it doesn’t because look at all the swimmers out there that don’t get faster in college when that is the time frame that swimmers should be… Read more »

The Science
Reply to  Breaststroker
9 years ago


That’s great you have read all the ‘attachments’ (do you mean the literature cited?) but that does not mean you are able to criticize the research (I’ll assume you meant the literature used to help support a scientists’ claims/theories).

In order to assess the validity of research you need to be well versed in the scientific method, research methods, statistics, research design, and the quality of literature used to support claims. These assessment skills usually culminate in a doctorate or, at the very least, a masters degree.

Your comment is analogous to a frequent flyer who has accumulated 1 million airline miles. They fly so often they must surely be able to pilot the plane by now.