Archives for the month of: November, 2014

Well done to all those that swam the time trials this morning, there were some good performances.  You can see the draft results here.  I usually make the odd transcription error, even though I try not to, so please email me if you think I have got something wrong and I will check to see if I can spot a mistake. So what can you learn from this?

  • I suggest you look at your splits to see how well you paced the 400.  Should you have paced it differently?
  • Your critical swim speed is an estimate of the pace you should be able to sustain for longer races like 1500m and is estimated based on the difference between your 100m and 400m times.  The estimate in the results should be a good pace to swim at in training to improve your endurance.
  • Checking your strokes per minute and distance per stroke measures are a useful indicator of whether increasing stroke rate or distance per stroke are likely to help you increase your speed most effectively.  You can check these measures against the averages for your lane, and other lanes, in the table below the main results.
  • As another reference for stroke rates, Rebecca Adlington used to swim at about 75 strokes per minute and 1.3m/stroke when racing 400m.  Sun Yang, the current 1500m world record holder, averages 55 strokes/min and 1.9m/stroke when racing 1500m.

Have a good weekend and I hope to see many of you not smelling of chlorine and wearing a lot more clothes than usual at the club awards evening tonight! Rob

How are you tracking your progress towards your swimming goals over the Winter?  One measure we can use is to measure your Critical Swim Speed (which is an estimate of your lactate threshold pace) and see how this improves over the Winter.  Also, it is useful to measure your stroke rate and distance per stroke as both of these contribute to your swimming speed.  Hence, this week we will be doing a session to help you measure both of these a set a baseline for the Winter that we can measure progress against.

To do this we will be doing a 400m and 100m time trial as part of Saturday’s session.  We will do it slightly differently to how we’ve done them before in the following way:

  • We will each stay in our own lanes to do these with people swimming two at a time with the other timing and counting.  Hopefully you will feel less pressure doing it this way as just the swimmers in your lane will be timing and watching you.
  • Those not swimming will time the swimmers and count their strokes.  We need to know from the timekeepers
    • Split times for each 100m
    • How many strokes they are taking for each 100m
  • From these measurements we can calculate your critical swim speed as well stroke rate and distance per stroke
  • I will send these round after the session so you know what your baseline is for the rest of the Winter

With these measurements you can see how changes in your technique and fitness over the winter affect these three important measurements.  As I mentioned in the blog last week you may find that increasing your stroke rate increases your critical swim speed even if your distance per stroke drops.  Or vice versa.  The key thing is to have an objective measurement to support any change in your fitness or stroke that you are planning to make over the Winter.

See you Saturday!


It’s been interesting to video the underwater strokes for some of you over the last few weeks and see what is really happening underwater (I will keep bringing the camera each week so ask if you want to be videod at the end of the session).  One of the commonest things that comes out is a tendency for overgliding, or over reaching, at the front of the stroke.  You can see a good example of overgliding and a corrected version on the excellent recent  Swim Smooth blog.

Over-reaching at the front of the stroke makes it much harder to get the high-elbow catch and one of the ways we can improve this is with stroke rate.  But Rob, I hear you cry, don’t you keep talking about having a nice long stroke?  And if I speed up my stroke I will shorten it, surely?  It is true that if you only shorten your stroke and keep the same stroke rate then you will swim more slowly.  But, if you increase the number of strokes you do per minute, and your distance per stroke only drops only a little due to the improved catch you get, then your overall speed will increase.  Think of it a bit like the difference between spinning in a comfortable gear on your bike at 90rpm versus pushing a really hard gear at 50rpm.  The major difference here is that if your technique improves at the slightly higher stroke rate then you get a double benefit of a more efficient stroke and a more comfortable stroke rate to swim at.

The session this week is in 3 parts.  The first part is a set of 150s at aerobic pace where you have the chance to really think about your catch.  As I mentioned last week, a good way to make sure you have a high-elbow catch is to really think about keeping your elbows near the surface of the water.  You may feel you are swimming a bit like a crab but please do try it.

The second part of the session will be some drills where we will increase the stroke rate by doing some head up front crawl and some swimming with fists.  Try and keep the high-elbow catch, with elbows near the surface of the water, but you will have to increase your stroke rate as part of these drills.

The final part of the session will be some pursuit swims.  These are good fun – and get your competitive juices flowing – but also have a good mix of fast and steady swimming.  This will give you a chance to practice a higher stroke rate and keeping that strong high-elbow catch between the faster-paced stuff.

See you Saturday!


Well, I am pleased to hear that you are an ambitious lot from what I have heard back from you asking about your swimming goals!  It seems that a good number of you are keen to improve your swimming speed and efficiency this winter in preparation for a mix of standard to long distance triathlon races already planned for next year.  Those who have said how much time they want to save have been pretty realistic, on the whole, but also ambitious to make significant improvements, which is really good to hear.

Having set a swimming goal for the winter the next thing is to determine the major challenges you need to overcome.  If your swimming fitness is the major challenge then how are you going to make time for sessions without compromising your running and cycling?  If technique is your major challenge then how are you going to determine what improvements you need to make and make enough time to practice them?  How are you going to measure your progress and whether or not any changes are working?

You have a good mix of sessions that we provide at the Triathlon Club to support you in your goals as well as other good swimming specialists such as Ed’s Elite Swimming Academy and the City of Cambridge Masters Swimming Club.  I recommend you choose the appropriate mix of sessions to support what you need and with the Saturday sessions I plan to do the following:

  • I will aim to have at least one underwater camera at all of the Saturday sessions before Christmas for those of you that want to be filmed and get some feedback on your stroke.
  • Various combinations of Chrissie, Simon and myself will be at as many Saturday sessions as possible in the lead up to Christmas to give you more options to get some coaching on your stroke.
  • I will run some more time trials in sessions over the Winter to help you measure your progress and what sort of effect and changes in your stroke are making.  I will announce these in advance, for those that don’t want to do this, but will also look at changing the format a bit so we can fit them into a session alongside other training.  Watch this space for more details!

In the session this week we will be doing some more front crawl technique focusing on the catch so please think really hard about keeping your elbow close to the surface of the water when you do the catch.  You can watch this short video of Rebecca Adlington for a fantastic example of this here.

As well as the technique work we will also be doing a nice long set of 100s with a few IMs thrown in for fun.  But, please, please, please really try and think about your technique during the main sets as this is where you can really get a lot of benefit by locking in improvements in your technique as part of longer sets.

See you Saturday,


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