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Old 09-03-2013
Nickyb Nickyb is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 18
Default New Tempo Trainer User

Can I please have some simple advice on how to start off with a tempo trainer with the aim of increasing my speed...?

I know there is ALOT of information about tempo trainers in forums and I've found some good blogs etc but I have found I now have information overload. I have read 'One Tool and Five Steps to Improve Your Swimming' and found some useful tips in there (thank you Terry).

Many of the ideas though are from people who seem to have swum forever (compared to me anyway) and understand, the sometimes, complex terminology used, or are faster than I am so it doesn't seem relevant (although I may be incorrect in this summation).

I've been swimming about 8 months and am self taught using 'The Revolutionary...', and reading and viewing what I can on-line. I've always loved water and spent most of my teenage years at the beach but swimming then was diving through surf, body surfing and jumping off high and dangerous places! A different prospect than the now 40 year old who is lap swimming for health and enjoyment.

I swim usually 3 times a week for about 45 minutes in a 25m pool. I have worked up from about 100m stop-start repeats at about 2.20 to being able to swim 2km in one hit in this time. I'm currently about 2.00 per 100m and my fastest 2km is 42.09. My SPL are 22. I am 164cm tall.

Any simple 'where to start' ideas appreciated for maximising the effects of this highly recommended tool.
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Old 09-03-2013
Ron Bear Ron Bear is offline
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 76
Ron Bear

Your 2km speed is really good relative to your 100m speed (2:06 vs. 2:00). So if I were you, I would work on speed for the 100m for a while. I would proceed differently if 2km is what I was really all about, so write back if that is what you really want.

The big deal about the tempo trainer is that after you basically learn to swim pretty efficiently at low speeds, the tempo trainer helps to train your nervous system to maintain that efficiency at progressively higher tempos (and therefore faster speeds). So since you told us SPL is 22 (in a 25 meter pool?) I am thinking your current tempo is roughly 120/88 (2 minutes is 120 seconds, 4 x 25m = 100m so 4 x 22 = 88) = 1.36. So first off fool around in the 1.3 to 1.4 zone and see if you can mimic your current 2:00 22spl while adhering to a set speed on the beeper. Once you have quantified what you are currently doing, then it will be time to start speeding up. So for argument’s sake let's say you currently always swim at 1.32. Odds are you would feel uncoordinated at 1.2 and darn near panicky at 1.0. You might think your goal is to swim 22 spl at 1.2 and eventually 1.0. That is not correct. Your goal is that your SPL slips in a graceful manner. When I go from 1.3 to 1.0 my spl goes up (gets worse) by 10 percent, but since my tempo has gone up by 30 percent I am still getting a good (20 percent) speed increase. That is what you want. How to get there? In a nutshell, practice the fastest speed where you don't fall apart. So if you are swimming 1.32= 22 spl then you are allowed to slip to 23 spl at 1.16 and slip to 24 at 1.0. If you can already do that then you can already swim a 100m @ 1:36, but that is not what you report. So this is what I suspect; as you lower the tempo trainer 1.32, 1.28, 1.24, 1.20 you see 22, 22, 23, and 26. You see what I did? At 22, 23 you are still holding your efficiency. At 26 your efficiency is so bad that your speed actually went down even though you are trying harder. The numbers are fictional, but you really will have a non-graceful raise in your spl at some tempo. The fiction is that I made up the tempo instead of you finding it experimentally. But you can now see HOW the tempo trainer lets you find it experimentally. So find it, note it, and mostly stay away from it. In my example you will swim a lot at 1.24 (still pretty close to 22 spl). After a few weeks try the 1.2 again and if it is now 23, start training at that speed and see what happens at 1.16 and 1.12.

The power of the tempo trainer is that it lets you quantify your faster workout, but also know where your form breaks down and avoid practicing with crummy form.
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Old 09-04-2013
Nickyb Nickyb is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 18
Default Wow...

Thanks so much for your comprehensive advice Ron Bear.

I was definitely on the wrong track with where to start and now know exactly what to do.

Yes, as noted my 2km speed and 100m speed are quite close - I only really seem to have one speed at the moment and that's cruising!

Hopefully postage from the States isn't too long as I now can't wait to get in the pool and begin experimenting with my new toy.

Thanks again for your great advice - it is much appreciated.
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Old 09-05-2013
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
terry has disabled reputation
Default Set TT and Count Strokes

Ron Bear has given you some great guidance, particularly in showing how to analyze your current time to draw out your likely tempo. He suggests you explore your capabilities in the range between 1.3 and 1.4. That's really sound advice. My recommendation would be to focus more on what SPL results when you swim at
1. Various Tempos between 1.3 and 1.4 and
2. Various Distances between, say, 50 and 200m

View these as a pure data gathering exercise. But it won't only be that.

If, for instance, you swim 100m at a tempo of 1.36 and find you maintain a pretty consistent SPL, you could then experiment to find out what improves your SPL to 22 or even 21.

Doyou save a stroke if you hold Tempo at 1.36, but reduce repeat distance to 75 or 50m
Do you save a stroke if you hold repeat distance at 100m, but reduce tempo to, say 1.40?

Vary both distance and Tempo to learn what combinations allow you to maintain, say, 21 SPL for incrementally longer continuous swims. As you find that easier to do, you could increase tempo by a small bit while keeping distance constant and test your ability to still hold 21. Or increase tempo by a slightly larger delta, whole reducing distance and see if you can still hold 21.

This can be endlessly interesting. I did it for an hour this afternoon at my local 25m outdoor pool, which closed for the season as I completed my practice. You can read my account of that practice here, as an example of exploring metrics of SPL, Tempo and Repeat Distance.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 09-05-2013 at 01:57 AM.
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Old 09-05-2013
Nickyb Nickyb is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 18
Default Thanks

Thank you Terry for your advice.

Isn't it funny how many people ask, "Don't you get bored when you're swimming lap after lap?" I find I have some much to think about and concentrate on I just wish I wasn't time restricted so much! And the TT is certainly going to add to these thoughts.

It's interesting reading your posts on pool practices using your TT and the insight you attain through its use - thanks again for the advice and for making swimming, for many people, not only a fulfilling exercise for the body but also for the mind.
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Old 09-20-2013
Nickyb Nickyb is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 18
Default I got it!

My tempo trainer arrived and I had a chance to use my new toy this afternoon.

Started off at 1.34 (thanks for your advice Ron Bear) but found this tempo really slow. I felt a little unbalanced at this speed so that's something I know I need to work on already. I then played around between this speed and 1.30 for a warm up. SPL at this tempo was 20 or 21 (which is as good as it gets for me at the moment).

I wanted to do a timed 400 and 100 so then played around in the 1.2 -1.3 region. Timed 400m at 1.25 and that felt ok until last 25m went SPL went from 23-24 to 26. I timed my 100 at 1.2 and that felt fast with SPL at 24.
My intention is to practise more at these tempos to get more used to these speeds - would that be a good place a good place to start?

The fastest I tried was 1.16 today and there were certainly a few bubbles generated at that tempo and no chance for a patient lead hand at all.

Thanks for your advice Ron Bear and Terry on where to start. I loved the added focus my new toy generated. For a Friday afternoon swim after a long week's work (and the pressure of the America's Cup in San Fransisco to watch - a great battle between NZ and the US!) I was surprised to read on my watch that I'd swum 2200m and been in the pool for 51 mins! I look forward to playing around some more...
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