We use Finis’ Tempo Trainer training tool quite a bit in our swim practices. I want to discuss some ways that they can make your swim practice more effective.
One way that you can use it is to build a steady tempo in your stroke. Swimming, like music, is done to a steady beat. You don’t speed up and slow down your stroke as you move down the pool but you work to a regular beat. A Tempo Trainer will act like a metronome in music to keep you honest.
If your coach has measured your tempo, or stroke rate, you can use that number. Convert the number, if necessary, to the number of seconds per stroke (one arm). For the math dorks in the crowd, this is actually the inverse of stroke rate. If you don’t have a measured value, start with 1:00, or one second per stroke. You can time the beeps to any part of the stroke, but I usually like to time it to the point when my arm enters the water. So swim a length of the pool trying to time your arm entry to the beeps. If 1:00’s too fast, add to the tempo in 0:05 increments (5/100ths of a second) until you can relax into the stroke. If it’s too slow, lower the tempo in 0:05 increments until you feel like it’s not a stroke drill. This value is highly individualized and is dependent on your height, stature, gender, and muscle composition.
Once you have a good tempo, see if you can spot dead spots in the stroke. Don’t stop your hand at the finish or at the entry to fake being on beat. Adjust your arm and hip speed to make the beeps steady. One common error is slowing down or speeding up your stroke during a breath. If you are on beat and then take a breath and you are off beat, you have a problem with your breathing mechanics. Go back to your drills and see if you can get the timing correct. What you’ll produce is a very even stroke moving down the pool.
Another fun way of working on this is taking breathing out of the equation and wearing a training snorkel. With a snorkel, you can focus on feeling the beat and stroke minus the breath. If there a problems in your stroke, you can find them before worrying about the breath.
This exercise is a great way of practicing consistency in your swims. Try to do 50’s then 100’s and then longer swims while being on beat. If you can hold beat and keep your stroke count steady, you will be holding the same pace throughout your swims. All great distance freestylers can do this activity. For my triathletes, this exercise is one of the first things we try to get down.
You can pick up a Tempo Trainer and a Swimmer’s Snorkel at our swim gear site. Go to High Point Swim (http://www.highpointswim.com). Login with CBD as the Team Username and CBD as the Team Password. After logging in, you’ll click on the link “Click Here to go to Chicago Blue Dolphins Products.” You’ll find the Tempo Trainer and Swimmer’s Snorkel at the top of the list. Buy it and use it in your training. Have fun with this stuff.