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CoachSuzanne 05-28-2010 03:48 AM

Added 4 strokes per 100 for 600 yd set.
I normally blog about all of my swimming (either here, on my website, or on my training log at beginner triathlete), but thought I'd share this one here as I found it interesting.

the main block of my swim set consisted of 100s in which I deliberately tried to add exactly one stroke per 25, or 4 strokes to each 100 I swam. The first 100 I swam with the slowest recovery arm I could muster without getting "stuck" with the recovery arm not moving. The other arm was extended in a gliding position as long as possible until the recovery arm etnered. After spending 45 minutes or so on very detailed stroke work, as well as a block of time with thd tempo trainer at speeds from 1.20 to 1.40 seconds/stroke my stroke felt really dialed in.

The first 100 I managed to swim in only 51 strokes (12-13 strokes per length). With each subsequent 100, I gradually increased the rate of my recovery arm and tried to add one stroke. Following are my stroke counts for each of the subsequent 100s:

Edited to add...there was rest between teh 100s, it was not a straight set. Long rest, like a minute at least. Every 100 I was temped to not do another because the prevoius one had gone perfectly..I didn't want to mess it up. But I kept going and look how pretty the progressoin is...

First: 51
2nd: 56
3rd: 60
4th: 64
5th: 68
6th: 72

This was the longest set with which I've had this much control over stroke count for that duration, in other words, deliberately choosing my count, and thus my tempo.

For the 6th 100, I used the tempo trainer and set it at a stroke rate of 1 per second and just counted the strokes that resulted. By coincidence, it was exactly 4 strokes more than the previous set...I'd again added exactly 1 stroke per length. Because I know the tempo of the last set, I can add in my original 3 beeps for pushoff, and a max of 5 beeps for turning (was likely 4, but I'll estimate high)...that makes 18 beeps used for pushoffs & turns + the 72 beeps for each stroke = 90 1 second beeps for hte last 100, or a 1:30 pace.

I was happily pleased with the entire set. Give it a shot and see how you fare.

AWP 05-28-2010 11:21 AM

Good one Suzanne! I like it, I'll try it, thanks!

terry 05-29-2010 02:53 AM

Practicing Gears
Suzanne has given an example of the kind of set I did with great frequency from 2000 to about 2004. I think this kind of set was extremely valuable in helping me swim extraordinarily fast in 2006, when I turned 55. I set some BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for that year and achieved all of them. In doing so, I turned back the clock and swam times in the 500, 1000 and 1650 yd events that I had not seen since age 42. My enhanced pool speed then helped me have a record-breaking summer in open water races.

The process for getting there involved a lot of patience and several stages.

During the 90s I gave most of my attention to increasing my stroke efficiency - which means decreasing my stroke counts. I dropped my average SPL in a 25 yd pool from the 17-18 range in the early part of the decade (still lower than the 20+ strokes I took in college in the late 60s) to around 13 SPL around 2000-01. But I had also sacrificed a fair bit of speed, in part because I reduced my tempo or Stroke Rate so much to increase Stroke Length. I wasn't racing much in the pool at the time, so my loss of speed didn't register. I was still faring well in open water races.

But in my early 50s I started to increase my rate and stroke counts again. I was comfortable doing so because I felt I'd established a good efficiency base. I did this in part with sets similar to the one Suzanne describes.

The point of such a set is threefold:
1) To do a task that requires your full attention on every length
2) To develop a level of control that allows you to finely calibrate your stroke length. Suzanne intended to add exactly 4 strokes per/100. She was able to do exactly that with great consistency. That reflects highly developed motor skill.
3) To convert that increased SPL into increased speed not just increased turnover.

Here's an excerpt from my book, Outside the Box: A Program for Success in Open Water which describes the rationale and benefits of such a set:

>>I now have a consistent range of stroke counts for both 25-yard and 50-meter pools. In a 25-yard pool, my range is from 12 to 15, and occasionally 16 SPL. In 50 meters, itís 33 to 41 SPL. I think of these stroke counts as 'gears' similar to those on a bicycle or car.
12 to 13 SPL is 1st gear;
13 to 14 is 2nd gear;
14 to 15 is 3rd gear; and
15 to 16 SPL is 4th gear.

Many years of practice have given me the ability to (1) calibrate my stroke to swim at any count in my range, (2) change gears with nearly as much ease as a cyclist, and (3) even to 'play' them like a pianist plays scales.

After hundreds of hours of practice, each count has a different feel, which I sense mainly through how Patient I am in making the catch and beginning the stroke. Slow it down slightly and my SPL goes down (stroke lengthens); make the catch more briskly and Iíll add strokes. So 14 SPL has a subtly, yet distinctively, different feel than 15 SPL. [NOTE: Suzanne made her adjustment by changing the speed of her recovery; I've used the same approach at times. The key point is we both have a strategy for adjusting Stroke Length and Tempo -- and it's one we can apply in open water.]

I also know what pace each will produce and how taxing it will be to swim with each. When I move from the pool to open water, though I no longer have walls to tell me Iíve completed 25 yards, I can still choose to swim with my ď13 SPL feelĒ at some points and my ď14 SPL feelĒ at others. And Iíve honed my sense of stroke rate in relative ways, with Speedplay practice (see Chapter 11), and in exact ways, by using the Tempo Trainer (Chapter 12).

The most valuable takeaway is that this math of speed provides an absolute certainty and predictability that no other approach to swimming faster (more effort, more yards, more anything) can match. Each time you improve your combination of SL and SR you WILL swim faster. Once you shift from the Try Harder approach to systematically trading tiny gains in length and rate, the pace clock, and even your effort level, become almost irrelevant."

AWP 05-29-2010 01:09 PM

OK, so I gave it a test run yesterday and had fun with it. I wasn't sure I'd be able to change my length on each length (and 'couldn't' on some) but was surprised that in fact I could 'time' that extra stroke in! It wasn't perfect but now that I know better what my intentions will be I'll experiment further.
I didn't remember exactly what Suzanne's set was, but had the gist of it. Instead of continuing to up the SC on each successive 100 I tried to keep it the same on each repeat (ie 13-14-15-16) and see, by marking my times, if there would be any change.

After a set of 3x500 stroke play, here's how it played out.
#1- spl 13, 14, 15, 16 1:30
#2- spl 13, 14, 15, 15 1:29
#3- spl 13, 14, 14, 15 1:28
#4- spl 13, 14, 15, 15 1:27
#5- spl 13, 14, 15, 16 1:27
#6 spl 13, 14, 15, 16 1:26

I found it difficult to make 16 initially and although I put down 16spl it was more like 15.5. By repeat #6 I was better able to smoothly add the 16th stroke. Likewise, on a couple of other lengths I didn't quite make the gear change I wanted to. Although it produced a better time, the control is what I was after. On #5 I forced the 16 and the time remained the same, but when I successfully changed gears smoothly I was able to save an additional second, cool.
This was interesting so I continued. This time, after breathing bilaterally on those repeats, I would see what changes if any would occur if I breathed solely to one side. So on #7 I breathed only to the right and on #8 only to the left. Not quite sure I gained any big insight on this first go, but will have to see why there was a difference with more repeats this way(?)

#7- spl 13, 14, 15, 16 1:27
#8- spl 13, 14, 15, 16 1:26

Ok now I thought I'd reverse to process (what the heck) trying to begin with 16spl and end with 13spl. The first repeat was tricky and after the second felt that after perhaps several this way I'd be able to hone in on my gears in reverse as well, really cool! It was still difficult to begin at 16 and even finish at 13. I didn't allow myself to take an extra stroke on the third and fourth lengths of each repeat although I could quite easily have done so. I had to stretch out on #10, comfortably though, and glide just a tad to the wall.

#9- spl 16, 15, 14, 13 1:30
#10-spl 16, 15, 14, 13 1:27

Thanks for another good one guys.

CoachSuzanne 05-30-2010 01:24 AM

AWP, you make me happy. :)

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