It is the basic math of SL x SR that tells us where we are at and where we need to be in order to reach our goal.
If I set a target of 17 strokes per 25m, starting with 1.20 second tempo, and I find that is it easy for me to hold optimal stroke overlap, the challenge then is for me to see how much faster in tempo I can go while still holding that stroke count. When I get near my limit of being able to hold that SPL and Tempo combination I have to approach it in smaller steps, concentrate more intensely on each detail in my stroke, and problem-solve with my own body to improve my skill past that limit.
We can work with these SL x SR variables in increasing levels of challenge:
- Hold stroke count for each length.
- Hold stroke count and increase distances.
- Hold a stroke count at a certain tempo.
- Hold stroke count, and a certain tempo, then increase distance.
- Hold a stroke count and increase tempo.
- Hold stroke count, increase tempo, and increase duration for each tempo increment.
- Hold stroke count, increase tempo, and hold or lower effort level.
The ultimate benefit of developing a training plan with SL x SR variables is to allow us to reach our swimming speed goal in a totally objective, measurable way. It’s simple math.
Here is an example of how stroke length and stroke tempo come together to give us an objective way to set our goal and measure our progress toward it:
If you want to swim 1500 meters holding a 80 second pace per 100 meters (a total time of 20 minutes), and you intend to hold 17 strokes per length (SPL, in a 25m pool, which is 1.167 meter per stroke) then you need to be able to hold 0.93 second tempo for the entire 1500m.
To swim that 1500m at 100 second per 100m pace (a total time of 25 minutes), with 19 SPL ( 1.052 meters per stroke), then you will need to hold 1.05 second tempo for the entire 1500m.
[How I calculated that may take a little explanation- another essay topic!]
No more guessing necessary. If you’re within reach of your new PR you’ll know it from continual gathering of data in stroke counting and tempo during training. It will show you where you are at and precisely where you need to work in order to get to your goal. No more ‘Go Hard’ and just hope you get faster by luck, you’ll get their with intelligent training.
In summary, the key to increasing speed in proportion to increasing tempo is to first build a long stroke (the length that is optimal for you and your event), then train to protect it as tempo increases. Then train to hold it for longer and longer durations. To do this, you’ve got to develop this overlap skill with an ‘adjustable rate’ stroke cycle, so you will have the ability to switch SL and SR like you would shift gears in a sports car.