Stage 3 – Consistent Stroke Length with Tempo
Stage 3 Objectives
- Learn to maintain control over SPL while holding a steady Tempo.
- Choose an appropriate Tempo goal for your stroke and goal.
- Learn what features of the stroke to focus upon to maintain the chosen SPL x Tempo combination.
** STEP 2 has you improving your ability for holding your target SPL N and shifting by feel to N+1 and N-1. You are at STEP 3 because you can do that, and do it with ease. Now you are ready to have that ability challenged further as you start to add Tempo control to it. By keeping Tempo steady and switching SPL gears your Pace will go up in a controlled way by decreasing to SPL N-1, and go down by increasing to SPL N+1. Just as in STEP 1 you will start working on this in short repeats. **
But, if you are not using an SPL inside your Green Zone yet you have a decision to make at this point, and you could go either way: 1) Go back to STEP 1 or STEP 2 and improve your SPL further, or 2) Use the SPL you have established now, and build Tempo into it. Eventually, you will need to bring your SPL into the Green Zone in order to reach your ultimate speed potential. But you may have reasons for postponing that next level of SPL improvement and want to get on to Tempo work. Just keep in mind that your ability to sustain Pace is limited mostly by your control over SPL, not by Tempo. Patience and persistence in the process will bring you the best results, but you can learn a lot from going either way at this point.
What is an appropriate Tempo?
First, you need to have established an optimal SPL – which is what you did in Step 1. Next is to find out what Tempo you can handle right now with that SPL, and then see where you need to be to reach your Pace goal. Study References:
As you add Tempo you will be challenged to hold SPL consistent. Tempo control adds another level of complexity for the brain. When new to Tempo control, while focused on holding your stroke to the beep, if your SPL count goes (too high) out of your Green Zone, likely something fell apart in your technique. If you are using an SPL lower than your Green Zone, you may likely find it more difficult to achieve higher Tempos – there is a critical relationship between your ideal SPL and your ideal Tempo. It gets harder, if not impossible to work at either extreme. Your goal in this step is to keep your SPL in the Green Zone, while working to gradually increase the Tempo you can maintain inside that Green Zone, and work on this in short repeats. You will first work on being successful in short lengths before expecting to be successful on several uninterrupted lengths.
An Example Swimmer
Let’s look at an example on what to do at this step: Our example swimmer Mario can sustain 20 SPL (per 25 meters), for the entire 1000 meter swim. He feels he has been successful in achieving the objective of STEP 2. His Sweet Spot SPL is 18-20 SPL. Since he has reached the edge of his optimal SPL Sweet Spot at 20 SPL he wants to work on Tempo now, and see how it goes, then go back to lowering his SPL later.
Mario was keeping track of his Splits (Split = the amount of time it takes for evenly divided sections of the swim, like 100 meter time splits). His total time for the 1000 meters was 20 minutes (how convenient!). He was holding an average Pace of 120 seconds (2 minutes) for each 100 meter Split, or an average of 30 seconds for each 25 meter length. Making a few assumptions about his swim, we use the equation Pace = SPL x Tempo to calculate that he was using an average Tempo of 1.35 seconds per stroke. He wants to be able to swim 15 minutes for 1000 meters, or a Pace of 90 seconds per 100 meters, which is 22.5 seconds per 25 meters. Using our equation again we calculate that he needs to achieve a combination of 20 SPL x 0.98 Tempo to make that happen. If 1.35 second Tempo is comfortable for Mario, it is unlikely that Mario will find 0.98 Tempo comfortable or even possible right now. So Mario should probably set up preliminary Tempo goals, where he can work on learning the technique for adjusting the stroke to accommodate faster Tempo and correct imprecision in stroke timing that inevitably happens when a swimmer tries to speed things up.
Scientifically speaking, efficiency is about finding the lowest-energy-expensive way to create that Speed and Pace. Mario cannot afford to be wasteful, and therefore he must improve his precision and timing as Tempo increases. So, to give a more reasonable short-term Tempo goal, Mario may set a preliminary goal of 17:30 minutes for 1000 meters, or a Pace of 105 seconds per 100 meters, which is 26.25 seconds per 25 meters. Using our equation again we calculate that he needs to achieve a combination of 20 SPL x 1.15 Tempo to make that happen.
Stage 3 Reading
Stage 3 Skills Test Swim
Assignment 301: Measure Comfortable Tempo
Assignment 302: Choose Target Tempo
Assignment 303: Focus With Tempo
Assignment 304: Slow Tempo Threshold
Assignment 305: Fast Tempo Threshold
Assignment 306: Faster Tempo with Recovery
Assignment 307: Faster Tempo by SPL Shift
Assignment 308: Strengthen Tempo Memory
Assignment 309: Memorize Tempo
Stage 4 – Shifting Pace Gears
Stage 4 Objectives
- To calculate Pace Gears appropriate for you and your event.
- To hold Pace steady by shifting Pace Combinations that achieve Even Pacing.
- To hold Pace steady by shifting Pace combinations that achieve Average Pacing.
At STEP 3 you achieved the basic skills for setting Pace, by holding a specific SPL x Tempo combination. In this step you will learn how to shift Pace Gears to allow you to protect your energy in the beginning, middle and end of a race (or swim challenge), or to adapt to changing conditions in the water, and to build rest into your swim without slowing your overall Pace.
You will recall that your ability to control Pace is your ability to control how you use up your limited energy supply. Just as on a bicycle, shifting gears to adapt to changing conditions on the cycling route – slowing down, spinning faster on hills, speeding up with a tailwind – you will be able to use energy more intelligently when you can shift swimming gears to protect your energy in one challenging segment of the swim and then take advantage of a favorable condition in another segment of the swim.