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Old 04-02-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default Stroke Calibration to improve efficiency and speed

On the Favorite Practices and Sets conference I posted a freestyle practice using Tempo Trainer and stroke calibration sets that has improved the efficiency of virtually every swimmer who has done it. And in only one hour. This certainly seems a worthwhile way to spend an hour.

Alan Perez tried the practice and showed significant and objective (i.e. measurable) improvement in his efficiency and speed.

At the end of his post he noted that he was now eager to try it in different strokes. I've done that and here's what has happened with my swimming.

On March 13 at the NYS Masters Championship I swam 200-yd Breast in 3:18. I felt I had the potential to swim the event much better. My sense of rhythm and timing felt erratic. I felt a bit rushed from the beginning and never found a flow.

In my next practice something I'd done regularly in 2006 when I swam the same event in 2:58 -- 20 seconds faster than my current time, and only 2 seconds off the time I'd swum 12 years before that, in 1994. How had I lost only 2 seconds between 1994 and 2006, but 20 seconds between 2006 and 2011?

One possible reason is I'd stopped doing "Gears" practice in Breaststroke sets.

When I do Gears practice, I choose a range of 4 stroke counts. Right now it's 6-7-8-9 SPL (counting only surface strokes, not the underwater pulldown). 10 or 20 years ago it might have been one stroke lower.

I swim 25 or 50-yd repeats at each of those counts, trying to improve
1) How accurately I calibrate length and timing on each. Calibrating at a high level means that when I aim to swim a length in 7 strokes, I can strike the wall strongly at the other end in that precise count with no need to either extend my glide or speed-stroke as I approach the wall.
2) Gradually improve the paces I can achieve at each count. My 6-stroke max pace is likely to be slower than my 7-stroke pace, but I've found that when I improve my 6-stroke pace, I automatically swim faster at every count above it too.
3) How smoothly I can adjust length and timing to transition seamlessly from one count to the next.

I did only a few brief sets of Stroke Calibration and Adjustment over the next two weeks, but by the end of each felt as if I'd reconnected with an old friend. My stroke felt far better tuned than it had in years.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding. On Mar 27, two weeks after swimming 3:18 I mounted the blocks for my first race in the 60-64 age group - 200 Breast. I felt noticeably, but not entirely, more in control.

Final time: 3:13. Seeing that much progress after probably less than 20 minutes of adjusted practice in two weeks was sufficiently encouraging that I've set my next goal. In the next two weeks I'll focus on this even more. On Apr 16 I'll swim 200 Breast again in the Colonies Zone Masters championship in Fairfax VA. I'll be aiming for the Adirondack Masters 60-64 record of 3:07.70. I'll let you know how I do.

If I can notch that record, then I'll set my sights on that time of 2:56 from 1994. Who wouldn't get excited about turning back the clock 17 years?

PS: Here's the Gears set I did as my final set in yesterday's practice

2 Rounds of [3 x 50 Breast on 1:10] Each round was
#1 6+7 strokes
#2 7+8 strokes
#3 8+9 strokes

In Round 1, I focused only on feeling a "seal-like streamline" on the underwater glide between strokes. My times were:
51 sec @6+7
49 sec @7+8
48 sec @8+9
In Round 2, I kept the streamline focus and added a focus on "catlike quickness" during the non-streamlined part of each stroke. This added focus improved my times to:
49 sec @6+7
47 sec @7+8
45 sec @8+9
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Old 04-03-2011
AWP AWP is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terry View Post
PS: Here's the Gears set I did as my final set in yesterday's practice

2 Rounds of [3 x 50 Breast on 1:10] Each round was
#1 6+7 strokes
#2 7+8 strokes
#3 8+9 strokes...

I played with this focus today and found myself quickly consumed and turned a somewhat planned one hour practice into a 90 minute one!

I did multiple rounds of 10 x 25yds, beginning with 6spl and up to 10spl.
6spl... :29
7spl... :28
8spl... :27
9spl... :26
I had a bit of a time trying to get in 10spl but figured out the timing and shortened my time in streamline before the pull down on the breakout. Regardless, I couldn't quite break :26 but did get a glimpse of :25.
For me this was an incredible improvement considering I previously had trouble breaking :28. With this focused process it was actually easy. The next puzzle will be to make it even easier and sustainable for multiple lengths, but I sense the capacity to do so.
I say multiple instead of a set # of repeats because I really didn't know how many I'd do. I would keep going so long as there was improved feel and time. When I got stuck on a time/spl I would move down a spl or two and climb the spl ladder again until I felt good about a saved stroke/time, then continue.
I then reversed the process, starting with 10spl and worked down the ladder seeking 'signs' of improved feel and competency.
I caught my glimpse of :25 on a round that saw a saved second for a three spl range
6spl... :28
7spl... :27
8spl... :26
9spl... :26
9+spl... :26 (glimpse of :25)
10spl... :26 (glimpse of :25)

... to be continued.

I then took my attention to freestyle and multiple rounds of the ever popular 1.6 > 2.00 tempo range.
I managed 13spl >+9spl on the first round and 12spl > 9spl on the last (hitting +8spl on two lengths @ 2.00 I should mention this was purely from trying, too hard, to make 8 not a result of 'natural' efficiency. 9,+9 &10 completely doable @ 2.00).
I 'sawtoothed' a few lengths as I experimented ie. >2.00<1.8>2.00<1.7>2.00<1.6

... to be continued (think I'm all spl-ed out )

Best,
Alan

Last edited by AWP : 04-03-2011 at 11:54 AM.
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Old 04-03-2011
terry terry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AWP View Post
I did multiple rounds of 10 x 25yds, beginning with 6spl and up to 10spl.
6spl... :29
7spl... :28
8spl... :27
9spl... :26
I had a bit of a time trying to get in 10spl but figured out the timing and shortened my time in streamline before the pull down on the breakout. Regardless, I couldn't quite break :26 but did get a glimpse of :25.
For me this was an incredible improvement considering I previously had trouble breaking :28. With this focused process it was actually easy. The next puzzle will be to make it even easier and sustainable for multiple lengths, but I sense the capacity to do so.
The discoveries Alan is making with his curious-spirited exploration of a range of 4 SPL illustrates several important insights for Kaizen Swimming.

1. He provides an example of the points I was trying to make in two threads which sought to define (i) "the perfect Stroke Rate" and (ii) What is 'fast, average and slow.' Alan isn't troubled by questions of whether the rate he happens to employ at 26 sec and 9 spl is perfect, only whether he feels smooth, in-synch and sustainable or not. Likewise, he knows the labels fast, medium and slow provide no useful insight. Rather, he's strictly interested in finding a way to convert his 'glimpse of :25' into a 'good long look at :25' after touching the wall. He'll pursue that by evaluating the real-time sensations during that last length and finding a way to improve them. If he does, there's a good chance he'll swim faster. I sense he won't label that 'fast.' It's just his current best -- at that SPL and effort level and focus.

2. Alan is working to master the skill of converting a higher SPL into a faster time. If you've never tried it, you'll find it's a worthy challenge. Real mastery of this skill means you go faster with no sense (or intention) of working harder. You simply change your timing and see a faster time when you touch the wall. That's an example of what I call Voodoo Speed - the kind that comes when you're not overtly trying to swim faster. It's the best kind. It's also an example of focusing on Process, not Outcomes. Focus on timing. See a better time.

At the same time, he's working to keep a smooth, fluent sensation at the top of his SPL range. Both can keep you busy for a while. If you'd like to play with this in all strokes I've found that the effective ranges for the four strokes are 3 SPL for Fly and Back, and 4 SPL for Breast and Free.

3. When you master that skill here are two related puzzles to solve.
Swim the same time as you lower your count.
E.G
9 SPL - 26 sec
8 SPL - 26 sec
7 SPL - 26 sec
6 SPL - 26 sec
On this it's best to start the set with a stroke that feels semi-brisk but very light. Add a bit of power/pressure/urgency each time you subtract a stroke.

Swim faster as you lower your count.
E.G
9 SPL - 28 sec
8 SPL - 27 sec
7 SPL - 26 sec
6 SPL - 25 sec
This is the top level of Mastery on a Time+SPL set.

If you succeed at a set like this - in any stroke - please share your achievement with us.
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Old 04-03-2011
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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I tried a bit of this, or something similar, today. First I gradually worked down to six strokes per 25m length, which is very slow and rather unstable, but I think worth persevering with as I think it will benefit the glide, recovery of arms and recovery of legs.

Then I gradually worked up to eleven strokes per 25m length, which was still slow but considerably faster than with six strokes. Today I didn't manage to get up to twelve strokes or higher , but I'm sure it's possible, perhaps with a mini-pull and mini-kick.

I intend to do quite a lot of this before my next meet, which is another long course meet early in May. Unfortunately there is no 200m on the program, only 50m and 100m, but I am hoping to improve my best times in both. We shall see.
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Old 04-03-2011
terry terry is offline
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Richard
Good onya' as they say in OZ. I would enjoy such practice even if I wasn't swimming in meets in the next few weeks. First because I enjoy the feeling of being attuned that changing length and rate give me. Second because I consider the pursuit of adaptation the most interesting part of training.

We will await your further reports - including a meet report - with interest.
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Old 04-03-2011
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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It is indeed very interesting and I have been doing something similar with freestyle as well. Lately I've been doing quite a lot of swing switch (formerly known as zipper, I believe) and was a bit surprised to discover that I can actually swim more or less as fast with swing switch as with full stroke, which suggests to me that I'm doing something wrong in full stroke that I'm not doing wrong in the drill. Maybe rolling too much?
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Old 04-17-2011
terry terry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terry View Post
I've set my next goal. In the next two weeks I'll focus on this even more. On Apr 16 I'll swim 200 Breast again in the Colonies Zone Masters championship in Fairfax VA. I'll be aiming for the Adirondack Masters 60-64 record of 3:07.70. I'll let you know how I do.
I promised a report. Today I swam four events at the Colonies Zone Masters Championship. 200 Fly, 200 IM, 500 Free, 200 Breast. I'll give a fuller report in a dedicated thread, but today was my strongest multi-event performance ever. Seasonal best times by large margins in every event and Adirondack Masters records in the last three.

The 200 Breast was my best swim by far despite (1) being 4th event; and (2) In a comical oversight I started the race with goggles perched on my head, not on my eyes. On the start they came down around my nose and I had to interrupt the lap to strip them off. Nonetheless I finished in a time of 3:00.13, a whopping 13 seconds faster than three weeks ago. I'll swim it again in three weeks at Nationals, with great hopes of knocking another 3 or more seconds off.

The Gears practice I described earlier in this thread has clearly had a very positive effect.
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Old 04-18-2011
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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Hi Terry

I've been doing more of that gears practice lately, mainly with breaststroke and freestyle, and with more success with breaststroke. I'm doing mainly swing switch on the freestyle because I seem to swim more smoothly that way and it's not much slower than my whole stroke.

With breaststroke the best range of stroke rates seems to be between nine and thirteen strokes and at thirteen strokes I'm approximately as fast with breaststroke as with freestyle, just a bit slower than my fastest practice times, which aren't fast by any normal definition.

My lowest stroke counts with swing switch are very similar to my lowest counts with whole stroke, which I found surprising at first, as you might expect the extra drag of the partial underwater recovery to have an effect, but perhaps I'm introducing another inefficiency when recovering over the water.

Anyway, it's highly absorbing and the time to test it is coming soon - May 7th in Cardiff.
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