Video: Secrets of Speed Part 1 of 9
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on April 14th, 2011

This blog series is based on a slide-and-video talk I gave March 19 at Multisport World Expo in Boston. The title was Solving the Speed Problem. I could as easily have called it Little Known Facts about Speed. For brevity’s sake (because I’ll tweet each new installment) it’s Secrets of Speed here.

Problem and Secrets are both perfectly apt words to describe the challenges humans face when we try to swim faster. As you’ll learn in Part 3, our instincts are no help, as they lead us to increase Stroke Rate — and heedlessly decrease Stroke Length as we do. As Part 4 explains — and illustrates with some dramatic video — a shorter stroke is virtually certain to lead to slower swimming.

And as several parts explain, most of the things you’re told you should do to swim faster — pull and kick harder, stroke faster — fail  far more often than they succeed. The only thing they’re guaranteed to do is make you tired faster.

That leaves us with the Little Known Facts. All of the thoughts, techniques and training approaches that really help you swim faster are things virtually no one thinks to do, and are rarely recommended.

We start by pondering the question: “How do we perceive the need for speed — and how does that perception lead us to respond?”

As I explain in the video below, the perception may arise as innocently as seeing the guy or gal in the next lane at lap hour swimming slightly faster and wondering if you can keep up. Race On!

Even in the best of circumstances, we experience the ‘speed problem’ more emotionally than most other aspects of swimming – and nearly always react ineffectively.

In the worst of circumstances – the chaos of a triathlon swim – it’s impossible to think calm, clear or rational thoughts. Therefore it’s essential to set priorities, make plans — and particularly ingrain habits – in practice, when we have the chance for clear-headed thought and action.

From our own instincts, we move to the ‘orthodoxy’ of swim training. Traditional thinking about swim training suggests that the Solution to the Speed Problem is:

  • Faster Strokes
  • Bigger Lungs
  • Bigger Muscles

Parts 5 and 6 will explore why these solutions virtually never solve the Speed Problem and often make it worse. Parts 7 to 9 will describe alternatives that replace guesswork with mathematical predictability and precision.


13 Responses to “Video: Secrets of Speed Part 1 of 9”

  1. martinrunner says:

    So true, esp the comment about workouts.

  2. saad says:

    Excellent post Terry! Looking forward to watch the whole video, where can I find it? Cheers, s.

  3. Jay says:

    When will parts 4 and 9 be on You Tube…
    Nice I like : Balance, Streamline, Propel
    I also like that I am 6′ 2″

  4. Jim T says:

    These are great segments. Where can I find the entire series?

  5. I’ll be posting a new one each day.

  6. ALEX says:

    Brilliant Terry, as always.

  7. Rob says:

    Great presentation Terry. I took a 2-day workshop from Bill Garelick in Hoboken NJ in Feb and it completely transformed my swimming. Today I took a 1 on 1 lesson with Bill where I finally got how to synch the two beat kick to my stroke and all of a sudden it all came together and I’m gliding powerfully with less effort – smoother than ever before. I’m totally stoked! 5 -weeks to the Great Hudson River Swim and I’m going to be ready!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks Terry. This is very informative. I understand you will be posting new ones each day. I have 3 questions: 1) where do I find the speed class offerings? and 2) when will the series be completed so I can have them downloaded on my computer 3) will you eventually have practices added to the series?

  9. Elizabeth I’m delighted you’re following this with such keen interest. I’ll try to keep feeding it. This week I’m at US Masters Nationals in Mesa AZ and am having a bit of trouble keeping up. You can find 2.0 classes at the Learn TI tab at And you can find practices in ebooks available at the TI Store. There will be more to come.

  10. Grant says:

    Hey Terry,

    You are reinspiring me to retool my new crop of club swimmers who swim for the other high school. They do twice the yardage in their practices, but every time I talk about stroke count or golf, or anything like that they don’t seem to get it.

    I modified your table of stroke counts by height to have separate columns for high school and elite (because I have a couple of National level swimmers). Elite have to use a couple less strokes than HS. If the HS kids try to do the elite numbers, maybe they will become elite themselves?

    I also added Breast and Fly goals, which I’m not too sure about until we try them.

    Hopefully with this and some tempo trainers we will get some progress.

  11. Grant
    This is exactly what I did while coaching the West Point sprinters from 1996-99. Knowing that Touretski had limited Popov to 24 SPL in a 50m pool in training, while he took 33 strokes for his 50m races and somewhere in the upper 20s in his 100m races, we did an exercise of projecting optimal racing SPLs for each swimmer — with height and skill being factors. We then practiced, as Popov had, at lower SPLs. We essentially ‘saved’ the higher SPL for race day, feeling that they’d get a sense of free-wheeling in the race, even while holding much longer, more efficient strokes than their rivals.

  12. […] 等有空閒看再打重點吧! Part 1 – Solving the Speed Problem: Why it makes us crazy […]

  13. Great Terry,Your blog is so helpful for me.Due to my swimming school holidays i am facing problem to doing swimming properly.But after reading your blog my problem is solve.Thanks a lot Terry.Now i am waiting for your next swimming blog.Here i want to share 1 more blog to reader about swimming fitness which necessary for all age of persons

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