A Method To Determine Your Baseline Strokes Per Length
- In a pool, warm up at least 500 or so. Personally, I really only start to feel loosened up after about 800.
- Pick a distance event you intend to train for.
- Count strokes per length throughout this swim and compare any differences due to point in the swim, pace change or fatigue.
- Then determine what you feel is a fair, average SPL that you could maintain for that entire swim.
A note on stroke counting methods…
My preferred method of counting strokes: I count every ‘propulsive’ stroke, which is every stroke that is used to move my body forward- this means I do not count the last stroke that I set in order to anchor my hand for the flip turn (I would not take this stroke if I were stopping at the wall). From the push-off, when I move one arm back from the glide position and take that first catch underwater, (the one that helps me breach the surface), I count that as #1. I just happen to always take my first stroke with the right arm so my right side is always on an ODD number and the left on an EVEN- it makes correcting a stroke miscount a lot easier mid-swim.
When I am counting strokes I am interested in knowing how many ‘propulsive’ strokes were required to get me across. So I count from the point I begin the catch and consider if a stroke if I had to apply pressure and complete the catch. If I get to the wall and I glided an extra beap but made it to the wall with momentum, or took a partial catch, I count that as a ‘half’ of ‘+’ on my stroke count. If you only count strokes once the arm returns from the recovery, you’ll often not count the last propulsive stroke because, depending on how you do your flip turn, that arm may not finish the recovery to make the count. Minor detail really, but important for my purposes.
The main point though, is to simply be consistent in how you count for yourself so you can always compare your data by the same measurement standards. It only becomes a problem when you start trying to compare to another’s stroke count- then you have to ask how they count strokes to make sure your measurements are on the same scale.
Of course, your count in a 25 yard pool will be slightly less than a 25 meter pool, maybe 1 to 1.5 stroke difference.