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-   -   Counting Strokes - is fewer always better? (http://www.totalimmersion.net/forum/showthread.php?t=9578)

John@NewPaltz 04-09-2018 03:08 PM

Counting Strokes - is fewer always better?
 
Hi, I bet everybody has done it before: "How low can I get my strokes per lane in this pool?" And soon enough you find yourself pushing off the wall a little harder, taking an additional 1-2 underwater dolphin kicks and, once near the end of the pool, gliding towards the wall where you could have easily fitted in another stroke. While all these little tricks are just a different sign of "being competitive", my question is actually targeting another aspect of reducing SPL:
I realized that I can "squeeze" out another 1-2 strokes off a lane by really stretching hard on the spearing arm, by really squeezing my butt and stiffen my legs. However, this technique significantly increases my "perceived exertion". I have to give up on some of Terry's guidelines like a weightless arm and relaxation in general. I can certainly swim much more relaxed at the same pace with just 2 strokes more per lane. However, this experience makes me wonder: How do I find my real ideal SPL?
I do believe that this dilemma (between optimizing for a low SPL vs. optimizing for a relaxed, smooth swim) can be found no matter at which level you're currently swimming. That's why I don't believe that just throwing out a number makes sense. Also, I'm trying to make this discussion pace-independent which might turn out to be stupid as the final goal of improving your technique will be improving speed. My coach always tells me: "Ignore pace for now." The reason might be that I still have a long way to go on improving my technique first, but I've been making great improvements while ignoring pace, so, I'll try to continue asking those questions in a "pace-agnostic" manner.
What are your opinions? What should you take into account when trying to find your personal ideal SPL-value?

IngeA 04-09-2018 04:08 PM

I do not often count the SPL. One reason is, that I concentrate on a FP and then I always loose the count. The other reason ist, that I don't want to destroy the great feeling while swimming with counting.
Until now I even didn't use the TT. I'm swimming for pleasure not to get the fastest. So perhaps the "real" swimmers have an other opinion:

I think counting is a tool. If you imprint a new technique the SPL can show if there is something wrong or perhaps also if you really hit the point. If your SPL gets much higher, something is wrong.

And also if you speed up: If your SPL gets rather high then, perhaps it's too fast at the moment and it would be better to swim with FP at lower speed.

Yesterday I counted the SPL: it was 20 without really pushing off and without long glide to the distant wall. For my hight, that's ok, it's in the middle of the green zone.

It was the same the last time I counted about a year ago, but the time for the length was 5 sec. faster. I counted, because my swimming now feels very different from the swimming a year ago and because I begin to overtake swimmers that always overtook me. And because I had a free lane, which isn't often.
It's a bit funny, because the last year I didn't swim often at all and when I swam, I didn't swim much freestyle. I was doing drills for FS or Butterfly and often swam butterfly in the kiddies pool because early in the morning there is nobody. But this pool is too short for freestyle (12 m)

CoachStuartMcDougal 04-09-2018 07:37 PM

Hi John,

Always subtract the flight off the wall from the pool length to get a true stroke count for the distance you actually stroked - since what you are after is stroke length. Stroke length is how far you move forward on each stroke, also referred to as distance per stroke or DPS.

Stroke length = yards stroked / stroke count (spl). Example: 25 yard pool, swimmer takes 20 strokes after a 5 yard flight off the wall, so stroking 20 yards, then SL = 20 yards / 20 strokes = 1 yard or 3 ft.

Ideally we want you in the "green zone" where SL is between 50-70% of swimmers height (or wingspan). In the above example if swimmer was 5' 2" or 62", SL @ 36" (or 3 ft), green zone = SL/height = 36"/62" = .58 or 58% Do the math and see if you fall into the "green zone" 50%-70%

Stuart

CoachBobM 04-10-2018 08:07 AM

The answer to your thread title is pretty obvious, if you think about it: It's possible, e.g., to go the length of the pool in a skate position, propelling yourself just by kicking and taking no strokes. Or you could skate that way for half the length of the pool, stroke to your other side, and then skate the rest of the way on that side, taking just one stroke. But both of these would be very unnatural and counterproductive.

A drill I've found useful in finding my ideal stroke count is the stroke eliminator:

Swim the length of the pool while counting strokes, and time yourself (I use the SportCount lap timer for this). Don't strive for any particular stroke count or time - just do whatever feels natural. The time and stroke count you get will be what you currently do when you're not thinking about it.

Next, swim the length again while timing yourself, but consciously try to reduce your stroke count by one. If you fail, try it again. If you succeed, try to eliminate another stroke. Observe what happens to your times when you repeatedly do this.

When I first began trying this, I was shocked to find that by the time I was eliminating my second or third stroke, my lap time actually began going down, even though I was taking one less stroke. What was happening was that in order to reduce my stroke count, I was having to find a way to move more efficiently through the water, and this saved more time than I was losing by taking one less stroke. Obviously, I couldn't keep eliminating strokes forever while getting faster times, but finding the point at which eliminating strokes no longer made me faster helped me to identify my ideal stroke count.

Exactly how you should do this will depend in some degree on what your goals are. If your goal is to compete in pool meets, for example, it will make little difference how you are reducing your stroke count and lap time. But if your aim is open water swimming (where you won't be able to periodically streamline off a wall), you will want to adjust for the time and distance you spend streamlining, as Coach Stuart recommended, to make sure you are really improving what you will be doing during an open water event.


Bob

John@NewPaltz 04-10-2018 01:53 PM

Thanks for the good replies. Getting a really accurate Distance per Stroke (DPS) isn't all that easy in a 20-yard pool. I'll ask a friend to mark the points between my 4 "middle"-strokes, when I already have a steady pace and before I get to the end of the pool. Totally excited to see, if I'm in the "zone". :-)
To Bob's reply: Yes, from that perspective, the answer is obvious. As long as you're not hurting your lap time (in some range I can totally see lap time even improving), reducing strokes per lap sounds like a desirable success. However, in my particular case I was experiencing something different and I call it "perceived exertion":
I'm able to get from say 10 down to 8 strokes per lane at the same exact lap time, BUT swimming with 10 strokes is way less exhausting. Squeezing out those last 2 strokes takes so much more energy, that it feels like a net loss in efficiency. Has anybody had the same experience?
Going with Bob's recommendation would suggest that "fewer is always better" (of course as long as your not sacrificing lap time).

CoachStuartMcDougal 04-10-2018 10:33 PM

Hi John,

In general increasing stroke length and decreasing rate = lower workload and often faster speed. Dropping a stroke at the same turnover rate is the quickest path to speed. Some of my swimmers swim their best sustainable speed and distance at faster tempos and SL to height 58% (green zone) while others closer to 70% at lower tempos. Phelps 400 free 65%, Sun Yang 1500 free 73%. So it's personal to each swimmer given their skill set, height, distance swimming or event and tempo (rate of turnover) where the swimmer just feels like everything is clicking ,smooth and great rhythm sustained over the distance.

There are two parameters that determine speed or velocity, it's time AND distance, not just time. In the examples below time is strokes per minute (SPM) and distance is stroke length (SL). Speed = SPM * SL

Example swimmer stroking at 60 SPM and 16 strokes per length after 5y glide off the wall (stroking 20y):

SL = 20y/16spl = 1.25y
Speed = 60spm * 1.25y = 75 yards per minute or ypm
100 pace = 100 / 75 = 1.333 mins = 1:20
400 pace = 400 / 75 = 5.333 mins = 5:20
1 mile pace = 1760 / 75 = 23.47 mins = 23:28.2
and so on ...

Alternatively swimmer at 70spm and 19spl:

SL = 20y/19spl = 1.05y
Speed = 70spm * 1.05y = 73.5 ypm
100 pace = 100 / 73.5 = 1.36 mins = 1:21.6

Faster turnover doesn't necessarily mean you're going a faster speed.

Stuart

John@NewPaltz 04-11-2018 02:46 PM

Hi Stuart, thanks for the number and your insight from coaching. Couple questions:
1. How is it possible that the world record over 1500 m is swum outside of the "green zone"? Or asking the other way round: If 73% is leading to a world record, why isn't it in the green zone?
2. Turning SPM and SL into a pace is simple rule of three mathematics. However, you're saying that some of your swimmers are (sustainably) faster at 58% and others are slower at 70%. Wouldn't you then try to experiment with the slower swimmers and see, if it helps them "working" less on their SL?
3. You listed a number of factors that influence SL. Can you see any fixed correlation between sustainable speed and those factors?
Is a higher skill set always related to a higher SL/height ratio? (-> a higher SL would always be desirable)
Is a taller swimmer always having a lower SL/height ratio (given all other factors being constant, of course)?
Should every swimmer always try to increase their SL/height ratio when going to a longer distance? Would you recommend a different SL/height ratio when swimming 1.2 vs. 2.4 miles?

My personal experience is that lowering my SL/height ratio will help me sustain a given speed longer (only in a narrow range, of course). Does that contradict your experience as a coach? And then my next question: Does it simply mean that I need to further improve my skills, so that I can achieve the higher SL/height ratio with less effort?

Danny 04-11-2018 05:40 PM

John,

You're raising a lot of good questions, and I'm sure you will get a response from Stuart, but I thought I would throw in my own 2 cents, as a self trained TI swimmer who has been playing these games for a while now. One of the obvious dangers in too much focus on stroke length is that (especially self-coached swimmers) fall prey to introducing a hesitation in their stroke which, of course, increases their stroke length but does not make them faster. Worse yet, if this hesitation (usually at the back of the stroke) becomes habitual, it can be hard to get rid of. One easy way to keep things honest is to use a tempo trainer and practice at stroke rates above what you are comfortable at. This will tend to make you aware of any unnecessary hesitation in your stroke and also give you useful data on how your SPL correlates with stroke rate.

I'm an old guy and I have noticed that periodically, for whatever reason, I develop problems with my technique. There is a standard pattern I see. First, in order to maintain my times, I see my stroke rate increasing until eventually I can't even maintain these times with a faster stroke rate. So I have gotten into the habit of monitoring my SPL just as an early indication that I'm developing some problem that needs to be addressed. When I see that happening, I don't just work on my SPL, but I also do pyramids with the TT to see whether I am starting to waste time during my recovery. All of this is diagnostic work to figure out what I am doing wrong. I have yet to find an easy way to diagnose these problems, but the more I swim, the better I get at early detection of problems and understanding how to fix them.

One last observation, again from an old guy. Flexibility definitely plays a role in your SPL and for this reason it is not always wise to take general green zones too seriously. They do provide bench marks, but, for example, my right shoulder was injured a long time ago, and this places some limitation on how efficiently I can swim. For example, I like to swim 300 yd intervals at the upper end of my green zone and, when I push the pace, I may get out of it. The other thing that impacts SPL is posture and a good range of motion with your hip flexors. These are all things that are not easy to change over night and, as we age, these problems become worse. Finally, a personalized "green zone" should reflect where you are in your swimming right now. If this isn't what the book says it should be, there may be a lot of explanations for this but killing yourself to meet some generalized goal will not help your swimming. A better approach (in my opinion) is to know where you are now and what your opportunities are for improvement. Then just work on those.

CoachStuartMcDougal 04-11-2018 07:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by John@NewPaltz (Post 65171)
Hi Stuart, thanks for the number and your insight from coaching. Couple questions:
1. How is it possible that the world record over 1500 m is swum outside of the "green zone"? Or asking the other way round: If 73% is leading to a world record, why isn't it in the green zone?

That's Sun Yang, incredibly efficient and FAST. We stop at 70% since many swimmers will interpret going above 70% by stalling high side arm at the hip causing a deceleration to achieve a longer stroke length. But I have a tall swimmer, very efficient long distance freestyler at top of greenzone at 70-72%, 1.1 tempo (54 spm) doesn't stall out at the hip and that works best for him.

Quote:

Originally Posted by John@NewPaltz (Post 65171)
2. Turning SPM and SL into a pace is simple rule of three mathematics. However, you're saying that some of your swimmers are (sustainably) faster at 58% and others are slower at 70%. Wouldn't you then try to experiment with the slower swimmers and see, if it helps them "working" less on their SL?

Yes - I have swimmers experiment many tempos both in and out of their comfort zone - and going outside of the greenzone, and allow them to determine what works best for them. As a coach however, I will often observe a swimmer at a tempo outside of their comfort zone (faster or slower) and notice "wow" that's working for them, posture is in line, hips are high, body almost magically rises in the water - and give them that feedback

Quote:

Originally Posted by John@NewPaltz (Post 65171)
3. You listed a number of factors that influence SL. Can you see any fixed correlation between sustainable speed and those factors?

Really nothing is fixed, but a swimmer should try to hardwire their race experience, hitting SL at tempo, length after length. Typically like to see swimmers negative split, start a bit slower and finish faster so they are in control of their perceived exertion, and not fatiguing too soon and slowing the last half.

Quote:

Originally Posted by John@NewPaltz (Post 65171)
Is a higher skill set always related to a higher SL/height ratio? (-> a higher SL would always be desirable)
Is a taller swimmer always having a lower SL/height ratio (given all other factors being constant, of course)?
Should every swimmer always try to increase their SL/height ratio when going to a longer distance? Would you recommend a different SL/height ratio when swimming 1.2 vs. 2.4 miles?

Not always - again it's personal. I have a sprinter that swims 100 free at 100spm at 65% (pretty awesome). And a long distance swimmer, 5' 2" that hovers at 58%-60% and that works extremely well for her and sustainable speed over 2 miles.

Quote:

Originally Posted by John@NewPaltz (Post 65171)
My personal experience is that lowering my SL/height ratio will help me sustain a given speed longer (only in a narrow range, of course). Does that contradict your experience as a coach? And then my next question: Does it simply mean that I need to further improve my skills, so that I can achieve the higher SL/height ratio with less effort?

First - always improve your skills in every pool session, every stroke really. Look at your pool sessions not as a "workout" but as a *practice*, continuous improvement or "Kaizen" is the TI mantra. If lowering your SL and increasing tempo works for you, do it. But always challenge your neural system at slower and faster tempos triggering new adaptations. But often I notice with most triathletes and masters swimmers coming into the squad, 9 out of 10 times they are swimming at a tempo that too high for their skill level. This is comfort zone to them since the faster arms and legs are used more for stabilizing the vessel and not as much for forward movement. Balance in primal, when the human is out of balance in water or on land the brain will solve it with (moving) the hands and feet first. Learning the skill of balancing from the core and not hands and feet is priority. Shinji's before and after TI video is very common. The "before" I see all the time, lots of movement, soft or wiggling spine. I think this can also be called "before core stability" and "after core stability": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FrSTJLN_CY

Stu

tomoy 04-12-2018 12:20 AM

I like to think of stroke length and tempo as two dimensions, length and width of an envelope. Any work you put in to increase stroke length increases one side of your envelope. Increasing tempo increases the other side, say width.

1) Increase one, and hold the other the same, and you go faster. Yay!
2) Increase one at the expense of the other and it's an even trade.
3) Decrease both and it's time to call it a day ;-)

The obvious issue with just focusing on stoke length is that you hit some point where you apply a lot of effort/pressure and spend a lot of time slowing down. So you lose out because you lose momentum and have to burn energy accelerating again.

Depending on your distance goal (50Y, 200M, 1KM, 1mi) maintaining momentum at the loss of stoke length could be a good thing. That's why there's a lot of variability for different body dimensions, ages etc. Somewhere in there will be your sweet spot. The only way to find out is to do these practices with a tempo trainer, and count your strokes.

I can do a repeatable 13-stroke length in a 25Y pool, but my open water stroke is probably closer to 17-strokes (equivalent). My fast pool pace is best at about 16 strokes. I can do 14-strokes or 15 fast, but the increased need for air (effort vs time between breaths, don't forget about demand for oxygen) makes 16 pretty sweet for me. In other words, I can't keep up 14 or 15 strokes for more than 400Y. But I can do 16 almost non-stop. My goals are to be able to do 15 non-stop, or do 16 at a faster tempo.

The Green Zone is a generally good technique range. If you're not down to the green zone SPL's, then there's a lot to be gained by cleaning up technique.

WFEGb 04-12-2018 07:44 AM

Hello Tomoy,

good Image to think about.
Quote:

1) Increase one, and hold the other the same, and you go faster. Yay!
2) Increase one at the expense of the other and it's an even trade.
3) Decrease both and it's time to call it a day ;-)
OK, (3) expands the area of your envelope. Very good! Otherwise you will get best area if you "design" your envelope with both sides equal-lengthed...

...Damned not everybody likes squared envelops, and damned, both sides don't have the same unit of measurement... :-))

Best regards,
Werner

sclim 04-13-2018 02:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WFEGb (Post 65177)
Hello Tomoy,

good Image to think about.

OK, (3) expands the area of your envelope. Very good! Otherwise you will get best area if you "design" your envelope with both sides equal-lengthed...

...Damned not everybody likes squared envelops, and damned, both sides don't have the same unit of measurement... :-))

Best regards,
Werner

Interesting that the concept of a mathematical value being the product of two factors can be easily related in our minds to the real world situation of area = side a x side b. In this real world case the units are the same (that is, linear dimensional distance) which makes the concept a little more concrete. But if you just extend the analogy a bit more and think abstractly, you can abandon your insistence that the dimensional units stay the same, and if you need an image to help anchor your mental visual construction, think of a graphic plot with the x and y axes being your two variables. The product will be the area of the rectangle formed on the graph, and the dimensional unit of the product will be xy (TT number x SPL, that is, duration per stroke multiplied by number of strokes per 25 metres = Time in seconds per 25m). To be truly accurate, I guess you have to also include the number of beeps during the push-off glide.

The equivalent of a nearly square envelope would be the sweet-spot point at which dropping the Tempo Trainer time by your smallest usual decrease interval results in an increase in SPL by one, and vice-versa, at which time you are very close to your optimum efficiency for that distance, and practicing and aiming for this point should in theory prepare you for the greatest likelihood of being able to swim at your current maximum efficiency.

John@NewPaltz 04-13-2018 03:47 PM

While I love mathematical approaches (and due to my lack of skills in complex mathematical equations I also love simplicity), I need to disagree with optimizing in a 2-dimensional manner for the following reason (however, I tend to agree for sprint distance swimming like 25/50/100 m):
I am able to increase tempo and stroke length, but I won't be able to maintain it for more than 1-2 pool lengths. In other words, if I went with sclim's approach of finding the sweet spot, I would end up at a pace and SPL, that I cannot maintain. This is also the reason, why I tend to agree in case of sprint distance swimming: I don't need to maintain my pace for longer than the duration of my experiments in the pool.
For every other distance, I find my self left with an optimization dilemma:
Say, you're preparing for a 2.4 mile open-water swim: It is kinda obvious that "maximizing the envelope" based on a couple lengths in a 25m pool will not result in your efficiency optimum for your target distance. However, where is the optimum? It will be somewhere below your pool optimum. Is the only way to find out swimming 2.4 miles at a perfectly consistent SPM rate? And even if you did that, your stroke length might be dropping a lot over the course of the swim, because you didn't chose the optimal SPM. Averaging it out over the full length could trick you. This risk is way lower or even non-existent in sprint distance swimming.
Any suggestions?

John@NewPaltz 04-13-2018 03:55 PM

Little comment on the oxygen topic: Very interesting and I haven't spent enough thoughts on it, yet. Sun Yang started breathing on both sides (i.e. on every stroke) before the turns which definitely shows that oxygen demand is an issue when reducing SPM. If you're currently comfortably breathing every 3 strokes, you're still having headroom and could play with reducing SPM but breathing more often. In my personal case, I swam my fastest 2.4 miles with a 2-3-2-3 breathing pattern. But, if you're already at a 2-stroke breathing pattern, you might already hit a completely different (minimum) SPM boundary. Interesting....

sclim 04-14-2018 01:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by John@NewPaltz (Post 65182)
Little comment on the oxygen topic: Very interesting and I haven't spent enough thoughts on it, yet. Sun Yang started breathing on both sides (i.e. on every stroke) before the turns which definitely shows that oxygen demand is an issue when reducing SPM. If you're currently comfortably breathing every 3 strokes, you're still having headroom and could play with reducing SPM but breathing more often. In my personal case, I swam my fastest 2.4 miles with a 2-3-2-3 breathing pattern. But, if you're already at a 2-stroke breathing pattern, you might already hit a completely different (minimum) SPM boundary. Interesting....

Your objections have less to do with the two-dimensional aspect of spl x TT analysis (which after all is just various subtle variations on arriving at the same time to complete a given distance) nor with reducing SPL alone per se. Remember, in my definition of "sweet spot" I included the condition "for that distance" -- i.e. you have specified sprint, long distance or whatever, and I stand by that.

O2 demand is very high not because Sun Yang is reducing stroke count. It is high because he is doing 1500m at world record pace. If anything, lowering his stroke count, if he has practiced it enough and played around with the spl x Stroke time interval equation enough to arrive at an appropriate sweet spot, should lower his O2 requirements at his given record pace.

Of course you would be correct that, below that "sweet spot", lowering the SPL would indeed slow your best time, likely because of poorer efficiency and higher O2 demand. But that is only at your current degree of practice and training. Who knows what the future might bring?

CoachStuartMcDougal 04-15-2018 04:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by John@NewPaltz (Post 65181)
While I love mathematical approaches (and due to my lack of skills in complex mathematical equations I also love simplicity), I need to disagree with optimizing in a 2-dimensional manner for the following reason (however, I tend to agree for sprint distance swimming like 25/50/100 m):
I am able to increase tempo and stroke length, but I won't be able to maintain it for more than 1-2 pool lengths. In other words, if I went with sclim's approach of finding the sweet spot, I would end up at a pace and SPL, that I cannot maintain. This is also the reason, why I tend to agree in case of sprint distance swimming: I don't need to maintain my pace for longer than the duration of my experiments in the pool.
For every other distance, I find my self left with an optimization dilemma:
Say, you're preparing for a 2.4 mile open-water swim: It is kinda obvious that "maximizing the envelope" based on a couple lengths in a 25m pool will not result in your efficiency optimum for your target distance. However, where is the optimum? It will be somewhere below your pool optimum. Is the only way to find out swimming 2.4 miles at a perfectly consistent SPM rate? And even if you did that, your stroke length might be dropping a lot over the course of the swim, because you didn't chose the optimal SPM. Averaging it out over the full length could trick you. This risk is way lower or even non-existent in sprint distance swimming.
Any suggestions?

Hi John,

You don't have to agree with the math, but it's really not binary as you make it out to be. The math offers choices in rate given distance and time. You have to factor perceived effort, i.e can a swimmer sustain that pace for 500m, 1.2 mile, 2.4 mile, 5k ,etc. A good test is 4x300 holding stroke length and tempo. If 2.4 mile IM swim, add on time for bottlenecks, sighting, some drift. I've been able to predict swimmers times within a minute on 1.2 mile swims and 3 mins on 2.4 mile IM swims. So it's just not time and distance, it's knowing your swimmer and using some math to help them hit their best time.

However, I've had many coaches argue with math and swear by pace clock. Pace clock is just another unit of time, elapsed time given some number of lengths. But the distance and time is generalized by lengths whether 25y or 50m and a 1 minute pace clock. Very few tools to determine potential speed.

So it's not whether you agree with the math or method of estimation, it's how it's used to help swimmers understand what they're capable of if time and distance in smaller units can be easily understood and achieved.

Stu

Tom Pamperin 04-27-2018 11:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by John@NewPaltz (Post 65153)
However, in my particular case I was experiencing something different and I call it "perceived exertion":
I'm able to get from say 10 down to 8 strokes per lane at the same exact lap time, BUT swimming with 10 strokes is way less exhausting. Squeezing out those last 2 strokes takes so much more energy, that it feels like a net loss in efficiency. Has anybody had the same experience?

John,

I know I'm late to this conversation, but I've had this exact same experience of increased perceived effort levels when I reduce my SPL. I've had the same discussion with Coach Stuart, who told me the same thing he told you: lower SPL (longer stroke) reduces effort.

Now, a lot of the best stuff I have learned on this forum comes direct from Coach Stuart, and I'm incredibly grateful for his generosity and insights. But his answer that lower SPL leads to lower exertion has not always been true in my experience--like you, it's been the other way around for me when I try to drop down to 12-13 SPL (25m) instead of 15-16 SPL, for example.

BUT--I think that's because when that happens, I have not REALLY been lowering my SPL the right way--core stability, balance, and relaxation. Or I have not developed the fitness to maintain core stability, balance, and relaxation (more a skill than fitness issue), and so get tired when really focusing on those things to lower SPL.

I have also experienced exactly what Coach Stuart predicted when in a challenging 30 x 50m set (:45/50m pace, :20 rest), I focused on maintaining SPL of 16 or less. I found myself able to do it. Halfway through the set I was hitting 15 SPL. Then 14. I never got tired, and completed the whole set easily, and at lower SPL than planned. So, done correctly, Coach Stuart is right--lower SPL = lower exertion.

sclim 04-27-2018 10:23 PM

I followed what you said earlier -- you didn't necessarily agree that lower SPL gave rise to less exertion, or at least if you are achieving this the wrong way (by exerting more rather than by skill and cleverness -- I'm paraphrasing here) when you drop from 16 to 12-13.

But then you say...

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tom Pamperin (Post 65252)
I have also experienced exactly what Coach Stuart predicted when in a challenging 30 x 50m set (:45/50m pace, :20 rest), I focused on maintaining SPL of 16 or less. I found myself able to do it. Halfway through the set I was hitting 15 SPL. Then 14. I never got tired, and completed the whole set easily, and at lower SPL than planned. So, done correctly, Coach Stuart is right--lower SPL = lower exertion.

So, exactly, how did you achieve this when you couldn't do it before? Obviously you were doing it correctly, with skill rather than more exertion. So was it

1) In the context of the "more challenging set"? i.e. you were distracted by the "more challenging" so, once you were comfortably tuned in, in mid task, you were able to relax and do the skillful adjustments necessary?

2) Because you dropped it gradually 16 to 15, so it didn't disrupt all the other nicely tuned elements of your relaxed efficient stroke, then similarly to 14.

or what???

Tom Pamperin 04-28-2018 08:20 AM

Ha! If I could answer that I'd be a much better swimmer and probably a TI Master Coach. It was one of those magical days that happen every now and then. A bit more about it:

I had been attempting that 30 x 50m set, but was finding myself at 18 SPL to make the :43 pace for each repeat. Coach Stuart encouraged me to try lowing my SPL. I was skeptical (actually quite certain I wouldn't be able to make the times at 16) but gave it a try, with the results described above.

Now, reflecting on how swimming has been going for me lately with my 2-beat kick really transforming my stroke, I wonder:

It may have been that I was using a faster SR in my desperation to make the times on that set, and thereby curing an over-gliding problem I hadn't even been aware of. Less acceleration/deceleration in each stroke, more continuous speed. That certainly seems to be what is happening to me now.

But that set was pretty magical that day. I wasn't even tired, and as I recall, I would have kept on for another 20 repeats except the pool was closing and I needed to leave.

WFEGb 04-28-2018 11:17 AM

Hello,

my 2ct...

think that's all very tight to the other EVF-thread. Reminds me a bit on a podcast from Mat "I'm not the same swimmer every day"... Most of us will know it, sometimes there are days when everything will fall into its place and we think, that's how Terry and Shinji might feel... and, sad enough, we don't find the grip to reproduce the same next day. And sometimes there is a day where we're not sure if anything is in the right place, and everything seems to go banana included (what should never happen! so we should better take a time out in the whirl pool...) the joy of swimming some laps. No, I won't suggest the whirl pool. Better will be being curious and swimming some "bad" laps to feel what's happening and finding some fun in all that "banana-stuff".

Preserving our joy of swimming for me is most important over all other things. And so I'm sure there are so many things that can not be put into numbers. RPE is a try but it's subjective and not the same every day.

In OW I can swim longer, much more relaxed and further than I only can think in a pool. That will brake down if no support-boats there or am too far from the beach... (Am a coward with that...)

Sometimes I swim my 1000s the same time as the other day by time and feeling RPE, but I swam with two SPL more or less, not being able to tell what changed.

Most times I swim my last two laps (LCM) with today least possible, slow and overgliding strokes; differs from 28 to 32, can't tell what happens today for that number... but swimming that way is not as effortless as swimming with 38 to 42 SPL...

When going for an (nearly) "all-out" the last 50-100m SR increases and SPL decreases (down to 4SPL). Strange, but that is my feel to get my momentary fastest.

Sometimes I focus in special things. FE kick-timing or more "aggressiv" breathing or more forceful spear, what shares 1-3SPL, but can't integrate it into my cruising-pace with the same result.

Most times when I ask my wife to have a look (videos are strongly forbidden), when working on a special FP. She says: No difference... but I do feel extreme differences.

And so many of our decisions where to work for improvement might be more a matter of feeling than a matter of pure calculation, but calculating may be a helpful tool sometimes, as goggles or a TT. Sad enough not having Terry's genius to find always the right things to improve in the right way. (Damned, missing him!)

Best regards,
Werner

CoachStuartMcDougal 04-29-2018 12:24 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tom Pamperin (Post 65263)

I had been attempting that 30 x 50m set, but was finding myself at 18 SPL to make the :43 pace for each repeat. Coach Stuart encouraged me to try lowing my SPL. I was skeptical (actually quite certain I wouldn't be able to make the times at 16) but gave it a try, with the results described above.

Hi Tom,

Good to hear and reflect on that progress you made, nice work! Although I yield to or encourage increasing stroke length, but also reducing turnover or tempo to get to the lower workload. Really reducing rate of turnover increases stroke length. But we're not aiming for the fewest or zero strokes but what works best given height (or wingspan), turnover rate (tempo), current skill set and distance you are swimming - not stroke length only.

Often swimmers perceive dropping strokes is the primary goal - it's not. Dropping strokes is frequently achieved in error by 1. longer flight off the wall, and/or 2. pausing or stalling high side (recovery) arm at hip to gain longer distance per stroke, and/or 3. pausing.slowing recovery arm just before entry. All are introducing errors in distance and stroke. The later, #2 and #3 are common errors. Stalling at the hip, triggers a deceleration, lost momentum and imbalance sticking arm weight and its momentum at the hip. Stalling at entry sends momentum of high side arm down instead of forward - causing the "bobbing swimmer"

I think John@NewPaltz noted the added effort to get 10 or 8 strokes across the pool, I'm assuming 25y pool. If a swimmer is taking 8 strokes after 5y yard glide offf the wall, I can bet there's a hitch at hip (stopping in a skate position) to achieve that low stroke count.

The arm starts and finishes at forward extension, one continuous, fluid movement with no hitches or pauses at hip or at entry.

So it's not just increasing stroke length to decrease workload, but more about frequency or tempo, rate of turnover - but both stroke length and tempo have to be tested and experimented with each swimmer to find out what works best for them given the event or distance they're swimming.

Stu

Streak 04-29-2018 01:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tom Pamperin (Post 65252)


I have also experienced exactly what Coach Stuart predicted when in a challenging 30 x 50m set (:45/50m pace, :20 rest), I focused on maintaining SPL of 16 or less. I found myself able to do it. Halfway through the set I was hitting 15 SPL. Then 14. I never got tired, and completed the whole set easily, and at lower SPL than planned. So, done correctly, Coach Stuart is right--lower SPL = lower exertion.

Hi Tom,
I have been doing a lot of 50 yard asymmetrical pyramids using the TT. It's been a huge eye opener for me. I start at 1.1 going down in .1 interval to 0.8 and then up in .05 up back to 1.1. Where before I found anything 1.2 or faster too hard, I now find 1.1 fairly comfortable specially after coming back up from 0.8.

Now, with respect to your comments above. When I am doing this set I am at about an SPL of 17 increasing to about 20 at the 0.8 pace. I am able to do 14-15 SPL but at a very pedestrian pace. My 50 yard time above start at about 45s and go down to 40s at the faster tempo. If I then try and do a 14-15 SPL my time will be closer to 48 seconds.

I guess I am not yet at that point in my journey where I can do the faster times at lower SPL. Higher tempos (faster turnover) has to lead to faster speeds but at higher SPL I have always struggled to grasp the concept of maintaining these speeds but at lower SPL.

Tom Pamperin 04-29-2018 02:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CoachStuartMcDougal (Post 65278)
Hi Tom,

Good to hear and reflect on that progress you made, nice work!

Thanks--a lot of that I credit to your ideas on this forum. My perceived effort levels are so much lower than they were two months ago, I'd guess speed and SPL are similar.

Do you have any thoughts about my hypothesis that by starting to "grip" the water and move the underwater arm back sooner, I have gotten rid of a habitual (but unnoticed) tendency to overglide? I think that glide time, and the resulting acceleration/deceleration, may have been holding me back and getting in the way of proper timing for stroke and kick.

Quote:

Originally Posted by CoachStuartMcDougal (Post 65278)
I think John@NewPaltz noted the added effort to get 10 or 8 strokes across the pool, I'm assuming 25y pool. If a swimmer is taking 8 strokes after 5y yard glide offf the wall, I can bet there's a hitch at hip (stopping in a skate position) to achieve that low stroke count.

I believe he said he's in a 20y pool, not 25y.

Quote:

Originally Posted by CoachStuartMcDougal (Post 65278)
The arm starts and finishes at forward extension, one continuous, fluid movement with no hitches or pauses at hip or at entry.

Yes, another change I'm noticing with my reduced glide/extension is that my recovering arm is entering the water with more momentum. I suppose I had also been slowing down just before entry, or I would not be noticing increased momentum now. But again, the momentum seems to be a side effect of doing other things correctly, it wasn't a conscious goal.

Thanks again for sharing your insights here--I really appreciate it. I've never competed, or had a coach, or even a lesson (except for one session with Dave Cameron back when I didn't really know what I was doing--he showed me that!)--all of my progress has been because of TI self-coaching materials, and advice from this forum. It's a great way to learn.

Tom Pamperin 04-29-2018 02:21 AM

Streak,

thanks for the input. I keep saying I need to do TT work but I keep avoiding it because I'm enjoying beep-free swimming so much. But I really should do some TT work...

Quote:

Originally Posted by Streak (Post 65281)
Higher tempos (faster turnover) has to lead to faster speeds

This is probably obvious, but that's true only if your SPL stays the same or gets lower. You can certainly increase turnover without increasing speed--that may be the most common error I see in people trying to "swim fast."

From which I have drawn this inference:

TT work to get used to higher tempos is effective. But if we can maintain only a certain percentage of our distance per stroke as we increase stroke rate--in other words, if eventually you will be at a stroke rate too fast to maintain your SPL (which I think is true about increasing stroke rates)--

Then IF the percentage is constant or nearly constant***, it makes sense to focus on increasing distance per stroke (i.e. reducing SPL) without paying attention to tempo. Because if I can increase my default distance per stroke (reduce my SPL) at slow tempos, then when I increase my stroke rate (i.e. tempo) I'll also have a longer stroke at that higher stroke rate.

***I doubt it is constant for all swimmers--I think the percentage varies with individual swimmers. I'd predict the percentage also gets higher as technique improves, and ALSO gets higher due to familiarity with faster tempos. In other words, a well-trained swimmer with good technique will be able to hold a much higher percentage of his distance per stroke than a beginner as tempo increases.

In other words, if my "default" distance per stroke (DPS) is 1.6 meters, and I can hold 90% (wild guess for sake of argument) of that distance at a faster tempo, I'll have a DPS of 1.44 meters.

Then, after I increase my "default" DPS to 1.8 meters through slow focused short repeats, ignoring tempo, my DPS at faster speeds will be 1.62 meters. With that new longer DPS, I'll be faster at any tempo.

Just idle theorizing--but it's my guess at how the ability to swim long strokes (low SPL) increases swimming speed at higher tempos, even if we don't do TT work to specifically work on faster tempos. I'm not advocating getting rid of all TT work, just speculating on other ways to build speed with TI practice.

TT work is very quantitative and scientific. I find other, more intuitive, "feel" based approaches to practice, more interesting and enjoyable right now. Probably everyone should do some of each for fastest progression. But going without a TT seems to let/force me to tune in more deeply to my own body and the sensations it is experiencing.

If anyone has thoughts about my "percentage of DPS" theory, I'd love to hear them.

Bada Bing 04-30-2018 09:31 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Hi Tom,

If you are ever in England, you might like to join us on the water. Hopefully no need for swimming................Hopefully.
See attachment.

WFEGb 04-30-2018 12:39 PM

Hello Tom,

Quote:

If anyone has thoughts about my "percentage of DPS" theory, I'd love to hear them.
TI's GZ is a bandwidth of your "percentage of DPS". What's exactly best for everyone, seems to be an indvidual matter of SR and RPE. Stuart gave some different examples of his swimmers. For me there seems to be something I'd like to call "Magical SPL". Curious, if others found the similar "effect". For me it's for some years constant 16SPL (68% - SCM-pool). I can swim it with SRs down to 1.14s and higher than 1.70s. But strange: Only one and then I'll find the 16SPL easy to hold for more than around 200m. And I have to focus on.

If I want to swim relaxed, what Mat calls "Cruising Stroke" or "Forever-Stroke", the SPL goes down to 15SPL (72%) and SR up to around 1.50s. (I know I'm slow...)

When I try to swim a bit more what Terry called "firm", 16SPL seem just to be achieved randomly. 15SPL, 17SPL, 18SPL, even 14SPL seems easier than to hit the magic 16SPL more than one or two times in a row...

But if we are ever in a stage where we still can decide, if we should lengthen the stroke or go to a higher SR, I'd prefer the first for earning more. Must say, I'm still missing the Feeling, a higher SR with same SPL gives me an advantage with more refreshing air... Still hoping it will happen some time...

Best regards,
Werner

John@NewPaltz 05-01-2018 02:15 AM

Yeah, I'm around 10 SPL in a 20 yard pool and I can work it down to 8 SPL under minor speed sacrifices. (I can also work it down to 7, but that looks ridiculous and is much slower).

I've taken away some very good help from this discussion:
1. The risk of "overgliding" is real and everybody tends to overglide when trying to minimize SPL. I'm still not 100% sure how to notice, that you start "overgliding". Coach Stuart, what exactly do you take into account when optimizing (not minimizing) SPL? Is the biggest part of it that it "must feel fluent"?
2. The "green zone" from Coach Stuart is a really good target area. Of course it's only a zone and you might be in the upper, middle or lower part of the zone. However, chances are darn good, that your optimum is within this zone.

Another thing, I'd like to add and ask:
When reducing SPL at constant pace, most of your changes in technique will be good changes and contribute to higher efficiency. However (and that's kinda confirming what Tom was experiencing, too), given a certain skill level, there are a couple percent (let it be 2%, maybe 5%, idk) that you can gain at very high costs:
1. Overstretching your entire upper body while spearing: a longer body line helps, but "overstretching" is strenuous.
2. Pulling stronger (and therefore faster) than would be natural.
3. "Overstretching" your ankles, i.e. stretching them more than your flexibility comfortably allows.
These are all examples for "optimizations", which are not energy-efficient, but will improve (increase) your pace/SPL ratio (assuming that balance and streamlining is already quite advanced). My question is: where's the sweet spot? How do I find out "how much" of these three things I should incorporate? That's a non-trivial optimization-problem to me. What do you guys think?
Simply taking perceived exertion sounds a little too error-prone to me.

Tom Pamperin 05-01-2018 04:05 AM

John,

great questions. I kind of think the current TI thinking might be along these lines: do however much to lengthen your stroke that you can sustain for the pace and time you are aiming for.

There seem to be some ever-shifting priorities in my own practice:

1. Work to be as perfect as you can (my work with low SPL at slow speeds is an example)

2. Work to increase speed while maintaining you current level of perfection, both by maintaining SPL while increasing tempo, AND by decreasing SPL while maintaining tempo

3. Work to increase the distance you can swim while maintaining your current level of perfection

4. Practice at your current optimal performance level (i.e. the SR and SPL that will give you the best performance right now, even if that's not as perfect as you can be)

5. Work to increase awareness and focus

And one that's missing from your list, but I think might be the most important for me:

6. Work to use less effort for the same results

Not really an answer to your questions, I know. Are there answers, once and for all? I kind of think not.

Streak 05-01-2018 05:44 AM

Tom,
Those are some great objectives. Today I swam 100 at 15 SPL, then swam the same at 17 SPL, same speed. One conclusion, why use 17 strokes for what can be achieved only using 15! Another conclusion, something must be wrong because using if I used an extra 2 strokes then my time should have been better.

I then set the TT to 1.10.
Did a 100 at about 15-16 SPL at a time of 1:32.
Then I tried to relax a bit more, SPL went up to about 17 and time went up to 1:36.
Relax obviously lead to shorter DPS. less effort, worse time.
Then really focused again and got back to 1:32 at 16-17 SPL.

Switched off the annoying beeping in my ear and just headed out for another 100.
SPL was closer to 18-19, time was 1:30.

Conclusion - I am a very unconventional swimmer and none of this makes any sense to me.

WFEGb 05-01-2018 08:06 AM

Hello Streak,

as above, I do know similar effects, and sometimes ask me the same.

Additional questions:

Are you carrying the same (other) FP (except beeps and SPL) with you all through this "experiment"?

Are these effects always the same, no matter on which FP you're working?

How do you find your day's best combination of SPL and SR for a swim of, let's say more than 400m? (...Stopwatch, calculation or feeling, or both a bit?)

Best regards,
Werner

Streak 05-01-2018 03:29 PM

Valid questions Werner. Too many variables to make sure that each one is the same every stroke/length. TT is the only really fixed one.

Not sure how to answer your last question. Sometimes with no TT I just go out there and swim a few 100's and surprise myself. That's often after the asymmetric TT pyramid drill when I have picked up some good SR muscle memory but without having to stick exactly to the TT.

Tom Pamperin 05-01-2018 06:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Streak (Post 65302)
Conclusion - I am a very unconventional swimmer and none of this makes any sense to me.

But what you describe matches my experience perfectly. Decrease SR and SPL drops. Times also get slower. You feel more relaxed and less effortful.

Increase SPL (i.e. to 18-19 from 16-17) and speed increases. (This is true only up to a point, and only if you are doing some things correctly, as it's possible to increase SPL without increasing speed).

So, none of what you posted surprises me at all, or seems unconventional.

Streak 05-02-2018 10:34 PM

OK thanks Tom. Practiced some of the light touch catch today including some fist drill.
Managed to hold 16 SPL with fists which is not too bad.

Tom Pamperin 05-06-2018 01:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bada Bing (Post 65292)
Hi Tom,

If you are ever in England, you might like to join us on the water. Hopefully no need for swimming................Hopefully.
See attachment.

I missed replying to this--I'd love to get out sailing next time I'm in England (though I have no idea when that might be--last time was 4 years ago). I agree it would be best to avoid the need to swim...

Tom Pamperin 05-07-2018 07:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Streak (Post 65331)
OK thanks Tom. Practiced some of the light touch catch today including some fist drill.
Managed to hold 16 SPL with fists which is not too bad.

Yep, I think that's pretty good, actually.

I need to work on that light touch idea.


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