This post is sponsored by UCAN, a brand that makes nutrition products for swimmers on the go. For 20% off your order, use code MYSWIMPRO!
On this episode of the #AskASwimPro show, we caught up with elite American swimmer Michael Andrew to chat about pandemic training, season 2 of the International Swimming League and how he stays fueled for maximum performance.
Reflecting on ISL Season 2
Michael had a blast in Budapest for the second season of the International Swim League with the New York Breakers. All of the ISL teams converged in the city for 6 weeks of training and competition at Duna Arena. He had been to Budapest previously for World Championships, and said it felt good to be back in a familiar place with some of the best athletes in the world!
Reflecting on the ISL’s Covid-19 precautions in the “bubble,” Michael said everything was well thought out and everyone stayed safe and healthy throughout the season. Each swimmer was tested for Covid-19 every 5 days, and masks were required everywhere.
The main difference in this season compared to other high profile swim meets? There wasn’t much intermingling between teams. Typically, swimmers from different teams are able to sightsee together or share meals during their off time. Each team stayed in a different hotel and had their own private gym and pool time to encourage social distancing. Swimmers couldn’t dine at the same tables as their teammates.
The swimmers were able to make the best of a once-in-a-lifetime situation despite the restrictions, building a strong community and managing to throw down some fast races!
Settling in Back Home
Now that he’s back from Hungary, Michael is enjoying spending time with his friends and family, surfing and rebuilding his training routine. He has pool time each day at local pools in Solana Beach, California.
He’ll be spending the next 6-7 months focused on building endurance for the 200IM. While ISL was an amazing experience, the environment came with some distractions that ended up affecting his swimming.
Michael’s dad is his coach, and they have found success using Ultra-Short Race Pace Training, or USRPT. At its core, USRPT maximizes the body’s physical and neural adaptations by simulating a race environment in practice. Rather than working on numerous aspects of technique or varying swimming intensity, which can confuse the brain, swimmers using USRPT strive to maintain their goal pace over short distances.
Related: What is USRPT?
For example, if Michael is training for a 100 freestyle, he will divide his goal time by 4 and work on 25s at 100 pace. For a 200, he’ll work on 50s.
Breaking it down further: If your goal time for a 100 is 1:00, you’d need to hold :15 for each 25 in your workout. Or, if you want to go 2:00 in a 200 freestyle, you’d work on holding :30 for each 50. Each time you set a new personal best, your pace times will adjust.
This training technique isn’t widely used in the sport yet, but Michael finds that he’s able to race faster when he trains this way.
He typically works on 200 pace in the mornings and 100 pace during evening sessions. Most of the time, his training depends on the next competition on his calendar. For example, if at his next meet, Michael has the 200 IM and 100 Breaststroke in the same day, he will work on those events in practice, in the order he’ll be swimming them at the meet.
Michael and his dad are always looking for new dryland strategies to improve his performance. Recently, he has been working on Olympic lifting, such as cleans and squats, and keeping the intensity in check so he can still maintain his pace in the pool.
He also loves to play volleyball with friends and always tries to catch a few waves if the surf is good. Too much time surfing does negatively affect his swimming, though, so Michael is working on finding a balance.
What It’s Like Being a Pro Swimmer
Michael took a more unique path in his swimming career, going pro at age 14, long before many swimmers typically do. His insane performance on the national and international stages caught the eyes of numerous companies, who support him and his family through sponsorship deals. Thanks to his forward-thinking attitude, Michael has broadened the possibilities for other elite swimmers looking to build a career.
The Evolution of Swimming
As a forward-thinking athlete who has been pro for almost 10 years, Michael feels privileged to be on the forefront of a collective mindset shift for the sport of swimming.
Watching the ISL challenge the status quo has been exciting, and it’s just the beginning of an incredible journey. Michael says elite swimmers are realizing that this investment in the sport is opening opportunities to make swimming a viable, sustainable career like never before.
Nutrition for Training & Competition
In recent years, Michael has refined his diet, focusing on fueling for performance and recovery rather than eating everything in sight. He has found that a keto diet, which prioritizes a high fat intake and little to no carbs, works best for him.
He’s done his research, too — according to Michael, keto athletes are able to hold their breaths longer, recover more quickly, have better brain function and see improvements in skin health.
When it came to finding nutrition products, such as energy bars and powders, that fit his diet, Michael discovered that many options weren’t formulated to keep his body in ketosis.
UCAN stood out from the pack, its scientifically-backed, low glycemic SuperStarch formula providing a steady release of energy without spiking blood sugar. After testing UCAN’s products, Michael was hooked. Learn more about the science behind UCAN SuperStarch >
Related: James Guy | The #AskASwimPro Show
His results are no joke. Michael says that at one point, he was able to swim 5,000 yards at 200 pace with no issues, all thanks to a consistent rotation of UCAN 100% pure SuperStarch, Hydrate, and Energy + Protein.
When it comes to fueling for competitions, Michael recommends finding a plan that works for you. What he likes about UCAN products is that while each product is meant for a specific purpose — such as pre-race fuel or recovery — they are designed to work together for maximum benefits.
At a meet, Michael will take SuperStarch powder before races and reaches for UCAN Energy Bars for a more substantial snack. He mixes UCAN Hydrate in his water to improve the taste of plain water, and to add an extra nutrient boost.
Advice for Swimmers
2020 has been a challenging year for swimmers all over the world — Michael included. He recommends using extra down time to watch your race footage, and set short- and long-term goals to keep you motivated and excited. That positive mindset should extend to whatever pool time you have, too. If you’re used to swimming 2-3 hours a day and now have just 1 hour, make the most of it!