What are the secrets behind Katie Ledecky’s dominance? At last year’s ASCA World Clinic, Coach Bruce Gemmell provided some insight of Katie Ledecky training. The full presentation is available on the ASCA Website. One take home that’s hard to emphasize in print is how much attention was given to her semi final 3rd place finish in the 200m freestyle at World Championships last year. Though one of her rare losses, this race epitomizes the mental grit that separates her from other really good swimmers and places her into the “legendary” category. Also, don’t be shy to check out our previous posts on Katie Ledecky:
- Katie Ledecky World Record 800m Freestyle
- Katie Ledecky Swimming Performances
- Predicting the Katie Ledecky 800m World Record
- Katie Ledecky Performance Improvements
40 Must Do Katie Ledecky Training Secrets
- Presentation could be two slides: 1) Katie does everything she needs to do to get better. 2) Katie is tough as nails….In some ways it is that simple! Want to do Katie Ledecky training, be tough as nails
- Training, dryland, nutrition/recovery, stroke, race strategy – this is what puts her on the Olympic team
- Mental capacity – what separates her from everyone else (15 for 15 in international finals)
- “What seems like talent, it turns out, is often better practice habits in disguise”
- “Talented athlete” = been practicing better than everyone else; not a matter of natural ability
- Limited to no dryland program until 2012 (which was appropriate for that stage of her development)
- Big improvement in pulling in 2015 because they wanted her to swim the 1500m in WC’s basically as pull set because it was right before 200m semi’s
- 1.36-1.38 stroke tempo for 800m. Race tempo, along with race pace, is key to success
- Training base (57.5/T30 base…progressing down to 57.0) – combination of science and intuition
- Rarely have done T30 test set
- One of her strengths: Competitive training group! (Sometimes plays mental games with her to make the fast lane 4:25/500yd or faster…her PR at time of lecture is 4:26!!)
- Katie Ledecky training doesn’t stand out in practice…until you realize she’s the only girl on the team and is surrounded by elite male middle distance/distance swimmers. Thrives on the competition
- Don’t need long goal meetings with her; she’s very specific about her goals; coach’s job is just to make sure she’s working on the right things
- 3 weeks on – 3 days off cycle…“Off” days = skill work, other stroke work, easy distance (“off” is relative, still doing ~8k per day)
- Summer is only time they do full 3 wk taper
- Have moved from 7 to 9 workouts per week. Athletes requested Monday AM workout because they felt better for Monday PM threshold set after taking Sunday off
- Dryland program has been haphazard due to high school schedule. Usually does 2-3 workouts per week with trainer. Tried to fit in one during free period during school
- Volume has stayed roughly the same since 2012 (60-65k)
- Personal belief – certain windows in athletes development when it is beneficial to have 7x week practice
- Power work = paddles + fins (not power rack)
- Overdistance = usually 500s but not 800s or 1000s
- Enjoyment of the process is key
- Lots of practice swimming at race pace, but its not the only thing they do
- No magic in the set…times just get faster over time doing the same sets
- Magic is in knowing what race pace is and just doing the work!
- “She just does what she need to do to get better” (Sue Chen)
- “and she does it well, with enthusiasm, with a smile…every day” (Gemmell)
- “if you want to be good, you really don’t have a lot of choices, because it takes what it takes.” (Saban)
- Not afraid to fail…but failure isn’t an option
- She fails in practice more than anyone in the group (grades herself A, B, or F!) = high standards and sometimes overswimming first part of set.
- Empties the tank every day…and then comes back the next day….
- If she doesn’t fail it means she isn’t being challenged enough
- Getting ready for London, all she let herself think about was winning the race
- Got third in semi final heat of 200m free after 1500m WR despite feeling arms and legs like jello…failure was never an option to her in the race, even trailing the field for most of race
- How did she get her hand on the wall in that 200m free semi having a horrible race? Always practices perfect finishes, constantly competing in practice
- Taper – keep everything in the same proportions and overall same workout schedule. Lengthen rest periods in normal workouts. Not the time to introduce new stuff.
- Sometimes feels broken down but not concerned until it gets more than 3 days. Natural byproduct of training hard
- None of the guys want to get in the lane with her at national team camps!!
- Mindset to try and repeat the last 50 from her 800m (28.x) for a 200-400m race
- Does a lot of race pace but is not a USRPT program. Have increased emphasis on 200m pace training
Take Home Points of 40 Katie Ledecky Training Secrets
The psychology of Katie Ledecky is what makes her special. As Coach Gemmell says, the training and physiology is what gets her on the team, but the psychology is how she sets records. There is nothing fancy in the program, as they do less volume than many other programs (but definitely not “low volume”) and run the same workouts as many other teams. If there is any “magic” in the team it is having a training group where anyone can lead on any given day and in which she is both challenged yet supported at every single practice.
Below are the 4 parts compliments of Swimming World Magazine: