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Old 02-24-2011
Thatchman Thatchman is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 13
Default Can I be just naturally slow


I have made a few posts but allow me to introduce myself and give you a little of my swimming background.

I am 45 and living in SA.
Never did swimming as a sport in the past but as with most ignorant people I thought that i knew how to swim freestyle.
I am 6 foot and 72kg - ie slim build.
About 18 months ago I decided to give triathlon a go and entered a sprint event. Started swim training in a 25m pool. Was exhausted after 2 laps. completed the 600m sprint swim in 23 minutes.

After 12 months of training I had 3 sprint events and one Olympic (1500m swim in 51 mins) under my belt and I had come to the realisation that my swimming was going nowhere fast. Unlike with the run and bike, more time in training was not converting into improved performance.

In August last year I joined a Tri coach who is also a TI instructor and I have made really good progress.

In the last 6 months I have dome various 1500m OW swims in Olympic distance Tri's (about 35 min ave). Two half IM swims in 44 and 45 mins and two weeks ago I completed a 2 mile OW swim in 1h15.

My coach is very good but pushes us to go for more speed with more kicking and harder pulling. We do not learn to 2BK.

Whilst I can swim long distances and still feel fresh getting out of the water to cycle, I am the slowest swimmer in the training group.

My big question is am I still very inefficient with too much drag and incorrect timing or is it possible that one can just be a slow swimmer.

I have never measured my 25m swim times or SPL and stroke rate but will do so.

I also do not have a recent video. I have one of 3 months ago. I will try to post it but I hope that my stroke has improved since then.

I have been focusing on my stroke timing and rotation to achieve propulsion.
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Old 02-24-2011
Thatchman Thatchman is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 13

Ok, went for a swim. My SPL is about 25 or 26 over 25m in 30 to 32 seconds which converts to a stroke rate of about 1.3

Can the clever people help here. Seems to me that there is a lot of inefficiency?
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Old 02-24-2011
Lawrence Lawrence is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: London, UK
Posts: 804

I am an inch taller than you and about a kilo heavier, but tend to do 25m in 15 strokes.

On that basis I would say it isn't your body that explains the relatively high stroke count.

But without a video it's hard to say more.
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Old 02-24-2011
CoachEricDeSanto CoachEricDeSanto is offline
TI Coach
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 384

I agree with Lawerence that you have room for improvement based on technique. You can be naturally slow, but that is different from your situation. I for example, consider myself naturally slow, because if I let myself just swim to enjoy swimming, I end up with a stroke rate of around 1.8. I feel good that slow. I can speed up for races, but I wouldn't if i didn't love competing. When I swim that slow, I still swim about 16 strokes per 25m. So my slowness does not come from major technique problems.

If you are swimming 25+ strokes for a 25, you have some resistance and/or catch issues. Focus on feeling resistance. Do you feel water hitting your legs? Do you feel resistance as you spear your arm? Do you feel water hitting your face? If so, eliminate that feeling. One of my favorite drills for this is to swim and kick fast with fins. At that fast speed, you feel resistance very strongly. Do 25 with fins, then think about where you felt resistance, then do 5-10 x 25s working to eliminate the resistance you feel.

Also, 1.3 is on the slow side for racing. I DO NOT think you should worry about this yet. But once you get your count and effort down, then you can start upping the tempo a little bit.
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Old 02-25-2011
dylan20 dylan20 is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 7
Default Feel like I have the same issue

Hey, I'm glad you posted this as I have had similar suspicions myself.

I've been working on swimming more efficiently using TI techniques and drills for about 6 months. The good news is I can now swim about half a mile without stopping, and I feel pretty comfortable and relaxed the entire time.

The bad news is that it takes me about 20-30 minutes to swim that half mile. I am a bit discouraged that I'm so slow I may never reach a speed that will let me even complete a competitive swim within the allotted time, let alone finish competitively.

Any suggestions on how to work on this?
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Old 02-25-2011
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
terry has disabled reputation

Originally Posted by Thatchman View Post
In August last year I joined a Tri coach who is also a TI instructor and I have made really good progress.

My coach is very good but pushes us to go for more speed with more kicking and harder pulling. We do not learn to 2BK.
Welcome to the Forum. I can vouch that seeking input here will be helpful, first in clarifying the most opportune path to pursue and second in giving psychic support.

First I have to say I think your tri coach's claims to be a TI instructor are highly suspect. No true TI coach would have you doing more kicking and harder pulling. Both are utterly and irreconcilably in conflict with a core belief of ours. Freestyle -- especially for open water and triathlon swimming -- should be developed and practiced as a hip-driven, water-piercing, body-streamlining activity.

Practicing freestyle as an arm-and-leg churning, power-dependent activity is virtually guaranteed to limit your chances of improvement and success.

More kicking and harder pulling is an example of the dis-integrating, fatigue-producing, efficiency-killing paradigm I call "Arms Dept/Leg Dept" swimming.

I'll ask Georgie Thomas, our chief coach in SA, to investigate this imposter.

Now, as to your question "Am I just naturally slow?"
I asked myself the same question for many years when everyone else was faster and no amount of hard work on my part seemed to change my status as a slow swimmer. That was 40 years ago when I swam for university.

Now I understand that a couple of pretty straightforward equations govern one's speed.
1) To move forward in the water, the propulsive force you generate must exceed the resistive force of the water. To move faster, you need to increase that gap. If you increase the gap by reducing resistance (Streamlining), your speed gain will be sustainable. If you increase the gap by increasing power (your pulling and kicking sets) your speed gain will be unsustainable.

2) Velocity = Stroke Length x Stroke Rate. To swim faster, you need to improve the "math" of speed. Count your strokes. Hold your SPL while incrementally increasing tempo.

Once I understood those rules and principles - and that there's no such thing as 'naturally slow' I achieved my true potential. That led to breaking two national Masters records on three occasions (in the 1-mile and 2-mile cable swims open water) since age 55.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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Old 02-25-2011
Georgina Georgina is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: May 2008
Location: South Africa
Posts: 6

Hi Thatchman

Please can you drop me an email to and give me the details of your coach who is posing as a TI coach.

I am the chief coach here in South Africa and am very concerned about the information you have been given under the name of Total Immersion.


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Old 02-25-2011
Thatchman Thatchman is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 13

Hi all

Thanks for the responses and comments.

Firstly let me please just clear up the issue of my coach and I will phone Georgie to clarify. I think that I have made the mistake referring to him as a TI coach which I should not have. He has never made that claim. He is a registered swim coach in SA and works for a swim school here run by a registered TI coach and thats where my connection comes from so I apologise for that.

The comments that have been posted regarding my problem confirm the thinking that I have technique issues which create drag. Solving these need to be my focus rather than trying to increase speed by more effort in pulling and kicking.

My goal is not to be fast. As a triathlete who competes for fun and exercise rather than to win, my goal is to be able to swim in such a way that I still feel good when I exit the water. I therefore want to improve my efficiency which should reduce drag and have the added benefit of increased speed.

I feel balanced in the water but do not thing that I am streamlined when I swim. My legs are not always streamlined behind my body and I have not perfected the timing of the rotation with a good catch position - hence no real feeling of propulsion in the stroke.

I know its impossible to really comment without a video so will work on getting one.

Once again thanks for the interest and comments. Love this site
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