A Practice to Find your Best Stroke Count
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on March 23rd, 2011

This practice is the 3rd in a series inspired by the classes we gave at the Multisport World Expo at MIT on March 19 – and will repeat March 27 at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda MD. It segues from Tempo Trainer sets designed to help you expand your range of available stroke counts – and discover those best for both endurance and speed — to Stroke Calibration sets designed to hone your internal awareness.

Note: For all Tempo Trainer sets, allow 3 beeps for pushoff; synch 1st entry to 4th beep. All one extra beep for turns. Synch 1st entry to 5th beep.

Tune-up Swim 50 + [6×25] + 50

• Swim 50. Count total strokes.
• Swim 6 x 25. Odd 25s with index-finger-only extended. Even 25s with ‘normal’ hands.
o Compare SPL (Strokes Per Length) one finger to normal hand. Can you reduce the difference between them?
• Swim 50 as before. Count total strokes. Did count change?

“Discover” Personal Efficiency Range Swim 10 x 25
Reset TT each 25: 1.3 – 1.4 – 1.5 – 1.6 – 1.55 – 1.50 – 1.45 – 1.40 – 1.35 – 1.30 sec/stroke

Use this set to improve efficiency (reduce SPL). As tempo slows, you’ll notice extra time in the stroke. Use the extra tenth of a second time to extend a bit further and be more patient about beginning the stroke. When tempo reaches 1.6 sec/stroke, note how many strokes you saved.

As tempo increases again, maintain the sense of length and leisure you gained as tempo slowed. Be stingy about giving back the strokes you saved. On final 25, note difference in SPL from lowest count and from start of set. For every stroke saved from beginning of set, your time for 25 is 1.3 second faster.

Sustain SPL for Distance Choose a comfortable tempo (from range above)
Swim [4 X 25 + 3 x 50 + 2 X 75 + 1 X 100]
• Strive to maintain SPL by relaxing as repeat distance increases
• Rest 10 beeps between all swims.
• An outstanding result would be to add no more than 1 stroke to your SPL on the 25s.
Your most valuable outcome is realization that the most important change to make as distance increases is to deepen focus, not increase exertion. In fact, you need to find a way to relax more. The first 50 of your 100 must be easier than when you only swam 50 yds, in order to maintain SPL/Tempo combination for the full 100.

Faster Tempo
Swim 1 to 2 x 25 each @ 1.20, 1.10, 1.00, 0.90 sec/stroke
– What part of stroke feels hurried? Strive to keep catch leisurely as tempo increases.
– Can you stay smooth, relaxed and quiet as tempo increases?
– One benefit of this exercise is to find the tempo at which your nervous system isn’t adapted. E.G. If you add one stroke each at 1.2, 1.1 and 1.0, but three strokes at .9, that tells you that tempo is outside your current range.

Shift Focus
Choose comfortable tempo. Swim 2 to 4 sets of [3×25]. Synch beep to:
• Hand Spear for 25
• Hip Nudge for 25
• Toe-Flick for 25
• Repeat.
How does moving synchronization point from front to rear of body change your awareness of the stroke?

Swim without Tempo Trainer
The following sets test your internal sense for seamlessly adjusting length and rate to accomplish the tasks described.

Stroke Calibration Swim 2 or more rounds of x [6X25].
• Choose starting SPL from the range of counts you had between 1.2 and 1.5 tempo. Call this “N.” Each round of [6×25] is: “N”, + 1, + 2, + 1, “N”, – 1
• On your first round, you’ll probably have some difficulty estimating length and rate accurately enough to strike the wall in rhythm and at your intended count.
• Your goal for succeeding rounds is to:
o (1) Calibrate better;
o (2) Swim with more awareness;
o (3) Feel slightly faster at each SPL.

Speed Variation Swim 2 or more rounds of [2×25]
• In each round, #1 is Cruise; #2 is Fast.
• Choose any SPL from range in Stroke Calibration set. Your task is to
o Swim all 25s at this count.
o In subsequent rounds increase speed difference without changing SPL.
o Can you swim both easier/slower AND stronger/faster at same SPL?

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5 Responses to “A Practice to Find your Best Stroke Count”

  1. DundeeChest says:

    This is excellent, thanks Terry. Are you preparing to put these into an eBook, so we can buy them all together?

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  2. Thanks for the suggestion. I am indeed working on a series of ebooks that will deliver principles and practical guidelines for practice design, as well as samples of sets. The forms of practice I’ll explain will include
    Mindful Swimming – how to choose, sequence and combine Focal Points in a logical manner to increase efficiency and pace control.
    Work the Count – how to use SPL exercises to improve endurance, pacing ability and speed.
    Mastery of Tempo – how to use a Tempo Trainer to eliminate guesswork and improve nearly any aspect of swimming.

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  3. Marcos Alsina says:

    Hi Terry, I really like this, I hardly read it because my english is not good. Thanks for this samples. I’m form Argentine and I’d like you help me find something information. I’m tryng to do an investigation project work about differences between USA swimming and Argentine swimming in high, triyng to see problems in Argentine swimming. If you have something to recommend I’ll be glad. Thank you.

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  4. Marcos I’d like to be of help but I’m not familiar with the differences – or similarities – between USA and Argentine swimming. I pay relatively little attention to international swimming. I”m too busy swimming myself and coaching people closer to my age.

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  5. Jerry Perullo says:

    As trivial as this sounds, it’s worth clarifying that the ‘index finger’ is the first finger aka “pointer finger.” Otherwise, a simple misunderstanding might lead to a serious altercation at the pool :)

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