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Friday 26 July 2013

Coach Bud McAllister & Thoughts on a Certain Set Style

If you don't know much about Coach Bud McAllister, here's a bio from his ASCA Hall of Fame induction (2007): http://www.swimmingcoach.org/hof/coaches/mcallisterbudinfo.html .  Since 2007, he has spent time coaching in Canada and Great Britain -- and is currently coaching British Distance Phenom Jazz Carlin, who has been 8:18/15:47/4:04 in the 800/1500/400 Freestyles so far this year.
Coach McAllister is best know as Janet Evans' coach through the Olympics in 1988 when she won Gold in the 800 and 400 Freestyle.
I referenced Coach McAllister in my blog earlier this week, found here: http://createperformance.blogspot.com/2013/07/more-on-volume-velocity-and-rhythm.html
I'll briefly restate that as a young athlete I was privy to the types of sets Coach McAllister was doing with Janet Evans because my coach Murray Stephens told his NBAC swimmers from the early 90s all about Janet's training, and as far as he knew about what Coach McAllister was asking for. That knowledge spread through NBAC, and certainly through me as I eventually became an NBAC coach in 2001.  My athletes have always done Coach McAllister's style of sets, as I did back in the 90s. 
Here is a description of a certain type of work Coach McAllister put out there in the late 80s, which I still use often in 2013.  Following is my take on what is going on within the set.  I have never spoken to Coach McAllister about these sets, so my take is simply my viewpoint -- and I only surmise that I'm correct about what sort of idea he was after.
Take this SCY set, for example:

1x150 Free (150) + 3x150 Free (135)
2x150 Free (145) + 2x150 Free (130)
3x150 Free (140) + 1x150 Free (125)
I used to do this one a lot as an athlete, and we did the same thing for 200s, 300s, 400s, and 100s – pretty much every week it seemed like, in the early 90s. We would flip it around and go 3-1, 2-2, 1-3 sometimes as well.
It's important to get the concept of the set, which is this: the left side is more moderate than the right side (which is the faster part), but as you go through the set, the interval on the moderate side descends, AND you've got to do more moderate at one time, on a faster moderate interval. So you can't just do something fast, and then fall apart like many of our athletes like to do. The additional moderate swimming, even though it's on a tougher interval, provides added active recovery throughout the set.  But it's the kind of recovery that forces the athlete to swim with their best stroke.  The stroke technique must remain consistently strong on the moderate part, and because the pace never strays too far from racing pace the stroke technique will never stray too far from the athlete's racing stroke.

This morning I had one of my distance guys do a prep set for Zones next week, and we used this style of set. 

It was 12x100 LCM, and it went like this:
1x100 (1:35) – @106                   + 3x100 (1:20) – @104/103/103
2x100 (1:30) – @107/106           + 2x100 (1:15) – @102/102
3x100 (1:25) – @108/107/106    + 1x100 (1:10) – @101

The athlete has to pick it up doing a portion of the set, then ease it back down for the next portion – but in part due to the intervals (which get quicker), the athlete can’t go into “slop mode”.   After the moderate “honest” portion in the middle of the set (the first set of 2x100), the athlete must then swim a strong set of 2 on the fastest interval of the set – which leads into the set of 3x100 on 1:25, which are moderate, but ideally they are the same pace as the other moderate 100s at the beginning of the set.  My athlete did this pretty well.  I'd have preferred he didn't go up to 108 on the first of 3x100 (1:25), but other than that I thought it was pretty good for a 4:07/8:29/16:27 guy.

If an athlete does the set correctly, they are using three different gears.  One gear is the “moderate” part (the left side); the next gear is the beginning of the right side (the set of 3, and maybe the first repeat of the pair); and the final gear is the last one, and maybe the second one of the pair.

If this set were done six weeks ago, the intervals would be (:05) faster than they are here.  But my athlete is swimming a “Zone” meet in a few days so I wanted to make sure he was successful and didn’t get into struggle mode.


  1. Paul,

    This is an awesome series of posts you have going addressing "easy speed". A couple of questions for you;

    1) was your athlete doing the 100's LCM required to hold a pace on the harder intervals or on all of them?

    2) in your opinion does this training style lend itself well to strokes and iM?

    3) can the lower level athlete (ie almost at sectionals) benefit from this style of training or are they not quite ready for it.

    Many of your ideas are really resonating with some of the things I like to do and are generating a lot of questions for me. Thanks for the blog!

  2. Thanks-

    1) the athlete had no time requirement; the times listed are what he ended up doing. He knows enough about what I want, and specifically what we are trying to do on this type of set, to do it correctly. I would have been happy with 107-108s on the moderate stuff and 104s-103.5s on the right side. His mile pace is 105 high. So when you think about it, his moderate stuff was a little above mile pace and his fast stuff was below. As I wrote at the end...I probably would have done it (:05) faster if I could have banked on success...and he probably would have been more like 108s and 104s. The relatively easy interval allowed him to open up...I think...he had a really good day & could have done this set 3 times through at basically the same pace! Pure distance kid with some speed.

    2. Yes, IMs for sure. Any stroke, yes, but they have to be able to hold stroke for the moderate part. I'd think 150s through 300s for Back, 75s and 100s for Breast and Fly. I've done this set 300 Back-Breast- Free so many times as an athlete! I think it's great training to train it IM.

    3. The lower level athlete can do it, but I'd start with easier intervals so they get the point of the set. Not too easy, because it will be too easy to go fast on the right side -- and their HR will spike, and it will be tough to do correctly because of the HR spike -- but just a little but easier than you think they can handle. You want that extra (:05) to talk them through it. I do think distances of 100 or 150s are great for the beginner...because it's not super long but long enough where they can control their time. It's easier to manipulate a 1:50 VS a 1:47 150 than it is to manipulate a 37.5 compared to a 35.8 (for most beginners...they've got more time to work with the repeat and settle into a pace).

  3. Was there any rest in between rounds of the 150's (i.e. 1 x 150 then 3 x 150, then rest?) or in your case, the 100's? Here in RI we do a set similiar to yours called the "Gleason Set":

    4 x (200 @ 2:30, 2 x 100 @ 1:10, 200 @ 2:25, descend by round)


    -C Martin

  4. No rest between, which really makes the set challenging. You've got to go from the "faster" stuff right into the more moderate stuff...with nothing in between.