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Old 08-23-2012
CoachDavidShen CoachDavidShen is offline
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 604

Originally Posted by tony0000 View Post
Thanks for your response. Am I correct that you recommend working toward a faster tempo so that when I breathe bilaterally, my breaths are not so far apart?
I am not recommending you swim at faster tempo specifically for that result. Swimming at faster tempos while maintaining form and efficiency is a goal you should be challenging yourself with while trying to improve swimming. You may find that faster tempos may increase your metabolic requirements and then make you need to breathe more than every 3rd stroke. But as fitness, skill, nervous system adaptation and ability to relax increases, i think you will find that you may be able to maintain a breath every 3rd stroke given time.

As an example, I generally swim breathing every 4th stroke and try to maintain that at tempos less than 1 sec. It is an interesting combination of factors that enable to maintain that over long distances - Often I can maintain it for many lengths, and then I have to sneak an extra breath or two in there before going back to every 4. But it is a challenge to my swimming to be able to do that and so I practice it.

The reason I do it is because I can maintain better form that way as breathing interrupts my form and efficiency. HOWEVER, having said that, I sometimes practice maintaining efficiency while breathing more (ie. every 2nd stroke) - i have not mastered similar efficiency between the two yet, but this is yet another challenge in swimming improvement. This is something that Terry has advocated in the past because often in OW races, we do our best to remain calm but it is hard when there are other people out there thrashing in the water and then there are waves sloshing you around too. To be calm enough out there and breathe every 4th stroke is tough!

Originally Posted by tony0000 View Post
I have to admit that I had assumed that using TI entailed a relatively low stroke tempo. This assumption was based on watching such videos as the iconic Shinji video (Stroke/2.3s).
We demonstrate our skill at maintaining balance and streamline by training at really slow tempos. Someone in the forums once asked Shinji what his tempo was in one of his videos and he said 1.6s - not sure what the 2.3s video but I doubt it was really that - if you have ever tried to swim at even 2s tempo, you would agree that it is really hard.

But no TI is not exclusively all about swimming at slow tempos. Just because a lot of us train at slow tempos for a particular purpose in fine tuning our stroke doesn't mean that TI is about slow tempos at all. Certainly slow tempos may be experienced by those with less fitness, or those whose goals are not to be the next OW or masters champion.

Slow tempo swimming REALLY challenges your balance, focus, and control. Messy habits that are hidden in faster tempo situations are accentuated in slow tempo situations. So take some workouts and swim REALLY SLOW and you'll see what I mean.

Originally Posted by tony0000 View Post
It was also based on the idea that the potential advantage from low drag achieved by TI is only realized through a glide phase during arm recovery; a high tempo reduces the distinctive glide phase of TI. Am I mistaken?
There is always a glide phase in swimming. This is when your stroking arm has finished its stroke and has exitted the water and recovering forward.

Low drag is not only during the glide phase - we train to minimize drag through the entire stroke not just in one phase. This is our balance (to stop discomfort and butt dragging) and streamline (create a sleek, straight vessel that doesn't fishtail around) training.

A high tempo will reduce the total time you stay in the glide/recovery phase. But your goal is to see how much acceleration you can achieve before this phase, such that your velocity during this phase is maximal at any tempo - and then drag reduction means you decelerate less while you recover.

Originally Posted by tony0000 View Post
Does it make sense to be swimming TI at, say, stroke/1sec?
Of course - once adaptation occurs at any tempo, you will find that you can still execute the complete form elements of swimming - everything just moves faster. This is why we practice gradually increasing our tempo, backing off, then reapproaching our target tempos with varying increments as well as rest intervals and lengths to slowly allow our bodies and nervous system to adapt.

For example, even at fast tempos, you will perceive a moment in time when you are gliding during arm recovery. Time can slow in your perception when you have adapted to a fast tempo - I often can feel that I am executing each part of the TI stroke completely and feel like I have all the time in the world to complete them, even at <1.0s. I think if you practice this, you will experience these moments where <1.0s feel very relaxed in your body and brain but to an outside observer, they are seeing you move REALLY fast.

Originally Posted by tony0000 View Post
Is this what more advanced TI swimmers do? (Are there any videos I can watch?)
I think the model swimmer for us is Sun Yang. Check him out here in this Youtube video. He must be swimming at <.7s tempo (most Olympians are there) but his stroke efficiency is unreal. Read Terry's blog post about Sun Yang here.

Originally Posted by tony0000 View Post
Or do they generally manage to breathe bilaterally at a slower tempo? Another way of asking this is: About what is the stroke tempo (or tempo range) for a good TI swimmer swimming a long distance breathing bilaterally?
I have never met someone who said you had to breathe every stroke or bilateral for every 3rd, or like me who breathes every 4th. Everybody is different and their fitness and skill levels are different. Even the swim length can dictate breathing pattern - for a 100m sprint, maybe you'd want to breathe every 2nd stroke. for a 50m sprint, maybe you should try not breathing at all! If you look carefully at Sun Yang's video, you'll see in his turn at the wall, he breathes every stroke for 3 strokes as he comes off the wall to get more air in. Imagine the control it takes to breathe one side and then the other side, and then back for another breath! Amazing!!

As for what tempo you should target - people ask that all the time. I do not think you can say there is a tempo target for anyone. Everybody is different; different skill, different fitness levels, different goals. I used to think cruising was at 1.3s. But over time, I began working at faster tempos because I wanted to improve my skill at maintaining efficiency at those tempos. Now I feel 1.2s is too slow and cruising happens at 1.15s. Things change all the time as you train and improve. So cruising for me may not be cruising for you. Suffice to say, find the tempo that you can maintain for a mile or so, that you can maintain consistent, perfect form the whole time, and that is your current cruise tempo. Test for it by getting a TT and swimming long distances at various tempos and seeing what the result is.

It is my belief that you are only as good as what you train for and if you want to breathe bilaterally for a 2.4 mile ironman swim, I am sure you could train to make that happen at any tempo you train for.
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