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terry 06-28-2011 08:41 PM

Long Course Training with Tempo and Stroke Count
Late June through late August is the only time when I get to swim in a 50m pool for a sustained stretch, sharing the Ulster County Pool with an age group team weekday mornings at 0645. I can supplement this with swims in Lake Minnewaska. Long Course is my favorite setting for using a Tempo Trainer. That makes this the ideal time to set a measurable improvement (i.e. mathematically specific in terms of Tempo and SPL) goal.

The goal: I’ve set a personal benchmark goal for this summer of training to hold 41SPL in a 50m pool at a tempo of 1.0 sec/stroke – or 60 strokes per minute.
Why this goal? Allowing time for turn and pushoff this converts to a pace of just under 1:30/100m. This projects to a 1500m pace of 22:15 to 22:30 – or about 24 min per mile in open water. Last weekend I swam 1500m and 800m races. My 1500m was 23:24, so mastering this combination will improve my current 1500m time by about a minute. My best swimming during those races – in terms of both pace and feel -- was near the end of both races, when I briefly approached the pace and tempo I’d like to hold for an entire 1500, or farther. My stroke felt most comfortable there too.
The task: Right now, in practice, it’s a stretch to maintain that combo for 50m. I’ll spend the summer working to create neural adaptation to hold that combination for more distance or duration. I can do this in several ways:
1) Go farther. Swim longer repeats at or below my target SPL. To do this I’ll need to swim initially at tempos slower than 1.0. These repeats will most often be 400 to 500m, though I will occasionally do repeats as long as 600 to 800m. When my repeats are in the shorter range, I’ll aim to shave a stroke or two wherever possible.
2) Go faster. Swim shorter repeats (usually 100-200m)—but more of them—at or below my target SPL. I’ll be pushing to do this at incrementally faster tempos.
3) Go even faster. I’ll swim shorter repeats--50s or well-rested 100s—at 40 SPL but aiming to be right at or even better than my target combo of 40 strokes and 1.0 sec/stroke. I’ll do this at the end of practice most days. How many I do and at what tempo will be determined by how I feel at that moment.

Monday June 27 4200LCM at Ulster County Pool

400 Tuneup
A relaxed swim to take inventory, find my stroke count, and decide my focal points. I felt comfortable @ 38SPL.

8 x 50 with TT Count strokes. This was also an inventory-taking set. I started with 1.0 tempo simply to see what SPL would result, with a plan to slow tempo by .05 every other 50 until SPL returned to where it was during my leisurely warmup swim.
1-2 @1.0 SPL= 42
3-4 @1.05 SPL = 41
5-6 @ 1.10 SPL = 39-40
7-8 @ 1.15 SPL = 37-38

This suggested 1.15 as my tempo for the main set – not just because my SPL had returned to 38, but because it allowed me time to set my hand firmly in catch.

Main Set: Swim Broken 400s, with steadily longer swims and fewer rest breaks. I rested for 10 beeps (11 sec) between swims and an extra 30 seconds between 400s. The goal is to swim a nonstop 400 at the end of the set with SPL still at or below average of 40.
I swam 6 x 400 as follows: [4 x 100] -- [2 x 150 + 1 x 100] -- [2 x 200] -- [200+150} -- {300+100] – 400, succeeding in keeping SPL at 40 or below.
My choices next time are to repeat this set at faster tempo, or keep tempo at 1.15 and try to swim longer repeats (fewer rest breaks or going 500, 600 or longer.

Push the Edge
Having achieved my goal of completing 400m at 40SPL and 1.15 tempo I finished by swimming shorter repeats with faster tempo, striving to keep SPL at or under 40. I swam
5 x 100 @ 1.12
10 x 50 @ 1.09-1.08-1.07 . . . 1.01 -1.00
On the 50s my goal was to keep SPL @ 40 or below for as long as possible. I was at 40 strokes @ 1.02. Went to 41 @ 1.01 and 1.0

Tuesday June 28 3600LCM @ UCP
Yesterday I focused on holding SPL at <40 and Tempo @ 1.15 while gradually increasing swim duration. Today I chose the other option, striving to keep SPL @ or below 40 average, at steadily increasing tempo on shorter repeats.

Tuneup 500 Cruise SPL averaged 38-39

Main Set Swim 5 rounds of [5 x 100]. Aim to hold SPL average @ 40 or below. Increase tempo each round.
1-5 @1.14
6-10 @1.13
11-15 @1.12
16-20 @1.11
21-25 @1.10
I kept SPL at 40 or below. I gave myself an extra challenge to swim the last 50 in each round in fewer strokes. For most of this set I took 38 strokes on 1st 50 and 41 strokes on 2nd. So I aimed to complete the last 50 in each round in 40 strokes. I swim over a second faster by increasing Stroke Length. Normal instinct is to shorten stroke and increase turnover to swim fast, so this builds resistance to a common tendency to lose efficiency when pushing the pace.

Push the Edge
I repeated the set of 10 x 50 @ 1.09-1.08-1.07 . . . 1.01 -1.00 from Monday, striving to again keep SPL @ 40 or below for as long as possible. I was at 40 strokes @ 1.02 and 1.01. Went to 41 @1.0, a small improvement over Monday.

terry 06-29-2011 04:29 PM

A Restorative Practice: Longer Strokes AND Swims
Today I decided to do a 'restorative' practice. I wasn't feeling sore or tired. Rather I want to avoid feeling that way. My practices have averaged less than 2500 yards, and totaled less than 10,000 yards per week for about two months. After totaling over 8000 meters the last two days, I'm guarding against a sudden and large increase in volume.

When I do restorative practices I want to do more than promote physical recovery. The best use of a restorative practice is to put a heightened focus on efficiency. With a Tempo Trainer, that means slowing tempo to increase Stroke Length.

Set #1 4 x 50 Take Inventory. My SPL increased 36-37-38-39. This steady increase suggests mild fatigue, confirming the wisdom of a restorative practice.

Set #2 Swim 8 x 100. Increase Tempo by .05 each 100 until stroke count reaches 70/100.
Tempo - Stroke Count
1.10 - 82
1.15 - 79
1.20 - 76
1.25 - 73
1.30 - 71
1.30 - 71
1.32 - 69
1.32 - 70
I repeated 1.30 because I felt I might take off one more stroke with more focus. I came closer, but still need 71 strokes to reach the wall. I felt that 1.32 would be slow enough to get me to 70 strokes. I added another 100 @ 1.32 to consolidate that efficiency level.

Set #3 [4 x 200 + ???} Increase Tempo. Count Strokes
Having gotten to 35 SPL @ 1.32 for 100m I wanted to test my ability to keep Stroke Length near that level for longer repeats and increasing tempo. Here's the set
200 @ 1.32 - average 36 SPL
200 @ 1.31 - average 36
200 @ 1.30 - average 36+
200 @ 1.29 - average 37 SPL
This is 10 percent more efficient than the SPL I'd hope to swim in races, so I decided to add one more open-ended swim @ 1.29 to see how long I could maintain 37 SPL. I held it for 550m. I stopped at 600 when my SPL reached 38 on that lap.

Set #4 6 x 50. Increase Tempo. Count Strokes.
This has become a consistent end-of-practice set for me. I'll vary it from time to time. Today I did it starting at a slower tempo and lower count and increased tempo by larger increments.
1.25 - 35
1.20 - 36
1.15 - 37
1.10 - 38
1.05 - 40
1.00 - 40
I've improved my results on this set each day. Finishing 50m in 40 strokes at a tempo of 1.0 is as good as I've done in several years. I'll aim for either of the following in future practices
Less than 40 SPL at 1.0 or 40 SPL at a tempo faster than 1.0

saadbox13 06-29-2011 08:06 PM

These are very impressive stats Terry to say the least...

To me anything below 1.3 feels rushed, far from relaxing and obviously unsustainable for more than a few pool lengths. However at steady 1.45 and up I could go on for a few hours. I would love to be able to sustain a 1.3 for a mile but it will take years of practice!

celeslau 06-30-2011 01:12 AM

Stroke Count
Hi Terry,
When working on stroke count, is it more effective to use a Tempo Trainer or a watch that counts strokes and laps while I swim? I'm still trying to nail it down to 1.3 SPL (or is that 1.03 on the TT?). Am doing a 23-24 SPL on a 25m pool now.

CoachRosita 07-01-2011 11:41 AM

Stroke Count

My recommendation would be a tempo trainer. It gives you a beeping alert with the ability to make very small changes in your stroke rate (example one stroke every 1.30 seconds or 1 stroke every 1.31 seconds).

I am short (five foot 1.5 inches) which means in general I will take more strokes to cross a pool than a taller swimmer of the same ability / efficiency. I modified Terry's shorter practice (3600 yards) and made it 3200 yards. I kept the stroke rates the same as Terry's but my goal was to stay under 20 strokes for a 25 yard pool or 80 strokes for a 100 yard swim. My workouts are not nearly as perfected as Terry's but I was happy with my performance including the fast 50 yard swims.

Glad to see your first post.

Coach Rosita

terry 07-01-2011 08:23 PM

I'll echo Coach Rosita. The Tempo Trainer is the best tool by far for making improvements in efficiency that seem to come almost effortlessly. You simply adjust the TT to a slower tempo and when you get to the other end of the pool, you've made it in fewer strokes. If you begin using one, please share your experiences and insight with us here.

terry 07-01-2011 08:56 PM

Slower Tempo but Faster Swim
Friday July 1, 3000 LCM at Ulster County Pool
This morning I did one of my favorite, and most exacting, sets. It was fun to do. It also provided highly useful data.
I brought a personal pace clock so I could time my swims for the first time since I began swimming in the 50m pool.

400 Supersmooth
I averaged 39 SPL and my time was 7:11.

Main Set
5 x 400. Slow Tempo by .01 each 400. Continue set as long as I can keep improving my time.
Tempo Time
1.10 6:58 (avg 41+ SPL)
1.11 6:43
1.12 6:33
1.13 6:32
1.14 6:28 (avg 38 SPL)

This set provided several useful pieces of information. A key strategy in being successful was calculating before I started that I would need to 'save' 4 strokes (over the course of the whole 400) each time I slowed tempo by .01 to record a faster time.
Here's the math: At about 40 strokes per 50 I take some 320 strokes for 400m. .01 x 320 = 3.2. So if I take the same number of strokes when slowing tempo by .01 I go 3.2 seconds slower. But if I subtract 4 strokes, saving approx 4.4 seconds, I swim 1 second faster.

1) From 1.10 to 1.12, I got faster by reducing pressure on my hands and arms. I could save strokes by streamlining better or by eliminating 'slip' in my stroke. The latter is a gentler action. Knowing I'd probably need to really add energy near the end of the set to keep descending I chose the gentler stroke-saving action at the start.
An insight like this would be valuable in a triathlon swim, or any swim in which you wanted to keep performance up, while expending the least energy.
2) At 1.13, I added hip drive while trying to avoid making waves on my spear. I just managed to save a second, but the effort level was considerably higher.
3) At 1.14, I really dug deep and was pleased to bring average SPL down to 38, but paid a very high price in energy cost for it.

The most useful data is that the best trade of effort for pace occurred at a tempo of 1.12. Also that an SPL of 38 -- at least at a 1.14 tempo was quite a strain.

Next week, I'll do 5 x 400 again, but as a Tempo Pyramid, rather than Ladder. I think I'll change tempo by .02, rather than .01 and see how I adapt.
I'll aim to descend with this pattern.
My challenge will be to see how much faster I can swim @ 1.08 on #5 than I did on #1. Which really asks the question, how many strokes can I subtract on #5, compared to #1.

celeslau 07-04-2011 04:38 AM


Originally Posted by terry (Post 20465)
I'll echo Coach Rosita. The Tempo Trainer is the best tool by far for making improvements in efficiency that seem to come almost effortlessly. You simply adjust the TT to a slower tempo and when you get to the other end of the pool, you've made it in fewer strokes. If you begin using one, please share your experiences and insight with us here.

Hi, Coaches Rosita & Terry - Thanks for the advice. Can't wait to get hold of a TT to work on my stroke efficiency and will update again on my progress. Converted from a regular kicking/propulsion swimmer to TI only recently in June and am now addicted to the effortless gliding sensation of TI. Thanks again :)

terry 07-04-2011 02:52 PM

Week Two: Monday Practice
Happy Birthday America!
The kids team had practice this morning so I got to swim at the 50m pool. Unfortunately the lifeguard didn't show up and by the time they located a replacement, nearly an hour late, not much time to swim. Even so I got some valuable practice in
Monday July 4 2200 LCM at Ulster County Pool
Set #1 100-200-300-400-500 @ 1.12 Goal: Improve pace/100 as repeat distance increases. Must shave a bit off my SPL average each swim to do so.
(Pace/100m in parentheses - Avg SPL on this set was 41.)
100 - 1:45
200 - 3:25 (1:42.5)
300 - 5:05 (1:41.6)
400 - 6:43 (1:40.7)
500 - 8:22 (1:40.4)

Set #2 6 x 100m on 2:00 interval. Increase tempo while trying to avoid adding strokes. Time should get faster each 100.
Tempo Time
1.10 - 1:36
1.08 - 1:35
1.06 - 1:34
1.04 - 1:33
1.02 - 1:32
1.01 - 1:31
SPL avg increased from 40 on #1 to 42 on #6
This set suggests some interesting future modifications, based on today's results.
One is to keep the same tempo range, but double the length of the set (12 x 100, rather than 6 x) by changing tempo by .01, rather than .02.
I'd like to finish the set with a time under 1:30. So I won't move to a faster tempo range (1.08-.98) until I can do this range and finish the set swimming faster than 1:30. I'd like to keep increasing the tempo range for this set incrementally over the next 4 to 5 weeks, aiming to be well-adapted to a tempo at or under 1.00 by early August when I swim two USMS Open Water Championships in two weeks - 5K at Coney Island Aug 6 and 2-miles at Lake Placid Aug 13.

Set # 3 Swim 4 x 50 @ 1.00 tempo. Strive to hold 40 SPL average
On these my SPL was 40-41-40-41. A small but encouraging improvement over similar sets last week.

terry 07-07-2011 07:52 PM

Three Levels of Intensity
Wed July 6 3200 LCM at Ulster County Pool

The key idea from this morning's practice is how to categorize and use three different levels of training intensity.
USA Swimming promotes a highly complex framework of energy system training, derived from exercise physiologists. It describes six or eight distinct training 'zones'. I think of it as needlessly over-complicated. My friend Mike Joyner MD, director of exercise research at the Mayo Clinic describes the whole theory of Energy System Training as pseudo science. In any case a simpler setup will be more practical and allow clearer decisions.
In today's practice I did a single set, in which I alternated among three levels of intensity
1) Easier than Race Effort
2) Similar to Race Effort
3) Harder than Race Effort

I use Race Effort as my reference point because that's what I'm training for. When I swim Easier than Race Effort my goals are (i) to improve efficiency, grace and ease; and (ii) to recover from or prepare for a higher effort swim.
When I swam Race Effort, I'm rehearsing for the neural and concentration challenges I'll face in the race.
When I swim Above Race Effort I'm pushing my nervous system--and physiology--to adapt to higher stroke rates, higher heart and respiration rates, higher levels of muscle recruitment.
Easier than Race Effort is an intensity I could sustain for as long as time allowed.
Race Effort equates to what I could sustain for 25 to 50 minutes, or the duration of a race of 1 to 2 miles in open water.
Above Race Effort would be sustainable for a couple of minutes in training, a much shorter duration than any race I'll swim this summer.

I did two sets yesterday. I alternated between the first two categories in the first set and edged from Category 2 into Category 3 in the second.
Set #1 [6 rounds of 4 x 100m] on 2:00. Rest 1:00 extra after Round 3.
Round 1 Balance Thoughts SPL=38 Times - 1:55-1:50
Round 2 Streamline Thoughts SPL=37 Times - 1:49-1:46
Round 3 Propulsion Thoughts SPL=36 Times = 1:44-1:42
This was all Easier than Race Effort
Round 4 Balance Thoughts SPL=38 Times - 1:42
Round 5 Streamline Thoughts SPL=39 Times - 1:39
Round 6 Propulsion Thoughts SPL=40 Times = 1:38
On Rounds 5 and 6 began to edge close to and barely cross into the zone of Race Effort.
An interesting detail is that Round 4 took less effort than Round 3. In Round 3 I used conscious hip drive to propel farther on each stroke. Balance Thoughts results in a more relaxed ("floaty") stroke but my higher SPL allowed me to swim as fast as I had with more effort in Round 3.

Set #2 2 rounds of 3 x 100 on 1:50 - Rest 1:00 extra between rounds.
I averaged 1:32 to 1:33 with SPLs of 41-43 on these. In each round, #s 1 and 2 were at Race Effort. On #3 I edged Above Race Effort, meaning an effort I could not sustain for a mile in open water. When I got above Race Effort my SPL also got above the level I'd want to use during a 1500m pool race.

terry 07-15-2011 08:16 PM

Reposted to this Thread
I'd originally posted this on the Building Endurance thread. But it really belongs here.

Tues July 12 3000 LCM at Ulster County Pool
I had a busy weekend, swimming the Greenwich Point (CT) Mile in LI Sound on Saturday. I placed 1st in 60-64 with a time of 20:40.
On Sunday I swam Stage 3 of the 8 Bridges Swim, 13.2 miles in the Hudson River from the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Poughkeepsie to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. In that I tied for 7th (or last) in 5h 11m. More on this experience in my blog.

My total of 22,000 meters in just over five hours (albeit aided by a 1.4 knot current for about 4 hours) is about what I normally swim in two weeks, so I felt a bit knackered and creaky on Monday, and took a day off from swimming. (I did weights in the afternoon though.) A main priority this morning was to swim for restoration, yet seek improvement at the same time. I did a single set of 30 x 100, though I broke it up into sets of 5, then 3, and changed tempo each set. I chose to do only 100s because I felt longer repeats might remind my muscles how much I'd asked of them 36 hours earlier.

Here's the set:
First the ascending (slowing-tempo) part of the Pyramid.
5 x 100 @ 1.06
5 x 100 @ 1.08
5 x 100 @ 1.10
Then the descending side where tempo gets faster.
3 x 100 @ 1.09
3 x 100 @ 1.08
3 x 100 @ 1.07
3 x 100 @ 1.06
3 x 100 @ 1.05

As you can see, the final set of 100s is at a tempo slightly faster than the first set.
I usually begin a set like this at a tempo that feels a tiny bit rushed. My goal on that first group of repeats is to "slow time down" - to do enough repeats that, by the end, I feel as if I have more time between beeps, even though the beep frequency doesn't change.

What do I used that extra 'perceived time' for? To extend my bodyline a bit more before catch, to take a bit more care with the catch, to calm both myself and the water.

On that first set, I reduced my total strokes (for 100m) from 89 to 86. What I especially love about using the Tempo Trainer is how counter-intuitive it is. I put my focus on slowing down, easing up, relaxing, taking more time to cultivate my catch. As a result, I was moving the water less, and my body more. At 89 strokes -- and 1.06 tempo -- my 100 time (including 6 extra beeps for the pushoff and turn) was 1:40.7. At 86 strokes my time was 1:37.5. So by slowing down and easing up, I swam 3.2 sec faster (which is 48 sec faster on a 1500m pace.

As I slowed tempo over the next two rounds, my stroke count dropped to 81. At 81 strokes and 1.10 tempo, my time is 1:35.7. So again, I saw my time get faster as my stroke got slower because the increased leisure allowed me to stroke with more care, precision and sensitivity to water flow.

Then came the getting-faster part of the Pyramid.
I call this an Asymmetrical Tempo Pyramid because I don't descend in the same way I ascend. I've found that if I descend by smaller increments -- and in this case fewer repeats per group -- I can do a better job of maintaining the Stroke Length I've gained as tempo slowed.

To cut to the chase, I held stroke count at 81 @ 1.09 and 1.08, at 82 @ 1.07, at 83 @ 1.06.
When I began the set @ 1.06 my stroke total ranged from 89 to 86. But after slowing down to increase efficiency (and speed) I improved to 83 strokes here. Which converts to a 100m time of 1:34.3, And I was still swimming at only about 80% of maximum.

For the final set of 3 x 100 @ 1.05 I raised my effort to 90%-plus, as I would at the end of a race. The main change was to finally apply firm pressure on my stroke; until this point I kept it as light as I could.
My stroke count was 82-82-81. My time at 81 strokes and 1.05 was 1:30.3.

To put this in goal-perspective, I'd like to hold 81 strokes at a tempo of 1.00 or faster before the Betsy Owens 2-Mile Cable Swim Aug 13 in Lake Placid. I see this as a challenge in neural adaptation more than anything. Today's practice was one solid step toward it.

terry 07-15-2011 08:18 PM

Also here are my responses to comments from Coach Suzanne on the previous practice.

Originally Posted by CoachSuzanne (Post 20622)
What really stood out was that I could also choose to simply rest LONGER prior to trying the 150m with the aim of keeping my stroke counts at 37/38.

A key difference between TI and the traditionalists is they consider rest intervals sacred. We think of them--in the words of sociologists, engineers, and other empirical types-- as just a 'data point.'

Training sets become far more interesting--and produce far more valuable insight--when you think of them as little experiments.

In the set example I gave above, I changed the rest interval in the 2nd half of the set, as tempos were getting faster, to give me a bit better chance at success. During the 3 rounds of 5 x 100 increasing tempo, I rested for 10 beeps between 100s. While the traditionalists think the demands of physiology should receive first consideration, I think the requirements of neural adaptation that allows a better combination of SL/SR come first.

Yet I don't ignore physiological considerations. So resting for 10 beeps after swimming for nearly 90 beeps, a 9:1 work:rest ratio is solidly aerobic. That lets me know the set will prepare me for the metabolic demands of distance swimming.

As tempos got faster I increased rest to 20 beeps between 100s. A bit more recovery yet -- at a better than 4:1 work:rest ratio still solidly aerobic. The bit of extra recovery gave me a better shot at maintaining efficiency. And that's always my #1 priority.


Originally Posted by CoachSuzanne (Post 20622)
Once a test set has been done (like I mentioned above), "training" sets can be designed with specific goals in mind that will be unique to each swimmer in the group...yet all can share in the same workout, or practice as we like to refer to them.

In essence my first round of 5 x 100 was a test set, as Suzanne calls it. Most days I do exactly this. I use my first 8 to 10 minutes of swimming as a test set, which sets the parameters for improvement. In this case the parameters were
Distance - 100m
Rest - 10 beeps (10+ seconds)
Stroke Length (86-89 strokes/100)
Tempo - 1.06

ANY improvement on any combination of those parameters in subsequent sets tells me I'm going in the right direction.

Some time ago on this Forum there was a lengthy discussion of what are "slow" and "fast" times. I took the position that such labels mainly serve to limit us or make us feel bad, and are essentially meaningless without specific context. What is 'slow' for a 35 y.o. man might be incredibly fast for a 55 y.o. woman? Conversely what is 'slow' for a 65 y.o. woman who is a world-ranked Master could be massively impressive for a 25 y.o. male who has just swum his first mile.

So I prefer to just establish MY parameters for TODAY's practice and work on improving them. Whatever they are.

terry 07-15-2011 08:36 PM

Thurs July 14 3000 Long Course Meters
Yesterday I did a single set of 3000 meters -- or actually 5 rounds of the following 600 meter set [4 x 50 + 2 x 100 + 1 x 200]
I did one round each at tempos of 1.09 – 1.10 – 1.11 – 1.10 – 1.09 sec/stroke

When I started I had a 'blue sky goal' of doing each round at progressively faster tempos I.E. 1.09 - 1.08 - 1.07 - 1.06 - 1.05.
However, this is a good example of letting your first set in a practice be a test set that let's you know what your capacity is for that day.

My Efficiency Benchmark this summer is 41 strokes/50m. Each practice I try to swim a tiny bit farther (longer repeats) or faster (brisker tempos) or some combination at that SPL> Going much over it tells me I'm exceeding the adaptive capacity of my nervous system.

So when I averaged 43 SPL on the first round @ 1.09, I decided to do the set as an Pyramid (slower, then faster, tempos) rather than a Ladder (continuously faster tempos). That decision worked out well since my SPL improved to 42 on the 2nd round, 40+ on the middle round, then held at 41 on the last two rounds. I wasn't timing myself but taking 8 fewer strokes on the final 200 means I swam over 8 seconds faster than I had at the same tempo in the first round.

If I can leave the pool every day having improved a combination in the course of an hour or so, I'm happy the rest of the day.

terry 07-15-2011 08:50 PM

Friday July 16 3600 Long Course Meters
Today I swam another single-set practice, but broke it up as I describe below. In simplest terms it was a set of 9 x 400, using Tempo and Time as my parameters. I counted strokes, as I always do, but had a pace clock to display my time on each 400.
Here's how I did them.

400 Cruise @ 39 SPL
My sole goal here was to feel relaxed, balanced and try to hold stroke count below 40 all the way. The clock showed 7:18 when I finished.

Then I swam 5 x 400 "Tempo Pyramid" on 7:30 Below you see tempo, then time, then average stroke count for each 400.
1.06 6:38 44 SPL
1.08 6:36 42 SPL
1.10 6:33 40 SPL
1.08 6:31 41 SPL
1.06 6:27 42 SPL
In a Tempo Pyramid, my goal is always to use the extra time to reduce strokes (improve efficiency) as tempo slows. If I do a great job, my time will improve even as tempo slows. As you see, I swam 5 seconds faster @1.10 than @1.06.
Then I strive to maintain the 'sense of leisure and length' I've gained at slower tempos, as I make them brisker again. If I do that successfully I'll take fewer strokes and swim considerably when I return to my original tempo. I swam 11 seconds faster on the 5th 400, because I took about 11 fewer strokes for 400m.

Then I continued, with 3 broken 400s on an interval of 8:30.On the first I rested for 20 sec after 200m. On the second I rested for 20 seconds after each 100. On the third I rested for 20 seconds after each 50. Each time repeat distance got shorter, I made tempo faster, striving to keep SPL near 41. My tempo and time (with rest subtracted) were:
1.04 6:19
1.02 6:10
1.00 5:59

I'd love to be able to swim 5:59 for a continuous 400 @ 41 SPL in a month's time. If so I'll feel primed for a very good swim in the Betsy Owens 2-Mile Cable Swim August 13 in Lake Placid.

This Sunday I'll swim Grimaldo's Mile from Coney Island to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.

terry 07-26-2011 09:18 PM

Back to the Pool
I hadn't practiced in the pool in at least a week, but got right back in the groove this morning. This was another single-set practice, though I divided it into three parts.
The set was 30 x 100 - actually 3 rounds of 10 x 100 - all on a 2:00 interval.
The tasks I challenges myself to execute were:
1) Hold a consistent 100m stroke count for 10 x 100.
2) Hold a NEW consistent count in subsequent sets of 10 x 100.
3) Maximize the difference in my speed at one stroke count.

1st round
10 x 100 @ 77 strokes. Descend from 1-10.
I descended from 1:59 (just look at the clock and push off again) to 1:42. I think the difference of 17 seconds, without changing stroke count, is the best I've ever done in a 50m pool.

2nd round
10 x 100 @ 79 strokes. Descend 1-5. Descend again 6-10.
On 1-5 I descended from 1:44 to 1:38
On 6-10 I descended from 1:43 to 1:37
Smaller difference between slow and fast, but a shorter set. The 1:44 and 1:43 with which I started the two rounds felt MUCH easier than the 1:42 I swam at the end of the first set. I did allow myself two more strokes, but it was really effortless.

3rd round
10 x 100 @ 81 strokes. 1 Easy, 1 Fast
The easy 100s ranged from 1:43 (on #1) to 1:45 (on #9)
The fast 100s got progressively faster from 1:33 to 1:29.

This was the most interesting set because there was such a contrast between consecutive 100s, though all were at same stroke count.
#9 was 1:45 - swimming with exquisite lightness at 81 strokes.
# 10 was 1:29 - feeling power course through every movement, still at 81 strokes.

The key thing I want to get across about these practices is that my original reason for designing such tasks was because I felt they build key skills for racing. Particularly a 'nimble' neural network that can respond to any condition or situation I experience in an open water race.

But I would continue doing them even if I had no racing goals, because they bring the exquisite pleasures of experiencing Flow, Purpose and Mastery as I challenge myself to execute these physically and cognitively difficult tasks.

How many of these tasks can you execute?
How much faster can you swim without changing stroke count?

terry 07-26-2011 09:43 PM

What was my Tempo on last 2 x 100
I wasn't wearing a Tempo Trainer this morning. Just swimming with combination of Stroke Count and Time.
But just for fun I calculated my Tempo on the last 2 x 100. Both were at 81 strokes, but times were 1:45 and 1:29.
How to calculate? All I had to do was add 6 (for the number of extra beeps I would allow myself on pushoff and turn) to the # of seconds, then divide by stroke count.
At 1:45, my tempo was 1.37
At 1:29, my tempo was 1.18

Descending without changing stroke count is an interesting way to work on changes in tempo - without needing a TT.

terry 07-28-2011 05:00 PM

Thurs July 28 3200 LCM at Ulster County Pool

I felt tired and a bit sore this morning--mainly from strength training last night--so I began with a long-ish easy swim to take inventory and see if I could develop a relaxed-feeling stroke that would allow me to maintain decent SPL/Tempo combinations without increasing fatigue. I'm racing an ocean mile on Saturday at Point Lookout LI so I want to recover somewhat from my current fatigue in the next 48 hrs.

Tuneup: 800 meters @ 38 SPL.
I began swimming with Balance Thoughts - relaxing, focused on feeling cushioned by the water and trying to 'caress' the catch to move my body forward, not move water back, as I stroked. I didn't pick a distance to swim in advance, just to continue as long as I felt the overall feel of my stroke improving. My average SPL was between 38 and 39 for 600m and improved to 38 over the last 200. I felt satisfied with that so I stopped after 800.

Main Set
2 rounds of [4 x 50 + 2 x 100 + 1 x 200 + 2 x 100 + 4 x 50]
My two metrics on this set were Tempo and Stroke Count
On 1st round, I swam the 50s @ 1.04, 100s @ 1.06 and 200 @ 1.08.
My goal was to maintain same SPL throughout the set, easing up tempo a bit as distance increased so I didn't have to work too hard to do so.
I averaged 41+ SPL on the first round.

On the second round, I increased tempo slightly to 1.03, 1.05 and 1.07. Again I averaged 41+ SPL and felt only a bit of fatigue during the 200.

This felt like a good set for a day when I wanted to avoid making myself more tired just 48 hrs before a race-- yet tune my stroke for efficiency and rhythm.

'Strong' 50s
I finished with 8 x 50, 2 each at 1.03, 1.02, 1.01, 1.00
My goal was to keep SPL at or under 41. I had to add some power to accomplish this @ 1.00 but it felt good and didn't make me tired.

AWP 07-29-2011 01:11 AM

Sounds like you're ready!
I've been mimicking similar practices when at the pool this past month (30 yd outdoor pool) unfortunately with inconsistency, in practice time that is, and yet with some marked successes. 'Suffering' from a bout of heel spur/plantar fisciitis so reluctant to hit the pool and its walls. Have down graded the pool for now and been trying to get to OW more (another challenge as I've promised no more solo swim practice). Will hit the Sound in the morning though (escorted) and 'lament' another lost opportunity this Saturday (had to pull out of Grimaldo's too), major golf tourny this Saturday puts me at work @ 5:30 am, blah.
Good luck @ PL, love that one, should be a nice day. Hope to see ya on the 6th!


terry 07-29-2011 02:12 PM

So, Alan, what will be your responsibility during the golf tourney. I spent the years from 13-17 as a caddy at Cherry Valley in Garden City. That was enough to put me off anything to do with golf the rest of my life. Now to today's practice.

Friday July 29, 3000 LCM at Ulster County Pool

Set #1 100+200+300+400+500 @ <40SPL

I did this without prior warmup or tuneup, which is a pretty common way for me to begin practice. I like to be doing something purposeful and cognitively difficult from my first lap - and just assume that whatever metrics I'm focused on will improve as I warm up and tune up.

The challenge I chose was to keep average SPL below 40/50m and try to steadily improve pace as distance increased.
I started with 1:50 for the 100 and finished at 8:25 for the 500, a pace of 1:41/100.
Obviously it takes a high level of pacing skill to increase pace (and keep SPL unchanged) as you swim faster. An equally critical skill is to be able to do this while minimizing any increase in perceived effort. So on a set like this my emphasis is always to improve pace by putting more care and precision into each stroke. I really focus on maintaining a sense of leisure and relaxation.

Set #2 12 x 100 'Asymmetrical' Tempo Pyramid
I've described this type of set previously. I start by gradually slowing tempo, then gradually make it faster again. But I increase tempo by smaller increments than I slowed it.
Here are the tempos I swam at
1.00 -- 90 strokes
1.09 -- 82 strokes
0.95 -- 88 strokes

On the first 4, I decreased tempo by .03/100. On the next 8, I increased tempo by .02/100. Increasing by smaller increments makes it easier to maintain the efficiency I gain as tempo slows.
The efficacy of this set is demonstrated by the fact that I took fewer strokes at a tempo of 0.95 at the end than I'd taken at 1.00 at the beginning.

Set #3 The Sun Yang 50s
This set was inspired by the Korean swimmer Sun Yang who won the mens 800 Free at the World Championships, holding 28 SPL at a tempo of 0.90.
I decided to work toward his tempo in a set of 6 x 50, to see what my SPL for a single 50 would be when I reached 0.90.
Here's my set
0.95 - 41 strokes
0.94 - 42
0.93 - 42
0.92 - 43
0.91 - 43
0.90 - 44

44 strokes for ONE 50 compared to the 28 strokes he maintained for FIFTEEN CONSECUTIVE 50S (he increased to .80 and 32 strokes on his closing sprint.)
It gives you an appreciation of the skill required to win a World Championship.

AWP 07-29-2011 09:05 PM

Well Terry I can appreciate your feelings towards anything golf after 5 years and yet I'm still at it after 25!
I manage the 'Golf House' so beginning with assisting pro staff at registration, greeting and daily logistics, while supervising all F&B operations (brkfst-lnch-cktls-dinner) in my department as well as the Main Club House venues for the weekend long event. after all that juggling I still manage to sometimes 'cut a window of time' out to sneak to the open water! sometimes : )
So if your not completely satisfied with just a mile race pop up to the North Shore for a twilight swim either Sat. or Sun.

I love these sorts of practice sets and have based most of my own accordingly, can't get enough and can't wait to be back in the pool. Keep 'em coming!


terry 08-01-2011 06:11 PM

More Inspiration from Sun Yang
In my last practice I did a set of 50s designed to compare my SPL at .90 tempo to Sun Yang's. That was after his win in the 800m. Today my entire practice was inspired by his new WR in the 1500m, breaking a decade-old mark by Grant Hackett, while also shattering the efficiency benchmark Hackett had set.

To put Sun Yang's swim in its deserved historic perspective I need to quote myself, excerpting words I wrote in 2002 which you can find on pps 58-59 of the revised version of my original Total Immersion book:

From 1988 to 1992 the American swimmer Matt Biondi had a hammerlock on the title "World's Fastest Swimmer." Biondi was undefeated in the sprint freestyles and was more efficient than any of his rivals.

For several years Alexander Popov's coach had studied Biondi's stroke, using it as a model for his rising star. In the final of the 50-meter freestyle in the 1992 Olympics, Popov touched first in 21.8 seconds, Biondi right behind in 22.0 seconds. What most amazed analysts was that Popov had not only beaten Biondi by a comfortable margin, he had beaten him thoroughly at Biondi's longest suit--stroke efficiency. Popov had taken 34 strokes, Biondi 37. The time gap may have been just 1 percent, but the three-stroke difference, an efficiency gap of nearly 10 percent between the world's two best sprinters was nearly inconceivable.

It was just the beginning of a new efficiency standard. For an unheard of 10 years afterward, Popov continued to dominate the sprint events, raising the bar again and again for efficiency and speed.

Sun Yang held 27 SPL up to the 1200-meter mark of his 1500, took 28 SPL over the next 250m and 32 SPL on his final 50. His average of under 28 SPL demolished what had seemed a nearly untouchable efficiency standard Grant Hackett had set when he averaged 31 SPL in setting the former record. Sun's swim was even more of a landmark accomplishment than Popov's in 1992, because he improved on Hackett's efficiency benchmark by nearly 13 percent.

This morning, I decided to set my personal efficiency benchmark higher. setting a goal was to keep my SPL at 39 or lower the entire practice.

Set #1
8 x 100 Descend, controlling stroke count.
On this set I stayed consistent at 75 strokes. I was more relaxed, yet a bit faster, than on a similar set I did last week at 77 strokes. That time I descended from 1:59 to 1:42. Today, taking two fewer strokes, I descended from 1:53 to 1:38. I'm also very pleased with being able to swim 15 seconds faster without adding any strokes.

Set #2
4 x 200 Descend. Hold average SPL @ 39.
I descended these from 3:27 to 3:16, improving on the pace/100 I did in Set #1.

Set #3
4 x 200. Odd: Cruise, Even: Strong
I held the same average stroke count as on the previous set. I swam 3:30 on the Cruise 200s and 3:15-3:14 on the Strong 200s. Again, with the same stroke count.

Set #4
8 x 100 on 2:00
Try to repeat Set #1
I fell a bit short on stroke efficiency, my average was 76 strokes/100. My average time was a bit faster, as I descended from 1:45 to 1:41, but my final 100 was a bit slower.

Though I was striving to stay relaxed and easy I felt moderate fatigue near the end of this set, a vestige of lifting weights yesterday, swimming a tiring ocean mile race on Saturday and residual fatigue from last week's training. I'll watch this carefully since I swim a U.S. Masters National Championship event next Saturday, 5km at Coney Island.

terry 08-03-2011 03:53 PM

Avoiding Fatigue -- while 'Drafting Off' Sun Yang
A TI Coach once said he spent his practices 'drafting off my Zen Master.' For the foreseeable future Sun Yang is my Zen Master.

Today my primary goal was to avoid fatigue, so I can feel relatively fresh when I swim the US Masters 5K national championship at Coney Island this weekend. But a secondary goal is to still practice paces that are at least moderately strong. Swimming s-l-o-w-l-y while I go easy is less valuable.

There's only one way I can minimize effort while maintaining a decent pace. That's to travel sufficiently far on each stroke--while staying relaxed--that a relatively low Stroke Rate is still sufficient to produce a good pace. Which is just what allowed Sun Yang to swim 54.4 for his last 100 meters and a jaw-dropping 25.9 for his final 50 meters. So today, like Monday, I was striving to keep my average SPL below 40.

Set #1
5 x 200 on 4:00. Descend 1-4 while maintaining a low stroke count.
I averaged 38 SPL throughout this set. My 200 times were
I was encouraged by this tuneup set because both my stroke counts and pace nearly matched what I did on my opening set of 8 x 100 on Monday.
On #5 I aimed to swim with the same ease as on #1. My SPL increased by 1, but I swam a 3:33, nine seconds faster.

Set #2
3 x 100
1 x 200
3 x 100
2 x 200
3 x 100
3 x 200
3 x 100
On this set I did the 200s with Balance Thoughts - i.e. prioritizing relaxation, weightlessness and gentleness. I did the 100s with Streamlining Thoughts - extending, piercing, minimizing noise-splash-wake.

My goal was to keep average SPL below 40, and stay relaxed, on both yet swim the fastest effortless paces I could. I averaged about 3:30 on the 200s and 1:40 on the 100s.

I feel this practice was a good tuneup for Saturday's race. The low effort level was restorative, but the exacting effort to still generate moderately strong paces tuned up both my stroke and my focus.

Richardsk 08-03-2011 04:11 PM


These accounts of your approach to practice are extremely valuable, even though I am not yet (and probably never will be) in a position to adopt the approach very closely.

Currently devoting most time and thought to the butterfly problem and happy to say that I seem to be making progress. I recently had a lesson in butterfly (from an Alexander Technique coach rather than a TI coach, but he lives fairly close and the TI coaches don't). His diagnosis was not enough movement of the head, which I have been working on, and also on some drills dimly remembered from the old four strokes DVD, which I have somewhere but have mislaid, in particular the hip delay drill with two kicks at each end of the stroke. The object I believe is to learn to synchronize the kick with the exit of the hands and with the entry. I think it's working.

I bet Sun Yang (or Yang Sun as he appeared for the benefit of western viewers) can do a very nice butterfly.

dshen 08-05-2011 04:31 AM


Quick question - how do you remember and record your times for your posts above? Are you holding everything in your head until after the workout or are you writing notes down every length or lap?

I've always been challenged to find the best way to record data. I ended up buying a waterproof notebook off Amazon, along with a pen which writes on wet paper, and leave these by the pool edge to jot down my SPL and times after each lap.

Is there a better way?

I have a Finis Swimsense but that doesn't let me easily review lap times and its counting is only one arm strokes versus two. It's OK for reviewing afterwards but doesn't help me within the workout to see if my efficiency is changing...



terry 08-06-2011 10:18 PM

It's all memorization. Not normally a strong suit for me, so this itself is strong evidence of how the brain is rewired by activity.

terry 08-06-2011 10:21 PM


Originally Posted by Richardsk (Post 21164)
I recently had a lesson in butterfly (from an Alexander Technique coach rather than a TI coach, but he lives fairly close and the TI coaches don't). His diagnosis was not enough movement of the head, which I have been working on, and also on some drills dimly remembered from the old four strokes DVD, which I have somewhere but have mislaid, in particular the hip delay drill with two kicks at each end of the stroke.

I don't have the benefit of having watched your stroke but head movement is something I've striven quite specifically to minimize or eliminate. I've just finished shooting video for an all new series we will release as (1) ibooks or vooks and (2) DVDs.
These will be
Butterfly for Boomers
Backstroke for Boomers
Breaststroke for Boomers.
All will feature exclusively 60+ swimmers and a relatively simple, and quite gentle, series of 4 primary stroke improvement exercises for each stroke.

Richardsk 08-06-2011 11:04 PM


I look forward to these 'vooks' ( on the analogy of vlog, I suppose), but I am pleased to say that I think I am poised on the brink of a breakthrough and am increasingly managing to string together sequences of something akin to a slow-motion one-kick fly ( with a few extra kicks while I gather my thoughts for the next stroke).

I was fairly sure you would not agree with the head movement idea, but sometimes one has to exaggerate a movement and then later tone it down.

I'm seeing this chap again soon for fixes for freestyle and backstroke, which should be interesting, because there is plenty to fix, although I think my backstroke in particular is starting to resemble the real thing.

Didn't you have a race today? If so how did it go?

saadbox13 08-10-2011 09:57 PM

Rest Time
Hi Terry,

I see a lot of good posts and valuable feedback regarding practice sets, goal settings and focus, however I do not see anything related to rest time in between races or in between practice sets. How much time should we allow ourselves to rest, what advice can you give us to relax and avoid injury caused by sustained activity.

Thanks again,


terry 08-11-2011 12:44 AM

I did race Saturday and had an unexpected gift - becoming national 60-64 champion for 5Km - fall into my lap. This summer my priority has been to swim in a completely engaged way and practice such that I always anticipate it eagerly and never feel that a sense of obligation. In previous years, when I set ambitious goals for either speed or distance (records and titles in the former instance, marathons in the latter) I sometimes felt like I was responding to a self-imposed schedule rather than listening to my heart and spirit. This summer I've responded to that inner voice - and therefore did not set achievement goals.
I'm swimming another USMS National Championship this coming weekend, the Betsy Owens 2-Mile Cable Swim in Lake Placid, the race to which I've given the most thought this summer. This morning was my final pool practice. it was all about Relaxing and Tuning.

Wed Aug 10 3000 LCM at Ulster County Pool.

This was a simple practice. I did a pyramid, of 400-meter sets, keeping tempo consistent as distance increased and increasing tempo as distance decreased. The goal was to keep SPL as nearly constant as possible. Here's the set
8 x 50 (rest 5 yoga breaths between) @ 1.04
4 x 100 (rest 8 yoga breaths) @ 1.04
2 x 200 (rest 10 yoga breaths) @ 1.04
1 x 400 (rest 15 yoga breaths) @ 1,04
2 x 200 @ 1.03
4 x 100 @ 1,02
8 x 50 (1-4 @ 1.01, 5-8 @ 1.00)
I averaged 41-42 SPL throughout the set.
As I wrote in today's blog Swim Artfully Not Physically, when swimming at constant tempo and trying to 'save' strokes (which could mean reducing strokes if swimming a series of repeats of constant distance -- or trying to avoid adding strokes if distance is increasing, as above, an emphasis on smoother, quieter, more precise movements is the best course.
In both instances, swimming faster over a constant distance or maintaining pace over an increasing distance, your instincts usually lead you to work harder.
In today's set each time I inadvertently felt myself increasing effort, my SPL increased. When I focused on finding a sustainable effort, I could sustain stroke count - i.e. avoid adding strokes.

I did allow myself to make subtle effort increases as distances got shorter in the 2nd half, but strived to make that feel seamlessly integrated.

terry 08-11-2011 01:40 AM


Originally Posted by saadbox13 (Post 21368)
How much time should we allow ourselves to rest, what advice can you give us to relax and avoid injury caused by sustained activity.

Great question. When I planned training according to physiological principles, rest intervals were dictated by formulas. If it was an aerobic set, the formula might say I should rest for 10 to 15 seconds between 100s, or perhaps a work:rest ratio of 8:1. An anaerobic threshold set a higher ratio of rest to work. An aerobic power or lactate tolerance set higher yet.

But now I train mainly by neural principles, intuition and feel. Rather than formulas, I listen to my body and pay attention to the metrics I've decided to use as benchmarks for the set. The ratios probably end up being relatively similar because if I' aiming to hold a more exacting combination (fewer strokes and/or faster tempo) I'll likely find I get a bit more fatigued during a repeat and therefore wait longer before attempting the task again.

The key distinction is that, when training by formula I'm less responsible for the quality of my practice. The formula dictates many details of the set. Instead I take complete responsibility. I must judge the difficulty of the task and after completing each repeat, make a judgement of when I feel ready to successfully execute the task again. If I misjudge and fall a bit short -- i.e. take more strokes than I had intended, I'll adjust the recovery time upward until I can hit my goal metrics.

And sometimes no amount of additional rest will get me there, so I can either adjust the set, or abort it and replace with a set I'm prepared to do well -- and feel good about.

AWP 08-11-2011 02:52 AM

As luck would have it I had a similar practice this morning as well.
I followed suit in Terry's endeavor to 'find' harmony in practice and performance (after an ill prepared swim in the same event which invigorated my focus and motivation).

Wednesday August 10 @ 30 yard outdoor pool
Set 1
Pyramid 2400
Goal was to maintain or better spl as I proceeded with the same tempo and distance increased, then as distance decreased and tempo increased. Tempo began @ 1.09
4x30 1.09
4x60 1.09
4x90 1.09
4x120 1.09
4x120 1.08
4x90 1.07
4x60 1.06
4x30 1.05

As tempo remained constant in the first half I managed to stay within and better spl at times; within 10%.
As tempo increased I gained a better sense of ease and was able to better spl even as tempo increased.
I continued with the increase in tempo and repeated part of the process.
Set 2
2x120 @ 1.03
2x90 @ 1.02
2x60 @ 1.01
2x30 @ 1.00
Still the focus was on maintaining spl, at times 10% better at times 10% worse.
5x30 @ .99
@ .98
@ .97
@ .96
@ .95

I wanted to leave the pool with easy feeling at these tempos and effort. At each pause between sets/repeats, the tempo increase in fact became easier allowing for a better focus on execution thus hold on water and overall 'feel'.
Overall I felt successful in my return to tempo work and left with a feeling of being "back in class".

terry 08-18-2011 05:43 PM

Repost from another thread
I'm reposting this from the thread Need Advice about Tempo Trainers on the Freestyle conference:

Originally Posted by Alex-SG
I have the feeling that below SR=1.2 it is more difficult to stay coordinated and it will take a lot more time if I ever try. ALEX

I'm pretty convinced your nervous system/brain can adapt to nearly anything if you give it time. The most exciting insight I've gained from TT practice is how marvelously plastic/adaptable neurons are.

I had an interesting experience in the last two days. On Tuesday I swam 2400 yards in Lake Minnewaska, doing 6 x 400 at a series of descending tempos - 1.00, 0.98, .96, .94, .92, .90.

I had planned to do only 5 x 400, finishing at .92, but it still felt pretty quiet, smooth and not rushed. So I decided to do a Sun Yang 400 (he swam his 1500m world record at .90) to finish. It's quite striking how leisurely he made that look. When it's YOU swimming at .90 it feels REALLY brisk.

And yet it was exhilarating. I felt like I was just flying. So I determined that I'd do at least 200 yds @ .90 in all my subsequent lake swims. Yesterday I took a client up to the lake and spent about 40 minutes swimming with her at a 1.50 tempo. When she decided to take a rest break, I said "While you rest I'll show you Sun Yang's tempo." (She's from Taiwan.)

I reset TT to .90 and took off. No matter what I did I could not keep up with that tempo. About 20 hrs earlier I'd matched it easily. But that was after working gradually down from 1.0.

terry 08-19-2011 01:21 PM

15 sec faster for 200 at same tempo
Now that my two National Masters Open Water Championship races are past (I was 1st in 5k on Aug 6 and 2nd in 2-Mile Cable on Aug 13) with a few more casual races still to come, I'll practice less in the 50m Ulster County Pool and more in Lake Minnewaska. But I'll still use the Tempo Trainer, somewhat differently.

On Tuesday I swam 6 x 400s, increasing tempo steadily from 1.00 to .90. My focus was mainly on maintaining a feeling of relaxed, leisurely stroking, with a no-slip catch, even as the tempo became quite brisk. As always I was really struck by how quickly the brain and nervous system adapt to a well-designed task with a strong feedback loop.

On Thursday I swam 16 x 200, doing what I call an 'Asymmetric Tempo Pyramid. That means I gradually slow tempo by larger increments, then increase it again by smaller increments. As I slow tempo, I'm trying to increase Stroke Length or efficiency. I measure by counting strokes. Then I try to maintain the improved efficiency - i.e. be very stingy about giving back the strokes i've saved -- as I increase tempo again.

To quickly summarize: My first 200 at a tempo of 1.10 took 173 strokes (Some might wonder "How do you keep track of a stroke count that high?" The answer: Lots of practice.) I then slowed tempo by .05 each 200, intending to keep slowing it until I could cover the length of the cable in 150 strokes. That happened at 1.30. Then I began increasing tempo with a goal of keeping stroke count under 160 all the way back to a 1.10 tempo. When I got back to 1.10 I was at 159 strokes.
Here's the math:
173 strokes @ 1.10 sec/stroke = 3 min 10 sec.
150 strokes @ 1.30 sec/stroke = 3 min 15 sec (and massively easier than the 3:10 I started with)
159 strokes @ 1.10 sec/stroke = 2 min 55 sec.

So I swam 15 sec faster for 200 at the same tempo after my Asymmetric Tempo Pyramid.

ynotcat 08-19-2011 04:24 PM

"Then I began increasing tempo with a goal of keeping stroke count under 160 all the way back to a 1.10 tempo."

What were the TT tempo increments you used while you were increasing the tempo?

AWP 08-19-2011 06:44 PM

I'll have to give this a try in OW, been a while and I sense the use of the TT may be 'extra' beneficial in the OW.

I'll share my practice from the other day.(Yet another coincidence?)

Wednesday 30 yard outdoor pool @ Creek
'5' x 400 (480) so really 6x400 as
2x 400 (2x 480)
2x 200 (2x 240)
4x 100 (4x 120)
8x 50 (8x 60)

TT settings:
1.08/ 1.10
1.09/ 1.08
1.07/ 1.06/ 1.05/ 1.04
On 60s 2 @ 1.03 down to 1.00

As with Terry's example, I sought to stay intuned with the tempos and feel as if time was slowing between strokes while trying to gain more ground and capture some 'effortless' speed. Successful to a point, and although my marked times stopped improving my overall pace. did
This is a tough nut to crack yet sense with enough consistency can be accomplished with greater ease.

terry 08-21-2011 07:28 PM


Originally Posted by ynotcat (Post 21552)
"Then I began increasing tempo with a goal of keeping stroke count under 160 all the way back to a 1.10 tempo."

What were the TT tempo increments you used while you were increasing the tempo?

.03 per 200 from 1.30 to 1.18, then .02 increments thru 1.16, 1.14, 1.12, 1.10.

How do I decide how large a change to make. Mostly experience, but during the set I adjust by feel. In this case, when I got to 1.18, I felt I'd have better control of SL. I also wanted to do nother 4 x 200 in the set.

terry 08-21-2011 09:42 PM

Back to the Pool w/ Longer Repeats
My remaining open water races are longer than those I've swum so far this season. They're also somewhat less intense. In the last 5 weeks I've swum two 1-mile races and two National Masters championships at 2 miles and 5k. Next weekend I'll swim two races, 90 minutes apart at Lake George, a 2.5k followed by a 5k.
On Sept 11 I'll swim the 5k Gatorman at LaJolla Cove. On Sept 24 I'll swim the 10k Little Red Lighthouse in the Hudson (we'll pass under the GW Bridge.) Because these four races will average over 90 minutes duration I'll the next couple of weeks, I'll emphasize longer repeats at lower tempos and greater efficiency -- specifically trying to reduce my average SPL in the 50m pool from 41 to 39. Here's what I did this morning:

Sunday Aug 21 3600 LCM at Ulster County Pool
6 x 100 @ 1.10 tempo. Try to reduce SPL progressively.
I started at 85 strokes for 100m and finished at 80.

An interesting insight I've gotten from tuneup swims this summer is how much easier it is to subtract substantial time while maintaining constant SPL, than while maintaining constant Tempo.
I've done several sets this year in which I subtracted (or descended by) 15 or 16 seconds on 100 yd or meter repeats without increasing stroke count. To swim faster on the same SPL means I must increase tempo. (Even though I'm not trying to. I'm simply trying to 'find' more speed as artfully--not physically--as possible.) But when I keep Tempo constant instead, I can only get faster by increasing Stroke Length (I.E. subtracting strokes.) In today's set, I felt exceptionally pleased to be able to subtract 5 strokes. Yet that improved my 100m pace by only 5.5 seconds -- about a third of the change I can effect by increasing Stroke Rate or Tempo.

What does this mean? That Stroke Rate is far more 'plastic' than Stroke Length. Which is more of a useful moment of clarity than a startling insight.

Worthwhile Experiment: Try both. Do a series of 50y/m or 100y/m repeats, maintaining stroke count. How much can you descend without adding strokes?
Another day, repeat the same series, but keeping Tempo constant instead. How much can you descend now? I'll post this in its own thread, inviting people to post their findings. I also suggest you do this thread at different tempos. I did it today at 1.10. I'll try again at 1.15, 1.20 and perhaps 1.25 and see whether a slower tempo allows a larger improvement in time.

Set #2 4 x 150 @1.15 Try to average fewer than 40SPL.
My goal here was to swim farther yet increase stroke efficiency. To do so I felt I needed a slower tempo. How much slower? I guessed .05 sec would be sufficient. I averaged 39 SPL so my guess was good.

Set #3 4 x 500 Goal: Try to keep SPL average below 39 while gradually increasing tempo.
I started at 1.18 and increased tempo by .01 each 500, so tempo profile was 1.18-1.17-1.16-1.15. And I did keep SPL average below 40, though it took really intense focus @ 1.16 and 1.15. At 1.15 I also needed to increase forearm pressure and put a bit more 'oomph' in my weight shift to keep crossing the pool in fewer than 40 strokes.

The primary value of the last 500 was in forcing me to add hip power and forearm pressure with great care because it's so easy to increase turbulence instead of propulsion. Counting strokes keeps me numerically aware (i.e. if SPL goes from 39 to 41 I'm moving water, instead of myself), but the more critical awareness is what I feel -- being able to distinguish by sensation when I'm disturbing water molecules, rather than propelling myself forward. I know this awareness will be extremely valuable in races (and of course future sets.)

AWP 08-22-2011 08:54 PM

'Test Run' for a longer go
In lieu of OW, I'm starting to acclimate to longer pool repeat sessions; so long as my heels can manage.
I'm after maintaining/managing and improving pace/energy as distance stays long or increases, eventually hoping to improve my "DiSCO", gradually and ideally at will. My "Different Swim-Combination Optimums" ( spl as distance holds/changes, tempos as distance holds/changes, sr as... etc.) clearly work well at shorter distance repeats, even if the entire practice set is consistent with longer yardage, but I'd like to increase the distances or duration during my experiments even if the entire practice set holds less yardage.
I sense this may help carry me to a 'new' level if repeated with more frequency and of course consistency. Effort levels I'm thinking would need to vary and the use of the TT even more important in the process, perhaps used more subtly or with smaller increments maybe requiring even more patience (?) Likewise should the distance increases be as subtle?
What do you think?

In today's practice I slowed tempo while trying to hold or improve on stroke length and pace, noted time changes.

Monday August 22 30 yard Outdoor pool @ Creek
5x 600 freestyle with TT (Yards @ tempo (time))
600 tune-up
600 @ 1.10 (10:15)
600 @ 1.12 (9:57)
600 @ 1.13 (9:57)
600 @ 1.14 (9:59)

I chose 'slower' tempos so as to better hone my sense of leisure yet tried to maintain a long feeling while developing a good grip on the water.
I'll choose even slower tempos next and lessen the distance until I can use DiSCO to improve my metrics further then continue the 'climb'.
Although a pretty pedestrian pace I did manage to maintain pace without increasing spl as tempo slowed, even bettering the count as I went. I can say repeats #4 and #5 were done quite easily. My hope of course was that I'd at least descend my times the easier it felt. I'll have to work on smoother turns as well which I believe play an integral part; I missed several clean ones.

I will try Terry's suggested "test" set (posted on his latest blog) to find where I am and "what is", join me!


terry 08-22-2011 11:59 PM


Originally Posted by AWP (Post 21604)
"DiSCO", "Different Swim-Combination Optimums" ( spl as distance holds/changes, tempos as distance holds/changes, sr as... etc.)

Love - and will use -- that acronym.


Monday August 22 30 yard Outdoor pool @ Creek
5x 600 freestyle with TT (Yards @ tempo (time))
600 tune-up
600 @ 1.10 (10:15)
600 @ 1.12 (9:57)
600 @ 1.13 (9:57)
600 @ 1.14 (9:59)
Any time you can slow tempo and see time remain consistent or improve you're doing great. The 18 second improvement as you slowed from 1.10 to 1.12 is especially impressive.

I've been thinking of a bunch of virtual contests we can have on the TI web site after we upgrade it to facilitate things like that. Speed Up While 'Slowing Down' will definitely be one.

terry 09-05-2011 01:28 AM

Best Practice of Summer 2011
I hadn't done a practice in the 50m Ulster County Pool in a couple of weeks, swimming in Lake Awosting and Minnewaska in the interim. On Tues, Thurs and Sat I swam with Willie Miller and we did some real intensive racing-type swims with each other. Having done that much intensive work in the past week I wasn't expecting much when I joined Willie for a practice at the UCP this morning. But I felt good and swam well from the beginning. Here's the practice
400 Tuneup Average 37 SPL. No tempo.
Main Set 6 x 400 Pyramid Style
I swam most of this at a tempo of 1.05 (see below where I took off the Tempo Trainer) striving to hold SPL as close as possible to my counts on short repeats, as they got longer.
8 x 50 - Held 41 SPL on 1-4 and 40 SPL on 5-9
4 x 100 - average 41 SPL and 1:34
2 x 200 - average 42 SPL 3:11 and 3:10
2 x 400 (sometimes you only do the longest repeat in the pyramid once then start back down; we decided to repeat it before starting back down because we felt we could swim better) #1 average 42+ SPL 6:27; #2 average 41+ SPL 6:18
2 x 200 #1 3:08 @ 41+ SPL; #2 (I removed Tempo Trainer here) 3:03 @ 40+ SPL.
4 x 100 1:29-1:29-1:20-1:28 Average 41+ SPL but best count on #4.
8 x 50. Willie and I just raced. No times, SPL was 43. I was right on the edge of becoming ragged, but never crossed the line.
400 Cooldown @ 37-38 SPL

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