On decorated sprint coach Brett Hawke‘s podcast “Inside with Brett Hawke” Friday, Australian Olympic medalist Alice Tait explained the concept of “reverse cycling” as it applies to swimming and the return from time out of the water due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having won three Olympic medals on relays, Tait retired in 2012 at 26 years after missing out on Australia’s London Olympics team.

Essentially, as used by former Australian Institute of Sport head coach Shannan Rollason, the method reverses the usual training cycle to put speed work upfront, followed by distance and endurance work. Hawke and Tait discuss the method as one option for coaches to use to help swimmers transition back into training if their cycles were interrupted by the pandemic.

“We wouldn’t start with conditioning and distance straight away to get fit again. We’d go straight into speed,” Tait says. “It would be like we’re going to do 8×35’s walk-back and we’re going to do a 400 swim down between each set and we’re going to do it three times. Just that short, sharp speed.”

She added that most of sprint efforts under Rollason’s watch were done off a dive, and not often with a push start. “If anything was a front-end speed focus, it always came with a dive start,” Tait added.

“And then after three or four weeks of that, we would go into a bit of distance and threshold and establishing all of that base,” Tait explained. “And then we’d come back to the speed where we had the muscle memory from it, and we had the fitness behind it, and it would be a really good test to see how we’d improve from the initial stages.”

Hawke asked whether the method would differ for men and women, but Tait says she doesn’t believe it needs to.

“I think speed conditioning is speed conditioning and no matter which gender you are and what way you approach it based off that bias, I don’t think that should have any influence on the way that you would structure a speed and sprint development program.”

“I think it’s just a nice way to reintroduce you, whether you’ve had two weeks off of six weeks off, or six months off. It’s a nice way to slide back in. Son’t get me wrong, sometimes it had to be with fins because you just didn’t have that ability anymore.”

Check out the full clip below:

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