Much Faster Tempo while increasing Stroke Length
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on April 23rd, 2010

Yesterday (Thurs Apr 22) was my first practice since the Tampa Bay Marathon, as I am still recovering from a stomach virus (about which – marathon and virus – more anon). I was practicing with the 11 coaches, including trainees and trainers, who are attending TI Teacher Training in Coral Springs FL this week. For the final set of our practice, Kim Bade, the Head Coach of this training session, had assigned us to swim an unspecified # of 50s using the Tempo Trainer, starting with a tempo of 1.20 sec/stroke, and to increase tempo by .01 on each successive 50, until we had added two strokes to our stroke total for the 50, then reverse the tempo and slow it by .01 until we were back at 1.20, to learn whether our stroke count would be the same, lower or higher than when we started.

I did the set with them and never added a stroke. Indeed I subtracted one. After 21 x 50, and an increase of two-tenths of a second in stroke tempo, I counted myself sufficiently pleased with my improvement to call it a day.

I took 29 strokes on the first 50, 14SPL going and 15SPL returning, and maintained 29 strokes for the next 3 x 50. On the fifth 50, I reduced my count to 28 (13+15). I then held that count for the next 16 x 50, to a tempo of 1.0 sec/stroke. I had never before held the same stroke count over such a large range of tempos, so this was my best Tempo Trainer set ever. In terms of time, adding the 3 beeps I allow on each pushoff to the number of strokes I took, I swam the first 50 (36 beeps x 1.2 sec/beep) in 43.2 sec. I swam the final 50 (35 beeps x 1.0 sec/beep) in 35 seconds, meaning I went over 8 seconds faster yet took one less stroke.

This took keen concentration (I do sets like this just as much to hone my concentration as my stroke) and reflects hundreds of hours of Tempo Trainer experience over the last 5 years. Try a similar set and compare how your own stroke efficiency is effected. If the range of 1.0 to 1.20 is a bit too brisk for you, start at 1.30 or above. Reset the Tempo Trainer after each 50 by depressing the left button once. Happy Laps.

5 Responses to “Much Faster Tempo while increasing Stroke Length”

  1. Awesome! That was a day of bests for me too. It’s gratifying to see improvement in such an empirical fashion (how many strokes, how quickly am I taking them?) and not just hope you improve but can see how and why it happened.

  2. Jared Hawes says:

    Thanks for the idea, I tried this today and was also quite pleased with the results. I generally have trouble holding my SPL if I drop below 1.18 on the TT, so I started at 1.30. Held First 3 steady at 27 (13 going and 14 returning), then was able to hold 13 & 15 for the next 16 x 50; dropped to 14 and 15 at 1.11 and did two more 50’s at that tempo before climbing back up to 1.30 (where my stoke count was down to 26; 13 and 13). I take a little shorter glide off the wall but if I kept the pushoff constant (same number of beeps, forcing me to speed up my lazy flip-turn along with my stroke rate) that took my time from ~40.3 on the first 50 to 36.6 at 1.11 sec/stroke. This is why I enjoy using the tempo trainer, it helps me make small adjustments to each stroke which help me get closer to my “big” goal.

  3. Jared
    Well done. Our results for this set were very similar. I suggest you post this on the Discussion Forum in the Favorite Practices and Sets conference. I anticipate you’ll receive some useful feedback and suggestions.

  4. chris baker says:

    When you use your Tempo Trainer/spl count for 50 yard repeats, what kind of rest time do you use between 50s? I use the Tempo Trainer, but for extended swims, trying just to maintain spl, and to keep a good even rhythm. Also, when using the Trainer, many of the parts that I rehearse in drills seem magically to come together.

  5. When I use the Tempo Trainer, I often count beeps to set my rest interval. For instance, if I swim a series of 50s in a 50m pool, taking 40 SPL, and allowing 3 beeps for pushoff (total of 43 beeps) I will typically rest for 10 beeps between 50s. This gives me a work:rest ratio of approximately 4:1, which is very much in the aerobic range, yet sufficient to maintain what can be a relatively taxing combination if my Stroke Rate is below 1.10 sec/stroke.

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