I got this email from a client this week:
“Hey John, thanks for quick tip. I purchased the Tempo Trainer from the CBD site. Should have it soon. I have been reading some of the documentation on the TT…but still not sure about what my ideal stroke rate is.”
Here’s how I responded…
Here’s something you can do: if you go to the pool with a friend or at practice with a coach, have the other person take a stopwatch and time 10 of your strokes at a moderate pace (~ 140 HR, 80-90% of Threshold, RPE 11-13, light to somewhat hard, etc.). If you have the time, do 3 estimates. Divide the time on the watch by 10, and that will give you what stroke rate you should plug into your Tempo Trainer NOW. That’s kind of your starting point for what you’ll do in practice. You’ll learn that you will need to go to faster tempos for faster swims and slower tempos for more focused, easier swims.
As far as “ideal” goes, that really depends on the speed that you are going in practice or in a race — and in a race, that tempo can change depending on whether you are at the start, middle, or finish. Furthermore, your tempo will likely change over time. What we want to do is what legendary Aussie coach, Bill Sweetenham, calles “maximum speed and minimum effort.” Generally speaking, what you’ll want to do is work on swimming at the slowest stroke rate (minimum effort) to go a given speed. As your technique gets better, the rate that you need to do to go a particular pace will slow down opening up opportunities to speed up by adding that rate back in. So that number will change over time.
You’ll also want to figure out over time what your ideal stroke rate is to hit your racing goal times are. That number is going to be different for an all-out 50 freestyle, a 200 freestyle, a 750 meter sprint tri, and a 2.4 mile Ironman swim. What you are looking for is the rate (or range of rates for a longer swim) that you need to do to hit your pace and to keep your RPE in a range that doesn’t (a) leave speed on the table or (b) causes you to flame out and ruin your race. Again that’s practicing “maximum speed at minimum effort.” That’s part of what our practices are about figuring out.
If you want to purchase a Tempo Trainer, click the image to go to our website and follow the instructions on the page to get to our CBD team gear page.