Ease Into Speed Rather Than Plow Into It

I swam 3300m today. Started at 10:00am. The pool was 29 degrees C.


500m – 200 hand, 300 FG


1500m timed, with TT set to 1.25. My splits were 8:41/8:49/8:44 = 26:14 (1:45/100m pace)

100m recovery

3x [4×25 TT, 100 TT, 50 recovery] with descending tempo per repeat.

Tempo 1.20 Tempo 1.10 Tempo 1.00
time SPL time SPL time SPL
4x 25m :22 all 16 :21 all 17 :20 all 18
100m 1:30, 16 1:27, 17 1:24, 17,18

200m FG, focus on full grip

100m sprint timed. Came in at 1:21 with SPL 16, 17, 18, 18

150m cool down


I intended to do the 1500 with a descending tempo on each 500 starting at 1.30. At the last moment I felt an urge to start at 1.25 instead since last week I did a 1500 at 1.30. My focus was to keep the tempo while trying to be as ‘effortless’ as possible for the first 500. Soon into that first 500 I could feel my shoulders getting more tired than I expected and my SPL was fluctuating from 17 to 18. I was not holding as good form as I had hoped I would. Compared to last week, I was not swimming as efficicently at 1.25 as I was at 1.30. When I saw that my first 500 split was merely 5 seconds faster than last weeks effort I aborted the descending tempo idea and decided to focus on holding 1.25 so I could compare all the other variables and search for ways to clean up my stroke. What would be the point of increasing the speed of my sloppiness?

My immediate realization was that an imposed higher tempo does not necessarily translate into better speed on a distance swim. Last week I saw that I could swim as fast as this at a lower SPL and a lower tempo! So I looked into my higher tempo stroke to try to find what was falling apart. My recovery arm and spearing hand, and thrust forward felt decent. I was indeed focusing on a good grip that started with each beep. BUT I saw that I was shortening the pull so that I could withdraw the arm a bit sooner in order to make the recovery on cue. I was taking a firm grip at the first half of the pull, but not on the last half. This in turn shortened the glide. But I don’t think it was the shortened glide that reduced my speed so much as it was the shortened pull, because a shorter pull means I was converting less power into forward motion, like disconnecting the chain of a bicycle for half the spin of the pedal. I was increasing my SR and my SPL but I was shortchanging most of the power transfer so the net result was hardly any more speed. At least I was succeeding at my current stroke improvement goal- holding a full, solid grip on the water, but I was shortening the stroke. It was better than dropping the elbow and just sucking my arm backward which would be a total waste of energy, and would have led to total bonk on a 1500.

For a distance swim I suspect:

Worst arrangement = fast stroke rate + poor grip + long pull

Less worse = fast stroke rate + good grip + shortened pull

Better = less fast stroke rate + good grip + full pull

I am beginning to gain some confidence in how my brain and body can find their most efficient pace, now that I’ve trained to be loyal to efficiency. The Tempo Trainer, however, pushes me out of these zones so I have to keep learning how to adapt to a higher tempo and find efficiency again. It helps me expand the ‘gears’ I have to pick from to swim for different goals in different conditions.

Next week I should try a 1500 unassisted by the TT. It would be helpful if I had a pace clock or a way to track my 100 splits- it would be interesting to see how much my pace fluctated over the distance, as my body and mind responded to the highs and lows. Maybe I will pre-calculate what my 250 splits should be and memorize them- then compare while I am swimming it.

The next set was also a repeat of last weeks. The intent was to imprint the quality I swim a 25 with, so that I will hold that form over a whole 100. My form and therefore my splits tend to drop from fatigue. It is both an endurance point and (more importantly) a neurological point I need to train. This was done after the 1500 so it created the fatigued conditions that I am training for.

On the 25’s I came in on typical times- no improvements there. But my 100 times did improve upon last week. My last one at 1:24 was a PR for this spring. This means my ability to hold the 25 split was improved even if the split time itself did not improve.

So now, how do I drop that 25 split time some more? It seems that when I do a ‘Hold SPL then descend times, as distances break down” (E.g. 500-250-100-50-25) carry me into more efficienct speed breakthroughs. My tempo increases naturally, according to my efficiency rather than at the expense of it.

The I debated for a moment whether to skip my planned 100m timed sprint at the end. Seeing that I made a 1:24 in that last set I was encouraged to think that 1:20 was within reach now. I was pretty tired at the end of that last set and had given it my best at that tempo, but I also felt that the strictness of the TT hindered something that I could still tap into. So I turned the beeper off to let my brain and body find its own rhythm and see if I might just find a bit more speed today.

So first I did a 200 FG swim to imprint the grip I wanted to keep solid then went for it. I felt good about how I was swimming but of course I did not know what my splits were until I reached for the last wall and looked at my watch. I threw my whole body into it, not trying to rest anything although I did restrain myself on the first 25 and then dialed up the intensity on the following 25s. Sure enough, I squeezed out another 3 seconds to come in at 1:21 with 16, 17, 18, 18 SPL. That’s the second PR today and done even at the end of a tiring workout.

So now I know I can hold :20 splits even with flip turns in my current condition. This is good news. This reinforced my hypothesis that I should use the TT to push past my efficient tempo range. The TT stretches me out, making room in my neuro-muscular pathways for faster movement, but then I need to remove the beeper and develop efficient speed by SPL control, making tempo subservient to it, rather than the master over it. I need to ease into efficient-speed, not plow into it.


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