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  #1  
Old 04-09-2018
John@NewPaltz
 
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Default 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?
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  #2  
Old 04-09-2018
IngeA IngeA is offline
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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)

Last edited by IngeA : 04-09-2018 at 04:10 PM.
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  #3  
Old 04-09-2018
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CoachStuartMcDougal CoachStuartMcDougal is offline
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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
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  #4  
Old 04-10-2018
CoachBobM CoachBobM is offline
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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
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  #5  
Old 04-10-2018
John@NewPaltz
 
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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).
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  #6  
Old 04-10-2018
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CoachStuartMcDougal CoachStuartMcDougal is offline
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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
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  #7  
Old 04-27-2018
Tom Pamperin Tom Pamperin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John@NewPaltz View Post
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.
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