Following on from part one. Here's part two of our swim efficiency blog post. In today's post we discuss Stroke rate, Stroke count (or distance per stroke), Technique (and how much water you're pushing behind yourself) and Pacing or the law of diminishing returns.
1. Stroke rate
We know that for many swimmers, and particularly beginners, when your stroke rate is below 60 per minute, you won't have constant motion through the water. It will be more of a stop/start, since you'll be gliding too far on each stroke, and effectively speeding up and slowing down on each stroke. If your stroke count is between 40 and 50 you'll be doing this for sure, and probably swimming with straight arms underwater.
You can measure and improve this by using a tempo trainer in mode 3, and gradually increasing your stroke rate by 2 every 50 metres. We would recommend you do this with a coach, so they can check the point where you reach the law of diminishing returns.
2. Stroke count
If you're doing more than 28 strokes per 25-metre length, then you would be wise to try and reduce this to increase your distance per stroke (DPS) to a more efficient level under 25 per length. The theory here is that your hand and forearm would be slipping through the water more, instead of catching the water better with a high and early vertical forearm. This links in with your technique and pacing.
You want to try and increase your DPS, which will see a subsequent reduction in your stroke count without increasing your stroke count. Things to look out for if you're struggling are crossing over the mid-line of your body, kicking incorrectly or even having a poor body position.
Maintaining positive pressure on the water with your hand, all the way through the stroke underwater is vital to getting the most from your DPS. Achieving an early vertical forearm position of around 90 -100 degrees, a high body position, kicking with your legs straight, and rotating your body evenly to 45 degrees on a long axis from your core and hips will make you much more streamlined and improve your swim efficiency.
4. Pacing and the law of diminishing returns
Maintaining your technique at a race pace, or when working hard, is something you need to become inherently aware of and understand which technique limiters might arise as you become either tired or are working at 80% effort or above.
This is known as your "T pace." This would be equivalent to your average 100-metre pace for 1500 metres at 80 per cent effort.
Have you ever completed a swim session or race and held your pace evenly throughout, or did it gradually drop away as the distance crept up? Finishing an interval set or distance with your 1st 1-2 x 100 metres at a much faster pace is a sign of poor pacing, as is a pace that gradually gets slower which may be stamina and technique related.
If the former is the case, then you should examine why this is, and work to correct it as soon as possible. A coach can help you with this by monitoring and analysing your workouts as well as a solid annual training plan. Stamina should be addressed with strength training and the correct scheduling of progressive sessions on a periodisation model that's suited to your events.
With all the above in mind, swim this set and try and hold your pacing and stroke count throughout:
All at 75% effort
1. 4x 100 FC pace control on @75% 30 rest
2. 400 FC @ the same pace as 100’s maintaining stroke count - 45 rest
3. 4x 100 FC pace control on @75% 25 rest
4. 400 FC @ the same pace as 100’s with stroke count minus 2 per length – 40 rest
How did you get on? Were they all evenly paced, or did they vary a lot?
Understanding how to pace yourself is key for your swim or triathlon events. This is obviously a tricky thing to do in open water and to some degree in the pool, as you only find out how you have performed after completing the interval (unless of course you use FORM Googles). We'll be posting separately about this incredible piece of swimming innovation soon.