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Old 01-10-2012
dshen dshen is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Posts: 200
Default A Proposal for Alternate Definition of 'Threshold' for TIers

hey all,

i just got my Aquapulse and have been playing with HR as it relates to swimming. In other threads, forum visitors have asked about lactate thresholds in HR training as it relates to swimming. However, in my small experiments with swimming, I have found another threshold which is more valuable.

the threshold that i might normally set as a training marker in running or cycling can be based on and definitely related to HR. i moved quickly from HR threshold to effort levels of Perceived Exertion. I could use these more readily in running and cycling, especially in interval training.

however, when i started TI, i began noticing that i rarely hit any kind of max HR where i could only sustain that level of effort for a short time or distance. i found it more valuable to use another metric for threshold setting and that was the threshold at which my form broke down. i find that i reach this threshold far before my HR reaches any kind of unsustainable effort level.

so as a proposal for an alternate threshold to be used for TI swimming, I wanted to say that perhaps using efficiency threshold as a training marker would be a good idea.

to set your training efficiency threshold, you would, through experimentation, use the TT to keep increasing the tempo until your form reaches its upper limit of sustainability, ie. only can keep it for 25y and it starts to noticeably break down after that distance. then you have a threshold tempo to work in and around with your focal points, slowly increasing distance and playing with the tempo to readjust your nervous system around.

from a data standpoint, i believe that you should be able to determine this by graphing your time and SPL over a set distance against tempo and the moment your time stops decreasing, and/or your SPL jumps, that is your tempo threshold.

unlike HR thresholds which tend to be very static and can move maybe a little bit through increases in fitness, efficiency thresholds can move a lot as your skills increase.

i have found now that i have plateaued in my efficiency threshold where my gains are now a lot harder and a lot smaller. at around 1.04 tempo is where i start to lose my form and my speed is hard to maintain over longer distances. it is a maddening but challenging place to be, where i find that increasing the tempo from there can actually make me slower or not change speed at all! but it was much easier moving my efficiency threshold from slower tempos and then as i approached 1.04, it got a lot harder.

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Old 01-14-2012
andyinnorway andyinnorway is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,680

I am enjoying Aquapulse experiments too, but have to have my headphones at least plugged into my ears to hear the monitor, I guess its the bone conduction technology they talk about.

I was stuck on similar tempos 1.0-1.05 for a while too. Its just about isolating the bottle neck in the stroke cycle.

I found reducing rotation and leaving my head down longer on the breathing side of the stroke made a big difference.

Can you hold 0.95 for 8 strokes if you do not breathe? If so, then you know its something to do with rotating to breath that is the cause. I still have problems with this as when I do a hold SPL set and increase SR for a set number of 25¨s and start to reach my limit, I do a length where I miss a couple of breaths and swim 4 strokes then I hit my SPL again.

Alternatively it could be that you are waiting a fraction too long to initiate the catch, it all gets a lot more continuous around the 1.0 tempo marker.

I am going to swim to my SR limit today as I have not done that in a few weeks.
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Old 01-23-2012
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 2,453

Dave, I like to think of having different sets of SR/SPL combos for my PBs depending on the distance I am swimming. For example, my ideal SR for my 100yd PB is much faster than my 500 yd PB. Likewise my SPL for my 100yd PB is much higher than my SPL for my 500yd PB. yet in both, I swim right up to that edge that you talk about where form breaks down.

In the 100, it's a tempo issue where if I stroke faster I can't sustain it for 100yds. For the 500, that tempo is slower, but I pay attention more to keepign my SPL in a tight range.

I hate to use the term "threshold" for this, however because it adds ambiguity to an already ambiguous term in endurance training.

Much like the term "Critical Power". A physiologist named Monod uses the term Critical Power to describe the slope of a line that connects two max tests on different days, one a short test of less than 5 minutes (3 is a good number) and the other a long test of 20 minutes or more. This slope approximates ones functional threshold, and is the definition that most people use when discussing critical power

Friel however introduced another concept for critical power that is high confusing and makes it difficult to discuss real physiology with those whose introduction & background in endurance training is the Training Bible series.

So...I liek your concepts, but lets think of a different or new name for the idea!
Suzanne Atkinson, MD
Level 3 USAT Coach
USA Paralympic Triathlon Coach
Coach of 5 time USA Triathlon Triathlete of the Year, Kirsten Sass
Steel City Endurance, LTD
Fresh Freestyle

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Old 01-24-2012
ian mac ian mac is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 194
ian mac
Default Coining a new acronym? MCP!

Coach Suzanne,
Although the nomenclature is less important to me than the actual doing, how about calling it Maximum Controlled Pace (MCP)? I absolutely agree that one's SR and SPL are completely different for different distances.

One only has to take the analysis cited by several TI bloggers done by USC Coach David Salo of the US 2000 Olympic trials to see that the SR of the 50m freestyle finalists is almost 1.5 times higher than in the 1500m freestyle.

For those who want to swim their best/fastest, a great deal of practice playing around with SPL, SR and pace time are required. One should look at Terry's original post in the forum "Formula for a faster 1500/1650, to get some great ideas on how to do just that.

So, Maximum Controlled Pace( MCP ) is exactly the combination of most efficient stroke length (SPL) at the highest stroke rate (SR) for a desired pace time without losing form. Easy, huh?
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Old 01-24-2012
terry terry is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2008
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The effort to arrive at both an understanding of how SPL and SR will vary at different distances, and a common language to describe it, is admirable. Here's something I wrote while at Maho last week which I haven't published yet, which may introduce a different spin.

MNF – Maximal Neural Function
In the 1980s and 90s when Mark Allen was engaging in legendary Ironman duels with Dave Scott and was widely considered the world’s best endurance athlete he trained with a method called MAF, Maximal Aerobic Function which is still popular among endurance athletes today. In MAF training, you begin each season or training cycle--following a period of R&R--by using a HR monitor to carefully limit HR. In basic form, you train with HR no higher than 65% of max HR for weeks. E.G. If your max HR is 200bpm (about 20-30 yrs of age) you’d stay below 130; if it’s 180 (40-50 yrs.) you’d never exceed 117.
During that period your goal is to gradually shave the time it takes you to run various distances—whether a 10-mile run on a particular course, or a series of 8 x 400 on the track—at that slower HR. Improvement might be brisk initially, then slow and finally stop--over a period of weeks or months. When you go several workouts or a week with no further gains in performance, you reset the top-limit alarm on your HR monitor to, say, 70% of max and repeat the process.
The object of MAF training is to raise your aerobic system’s capacity to deliver oxygen and fuel to your muscles. As you gradually run farther and faster—without allowing more heartbeats--you make the heart do more with less—pump a larger volume of oxygenated blood with each contraction. Only when your heart had maximized its pumping capacity at the slower rate would you allow it to pump a little faster
MAF has proven highly effective in endurance running and cycling, because aerobic capacity determines 70% or more of performance. But in endurance swimming, aerobic capacity determines only 10% (in inefficient swimmers) to 30% (in highly efficient swimmers) of performance. The most important factor is efficiency. Physiological efficiency is measured by how effectively you convert heartbeats into speed. Movement efficiency is determined by how effectively you convert strokes into speed.
The mathematical formula for speed is V=SL x SR — Velocity = Stroke Length x Stroke Rate. Thus the most practical measure for movement efficiency in swimming is What Stroke Length you can achieve at any Stroke Rate. For endurance swimming Maximal Neural Efficiency—how well you train your nervous system—is the foundation for performance. Where a HR monitor is the essential tool for MAF training, in MNF training it’s the Tempo Trainer.
Competitive swimmers (and tri-swimmers) can follow virtually the same season-building guidelines in MNF training as in MAF training. I.E. Begin a new training cycle limiting to 65% to 70% of max SR. My top SR for races of 1 to 3 miles is about 66 strokes/min., or .9 sec/stroke. My SR at 65% of max is 43 strokes/min. or a tempo of 1.4; at 70% it’s 46 strokes/min. or a tempo of 1.3.
Swim your usual practice sets at very moderate tempo. Remember or record the range of times you swim. Stay mostly within that tempo range (it’s a good idea to finish practice with a short, brisk set at a tempo perhaps 10 percent or more above your current range). Like MAF, you’ll probably find that improvement is steady, perhaps impressive, at first, then gradually slows and stops. When a week passes with no further improvement, reset tempo 10 percent higher and begin again.
If you’re a new swimmer and just embarking improvement-oriented training as , your starting tempo for the MNF approach should be slower--probably between 1.5 and 1.6.
How will you get faster? With tempo set at 1.4, if you save 1 stroke over 100-yards – a very modest improvement--you swim 1.4 sec. faster. If you save 2 strokes, you swim almost 3 seconds faster. The best part of MNF training isn’t what it teaches your muscles and nervous system; it’s the strategic thinking you learn.
To save a stroke, you must travel a bit farther on each stroke. There are two ways to do this: (1) stronger pull and kick (without creating turbulence); or (2) reduce drag and ‘keep molecules still’ as you press back with your hand. The former requires you to work harder; the latter allows you to work easier. When you pull and kick harder you might save a stroke or two for your first 100, then give back those gains as you swim farther. When you focus on swimming more quietly and stroking with more care, you can maintain that lower count for lap after lap after lap.
The more you swim with clear and present consciousness that saving strokes saves time--and greater care, not more effort, saves strokes--the more that way of thinking gets 'hardwired' into your brain, along with more efficient strokes. And during your next race, you’ll both swim and think differently.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 01-24-2012 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 01-24-2012
terry terry is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
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I think I'll repost MNF in it's own thread.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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