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terry 06-28-2011 09:41 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 05:29 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 09:06 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 02:12 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 12:41 PM

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 09:23 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 09:56 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 05:38 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 03:52 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 08:52 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.

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