Do you feel you have reasonable command of the skills in the TI Effortless Endurance Pyramid (Do you feel balanced and stable in the water? Do you move through the water, more than move it around? Is your stroke smoothly integrated . . . including breathing?) Not perfect, but comfortable and with relatively little energy waste?Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 19.43.38

If so I’d like to encourage you to make a New Year’s Resolution to develop a better understanding of how you create and improve the pace you can sustain for a longer distance–say 1500m or 1650y. We can’t predict an open water pace, but an improvement in our pool pace for distances such as 400m/500y, 800m or 1000y or 1km, and 1500m/1650y should be reflected in an improvement of the open water paces we can achieve.

There’s a fairly simple baseline for being able to improve performance through more effective (and personally relevant) training. That is to know your time for 100y or 100m.

This blog was prompted by reading the survey responses of those attending this week’s Open Water Experience at Concordia Eco-Resort in St John USVI. I noted that 75% of attendees reported that they had participated in a triathlon or open water swim. But fewer than 50% knew their time for 100y or 100m. To me this is a bit like putting the cart before the horse: I’d want to train with information and understanding before venturing into such an event.

Do you know your time for 100y or 100m? Even if you have no plans to swim in an organized event, this info can be invaluable to Mastery and Kaizen aspirations.

To be clear, I’m not talking about what your time would be for a single all-out time trial for 100y or 100m. I’m referring to the time you record at a relatively relaxed pace. A pace you could repeat 3 to 5 times, resting less than a minute between trials.

So let me suggest several ways of recording a time for 100y/m.

Time + Tempo: Time yourself at several tempos within your Tempo Comfort Range (This requires a Tempo Trainer, which I would suggest you make standard training equipment in 2017, if it’s not already.) At the moment, I’m working in a range of tempos a bit faster and slower than my calculated tempo of 1.1 sec from my 1650y race on Dec. 11. You might compare times at  tempos across a range like this 1.1, 1.15, 1.2, 1.25, 1.3. Your time should be faster when tempo is faster. TT-Pro

Time + SPL: Time yourself at, say, 3 different stroke counts. At the moment, I am familiar with my 100y times at 15, 16, and 17 SPL. At 15 SPL, I can swim 3 to 5 x 100y repeats in about 1:35. At 16 SPL, I can hold a pace of about 1:32, At 17 SPL, I can hold a pace of about 1:29. In other words, time should improve as SPL goes up. I will look to improve each of these paces over the next few months. As I do, I’ll have great confidence that my 1650 pace/100 will improve similarly. I.E. 2 sec improvement in my 100y paces (at any of these stroke counts) should  result in about 30 sec improvement in my 1500m/1650y time.

Time + RPE:  RPE is an acronym for Rate of Perceived Exertion–a fairly accurate self-assessment of how hard we’re working. (It gets far more accurate with practice.) In TI we have a 5-point RPE. RPE1 = Perfect (the effort at which you can swim your most perfect form). RPE2 = Cruise. RPE3 = Brisk. RPE-4 = Race (how you’d want to feel, at say, the 1KM mark of a 1500m swim, RPE-5 = Race+ (how you’d want to feel in a final 50m sprint to the finish line of a 1500m race). Virtually all of my training these days is between RPE1 and RPE3 (Even my race pace at, say, 1000y of a 1650y swim would be pretty relaxed.). There’s a natural overlap as well between RPE, SPL and Tempo. I.E. At RPE-3 I’m likely to be swimming at a tempo of around 1.15 and SPL of 16.

What’s your 100y/m time when you are swimming at Warmup/Recovery/Perfect pace — the most relaxed you can swim? How much faster is your 100y/m time when swimming at RPE-2 Cruise (just a bit faster than perfect–like conversational running pace)? How much more do you gain when raising your effort to RPE-3 Brisk (still well short of max effort) pace? The more time improvement you make with each step-up in RPE the better.

And the most important pacing skill of all is to minimize time lost with each reduction in Tempo, SPL and RPE

With information like this you’ll get more engagement, enjoyment, and productivity from your training in 2017.

For more info on this approach to training, see Lesson 4 Pace Mastery in the TI 2.0 Freestyle Mastery Self-Coaching Course.


May your laps be as happy–and effective–as mine in 2017