Introduction To Training With Tempo

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    Introduction To Training With Tempo

    This article will give you an overview of training with tempo, including links you may follow to read more in-depth descriptions on these topics.

    What Is Tempo?

    Tempo is the rate at which your arms (or whole body) are moving through the stroke cycle. We measure tempo in units of ‘seconds per stroke’. Over many stroke cycles to get a more accurate average, we can measure from the time between each rotate of the torso, or we can measure the time it takes after one arm has left a position in the stroke cycle for the other arm to reach that same position . For example, we could measure the time between the left arm coming to the entry point and the right arm coming to the entry point in the stroke cycle.


    What Is A Tempo Trainer?

    A Tempo Trainer is a small, waterproof metronome we use for swimming. You can read more about this in Tempo Trainer Basics.


    Why Train With Tempo?

    The first objectives for training with a Tempo Trainer is to develop the sense of focused attention and timing in the brain and muscle memory so deeply that you eventually don’t need the metronome for it – just like a musician would use a metronome to perfect timing then set it aside for the concert.

    There are three ways we may have you first start to use the Tempo Trainer:

    1. Using a comfortable tempo, set a steady rhythm to the stroke and train the brain to memorize that rhythm.
    2. Using a comfortable tempo, call your attention to a particular point in the stroke cycle, stroke after stroke.
    3. To expand your comfortable tempo range by working on the edges of what is uncomfortably fast tempo and what is uncomfortably slow.

    By first working with a comfortable tempo you can give the brain a chance to organize and smooth out the motions under the constraint of a fixed time interval.

    Then you can begin working with slightly uncomfortably-slow tempos to challenge your balance and streamline skills. Then you can begin working with slightly uncomfortably-fast tempos to challenge your precision under the stress of faster movements.

    There are more ways to use it once we get into advanced training, but these are where we like you to start. Later on we use metronome training, in conjunction with stroke length training, to bring your stroke rate down to the range suitable for your pace goal. This is recommended once you have the four fundamental features working in your stroke.

    Using a Tempo Trainer adds a new level of challenge to the brain while training your stroke technique. For this reason it takes some time and understanding to learn to use one, and to enjoy using one. Some people love it immediately, and sense it will help them focus. While some people find it annoying at first. If so, don’t worry. That may be a sign your nervous system is not ready for it yet. But that annoyance could also mean that your brain just needs some time working with it to get used to a new form of stimulation and start to appreciate it.


    Very First Tempo Assignment

    If you haven’t done this with your coach already, your task is to do some experimenting to find out what your current comfortable tempo is, or rather what range of tempo is comfortable for you right now. Most other tempo work you do will have you start from your comfortable tempo range.

    For instructions, read How Do I Find My Comfortable Tempo?


    What Is Truly Fast or Truly Slow Tempo?

    … compared to other swimmers, you mean. If you are not sure what is too fast or too slow compared to others, you may read more in Functional Tempo Range. It may help to have some sort of reference point for what is considered a ‘slow’ or ‘medium’ or ‘fast’ tempo, compared to swimmers, or what is considered appropriate for certain kinds of events (like sprinting versus long distance).

    Not only do you want to develop your capability to hold good form at the tempo appropriate for your pace goals, but also to be capable of swimming with good form at a wider range of tempos along that absolute scale from very slow to very fast.


    Advanced Tempo Assignments

    As noted above, after you’ve worked with a comfortable tempo for some time, you may be ready to try working on expanding your comfortable tempo range.

    First, you will need to experiment and figure out what your current tempo range is.

    Then you can explore the edges of that range:

    If you are already working on longer swimming, or training in open water you may be interested in knowing more about:

    And, as you get into advanced training for faster swimming you may become interested in knowing more about:


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