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Alex-SG 09-17-2011 11:42 AM

How do you personally measure TI progress?
As you try to become a better TI Swimmer, how do you actually measure "TI Progress"?
How do you know you are improving?
What are you trying to achieve?


andyinnorway 09-17-2011 01:02 PM

Ultimately, how fulfilled you feel after a session.

Factors that effect that fulfillment:-

did you feel more relaxed and balanced than before.

did you set and complete mindful tasks.

did you swim faster than before with more comfort.

did you leave the pool feeling refreshed and excited about your next swim.

For me, good TI freestyle is the nearest a person can get to unaided flight (and one reason why it is so addictive), pulse and glide, just as an eagle enjoys the air, we enjoy the sensation of the water providing us with weightless motion.

In contrast, shoulder driven freestyle I would compare to a burrowing animal, a fox or a badger digging a tunnel. High stroke rate, pain management but endless practise builds strength and endurance and young foxes and badgers can dig fast tunnels but that doesn't mean they enjoy it.

harling 09-17-2011 08:10 PM

Overall aim, Goals, Inputs, Outputs
Good question. Made me think and contemplate this years swimming, especially today (see bilateral swimming below).

Overall aim is to gain "flow" states, and a feeling of ease and wellbeing fpcussing on tasks. All the time facing not achieving things and "bad swims", being outpaced etc. all with equinimity and the realisation that we go though stages in learning, but the only thing that stops us improving is giving up. Total self acceptance, despite failing...I am OK no matter how well I feel I do or what others think of me, or how slow I feel compared to others.

THREE things that I measure my "improvement" (relative to me and no one else):

Goals - what goals have I set myself this year?
e.g. 1. Swim 1.4km and 1mile open water swim for British Heart foundation (I did one of these last year)
e.g. 2. be able to extend my stroke rate range from around 1.6s per stroke to 1.0s per second with a feeling of ease and time
e.g. 3. be able to swim one length with no push off in 17 strokes
e.g. 4. be able to swim 1 mile bilaterally as opposed to the present one sided. Best last year - two lengths.
e.g. improve shoulder flexibility.

Inputs - what have I been trying to do to achieve these goals?

1. Joined outdoor swimming club which involves a 1km swim once or twice each week, entered for the swims (not races, for charity).
2. Bought tempo trainer and swim in pool and open water at faster stroke rates while counting strokes and keeping those as low as possible. Swim the charity swims at 1.15s per stoke. Do sets of increasing tempo using tempo trainer, then down..
3. Practice swimming one length with no push off, focussing mind on lengthening body, ease in water, feeling it supporting me, keeping feet near surface, touching heels together sometimes between kicks, getting kicks tuned to pulls (left arm pulling with left foot kicking)....Been trying to do Louis Tharp's thing of doing four strokes for a length (8 is the best so far and exhausted), repeated single lengths for 15 minutes. Watch and practice Popov's drill from Youtube (rollover drill).
4. Building lengths of bilateral swimming - 10 length, then 20 lengths, then 30 lengths upto 1 mile swims breathing bilaterally, but slowly, enjoying the feeling of water support and leisurely breathing.
5. Do stretches of arms above head in "streamlined position" during the day, during swimming/resting, after swimming.
6. Practice practice practice

Outputs how have I got on with achieving these goals
1. Did both swims (couldn't swim one length of crawl three years ago - I am 53 now) and really enjoyed them, felt really relaxed. Enjoyed open water swimming with people much more competent than me.
2. Tempo trainer enable me to swim outside at 1.15s per stroke (last year I was stuck on 1.6s per stroke). Not comfortable faster than this yet and strokes per length creeps up. Easier to swim faster stoke rate in sea than pool.
3. Achieving 20 strokes in a length with no push off (I am 5'10), still a way to go...
4. Achieved the mile today, bilaterally, and without stiff neck
5. I can hold my hands together when my arms are straight above my head (couldn't do that last year) - still a way to go.

Plenty of room for improvement. But feeling quite encouraged.

afbcpa 09-17-2011 09:17 PM

Measuring Progress
For me it is easy. :)

A little more than a year ago I couldn't swim more than a couple of laps without getting out of breath. This was really frustrating because I could road cycle for miles and miles. Now, I can swim (in the pool) as far as I like. Mostly my time dictates my distance. In other words, I have about an hour to swim. So, I do drills for about 20 minutes and then swim whole stroke for the rest of the time.

This summer I entered a mini-tri. The swim was in the pool (500 meters), 6 mile bike, and 2.5 mile run. I completed the event. This is another measure of my progress. I would have never thought about entering something like this a few years ago.

Finally, each day I just measure my progress by feeling healthier, swimming relaxed, and trying to complete my drills more efficiently. I have started to use a tempo trainer, but I am still getting used to this tool.

More than a year later, I just FEEL better when I am swimming. The sensory perception and feedback that I get just feels better each time in the pool. On days that it doesn't (and I know this now because I can FEEL it), I just shift my time frame of an hour more towards the drill process. This biggest area of my self awareness is in my balance. When I am not in balance, I don't seem well, breathing is off and so is the relaxed state that I am seeking.

It's just so relaxing to be in the pool and to breathe calmly. I come out refreshed. I go through my day a lot more peacefully. It helps my business, my family relationships, and my well being.


terry 09-19-2011 12:08 AM

I get just as strong a feeling of fulfillment by reading the thoughtful, articulate posts on this Forum. I've been on many tri and swim forums (and yes I'm biased) and none come close to the elevating perspective that is common here.
In this context it seems appropriate to share an excerpt from the introduction from my current work-in-progress Swimming That Changes Your Life.

>>In The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living the Dalai Lama wrote that the purpose of life is happiness. But let’s look more narrowly at swimming. Your conscious goals probably include one of the following:
• To swim a short distance safely and comfortably.
• To swim a longer distance for health and fitness.
• To have a low-impact way of exercise as I age.
• To swim for recreation and relaxation.
• To swim faster—whether for personal achievement or competition.

This book tells the story of a groundbreaking ‘experiment’ in which hundreds of thousands of swimmers all over the world--most of them adults who only began swimming in middle age--discovered an entirely new way to swim. While each person’s initial goal was only to swim a short distance safely . . . swim a longer distance for health . . . etc. they discovered that the same approach that helped them achieve their utilitarian goal also made them noticeably happier and improved the conditions for creating related benefits in health, personal relationships, professional endeavors, etc.

And here’s the key part: Their happiness didn’t occur only because, or until, they achieved their original goal. It occurred because they were working on solving a difficult problem or challenge. They discovered they experienced a sense of purpose, enjoyment—even transcendence—while doing so, which proved so addictive that experiencing happiness replaced the original goal as the motivational fuel to maintain unblinking focus and persist through any difficulty.>>

Alex-SG 09-25-2011 08:43 PM

Very good insights, thank you.
As I read Terry's post I really have to agree on the "sense of purpose part".

First you work on Technique, then you build endurance, then you go for speed... and thanks to TI you always have ways to measure how you are doing.

I am more of a "theoretical/factual" swimmer as opposed to someone who goes by feel. I recently saw a post of someone who is keeping track of SR, SL, SPL in excel... I have started doing the same.

One single type of work-out these days:
1. Warm-up
2. Drills
3. Drills with Swim
4. Swim with Tempo Trainer decreasing SRs (Ex. 1.35, 1.33, 1.30)

GOAL: Feel a good, under-control, long stroke at SR=1.6 --> SR=1.2 (for the moment).

It is amazing how fast I am progressing with the Tempo Trainer. I have a reference SPL of 17 these days (for 25m). Last week the faster I could swim was SR=1.40 to hold SPL=17. This week I can achieve the same SPL at SR=1.30. This means an improvement in speed of 1.7sec per LAP without dropping my SPL.


swimmermike 09-26-2011 09:56 PM


Congrats on the good work. I would like to emulate you.

I see this:"One single type of work-out these days:
1. Warm-up
2. Drills
3. Drills with Swim
4. Swim with Tempo Trainer decreasing SRs (Ex. 1.35, 1.33, 1.30)"

Could you please describe in more detail the workouts of that week that precisely helped you drop your time and keep your SPL? For example, how were you thinking about your stroke to keep SPL constant while dropping SR times: "patient extended arm..." or "press on my lungs..."? I'd like to hear that.



Alex-SG 09-27-2011 07:55 PM

Hi Michael,

Let me explain what I am trying to do with this type of work-out.
My ultimate goal is to swim with good technique at various Stroke Rates (SR=1.60 slow --> SR=1.20 medium fast, for me at least)

Starting point:
Anything faster than SR=1.60 felt too rushed. My stroke quality was deteriorating which meant that SPL could easily drop from 15 strokes per length to 20 just by accelerating from SR=1.60 to SR=1.30

So the Plan is the following, please note that this is a small workout because I have little time to practice...

1. Warm-up
- Just a simple 4 x 25m Freestyle, trying to relax

2. Drills (EX. I decide to work on Balance)
- 4 x 25m of Superman Glide/Flutter
- 4 x 25m of Skating

3. Drill + Swim
- 8 x 25m Mixing Drill & Swim (skating + 5 FS strokes + skating + 5 FS strokes...)
When I stroke I focus on transferring the Drill feeling to the Freestyle stroke

4. Swim with Tempo Trainer
- 8 X 25m SR=1.35
- 8 X 25m SR=1.33
- 8 X 25m SR=1.30
Count the average number of Strokes per Length at each rate (Ex. 17, 17.25, 17.50, 17.75)
NOTE: In between each LAP I do some BOBs with the Tempo Trainer timing reproducing the Freestyle breathing pattern (exhale beep 1, beep 2, beep 3, quickly inhale, exhale beep 4, 5, 6...). All Beeps under water exhaling.

5. After the Swim, Record this in Excel and add a formula for SL and Speed (m/sec)

NOTE: In the following swimming session I will set the TT to SR=1.33, 1.30, 1.27....

The Drill + Drill/Swim sets condition my body to think "Balance".

When I swim with the Tempo Trainer I teach my brain + Body to repeat that wonderful balanced/coordinated stroke at incrementally faster stroke rates.

The Excel helps me keep track of the speed I reach and I ensure that over time I can keep my Magical SPL=17 at faster and faster stroke rates.

The only strange thing so far is that I seem to improve every week. Looks like the TT is doing wonders. ALEX

swimmermike 09-28-2011 05:31 PM

Hi Alex

Thanks--that is exactly the kind of explanation I needed.

I just bought a TT a week ago and I am playing with how to use it with purpose. Your detail helps me translate this wish into a plan.

It looks as though you are keeping lap times, as well (if you are calculating speed). Makes sense.

Two questions: by "BOBs" do you mean the stand-still breathing exercises? And--is there an efficient and accurate way to keep track of all this data, so that when you get to your computer you really have the right numbers?

Thanks again for taking the time to paint this picture so clearly.


Alex-SG 09-28-2011 08:51 PM

Hi Michael,

Actually I am not keeping track of LAP Times for speed. I am thinking as follows:
Pool length = 25m, my push off is about 3.5m. So if I take 17 strokes to get to the other end, I am covering 21.5m with 17 strokes at a Stroke Rate of SR=1.30.

Easy to calculate SL (Stroke Length) and SPEED.

It is kind of fun to see your SPEED increase week after week as a result of the TEMPO TRAINER teaching the body to maintain the same STROKE efficiency at an incrementally faster Tempo.

The BOB thing with the TT is indeed a breathing experiment. When I swim Bilateral each beep is 1 hand entry and I get to breathe in between beeps [3,4], [6,7].... I expect this exercises to slowly teach me to breathe asymetrically, to inhale and exhale the right quantity of air, and to have a perfect breathing timing.

My thinking is that perhaps this will help my breathing problem (I tend to hold my breath and probably not do what the BOBs with TT are teaching me).

As soon as I reach a point where my STROKE feels good at SR=1.20 (my target fast pace) I will focus 100% on the breathing to build endurance (probably many BOB's with immediate Freestyle Laps right after).

For sure I can say the TT is a fantastic investment.


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