Is the 100,000 Yard Training Week Dead?


By Dan McCarthy//High Performance Consultant

In some recent conversations with National Team coaches the question was asked: Are any coaches regularly training their athletes 100,000 yards or more per week? The coaches were from the club and college ranks, and the consensus answer was, probably not. The next question was, why not?

The college coaches queried seemed conflicted. They acknowledged the reality that training 100,000 yards or more per week has become virtually impossible; however, they seemed to lament the fact that it was no longer possible and shared a concern for the perhaps unintended consequences of losing this mega-training tool. What makes it so hard for college coaches? Some of the responses:

NCAA limitations on practice time

  • The importance of the weight room and dry-land training
  • The importance of kicking (20-25% of weekly total yardage)
  • Incoming freshmen not prepared for that type of yardage
  • Mega-yardage coaches would be demonized by other coaches during recruiting
  • The reality of diminishing returns of mega-yardage training for older (20+ years) elite athletes.

The National Team club coaches, while not as constrained as the college coaches, still face limitations when trying to train 100,000 or more yards per week on a regular basis. Some of the comments:

  • Not sure if 100,000 yards or more on a regular basis is good for young athletes
  • If you did run a 100,000 yard plus program you would lose half your team in a week
  • Right now athletes and their parents are curious about being successful with less yardage and fewer practices, not more
  • The availability of results, training methods and social media interaction has everyone hyper-sensitive to age-group records and being fast now, not in four years

100,000 yard plus training weeks were commonplace in the 1970s, and probably with some justification. Before swimmers could become more efficient with their training time, coaches had to discover what the limits were. Additionally, even after Title IX passed in 1972, it took the NCAA a number of years to get up to speed in women’s sports. The reality was a female’s greatest opportunity for success in swimming came during their high school years. Hence the three-hour practice, two-practices every day and the 100,000 yard training week. 

Every coach was able to name a coach somewhere that they heard was doing 100,000 plus yards per week. Some even said that they might hit that number themselves during a special circumstance like Christmas training or a training camp, but not on a regular basis. The 100,000 yard training week may not be dead yet, but it sure does smell funny.