Today, emotionally and physically was just about me.  The student practice was stroke work, stroke thoughts, rather than drills. Starting with rehearsals of the path the arm takes from entrance to exit (yes, backwards) .  Three stoke thoughts went with this…the shape of the arm, the path from front to back, and the mail slot entry.  The instructors practiced early, and did the student session, then we had coach’s practice right after that instead of at the end of the day since it’s warmer mid morning.

So the coach’s practice is where most of my mental energy went for the day. Today was the first day where I didn’t feel like I made measurable progress. Not just progress, but my body didn’t respond in the way that I wanted it to, or the way that was anticipated. Yesterday, I’d asked Terry about a specific task that we were doing (and why I couldn’t get it right) and his answer was, appropriately, ‘figure it out’.  He wasn’t being obtuse…he was saying that something in my timing was off, different, had changed from what I was doing before. It wasn’t something that he could see from the deck, it was only something that I could discover by continued practice and observation, continued collection of information.

Sure enough, when given time to rest, reflect and retest, I managed to hit the target I was after (a specific number of strokes per lap, with a specific focus).

Today was a similar situation.  The practice set is noted below (add the practice set here). Before starting I didn’t know what the objective was, but it did become clear later. This practice was the first one that really felt like a “swim workout”.  Not because it was difficult, but because there was a prescribed amount of sets and reps to go along with a specific task and purpose.  In the initial one-fingered drill, I finished on about 19 strokes.    My count ranged from 21 to 19 and I was very frustrated with this to start with.

But the idea was to start with a stroke count that was manageable for the tempo we’d be working with.  He handed out the tempo trainers and we began the firs set, which was 4 x 25 hitting the same number of strokes.  I actually took 2 strokes off during this first 4 x 25 set, from 18 down to 16.  For the rest of the set, we were supposed to maintain the same stroke count. I ranged form 16 to 18 without seeming to be able to control it at all.

During the next set, we increased the rate of the tempo trainer so that the strokes were slower. We were ideally supposed to see a drop in our stroke rate. I didn’t. I stayed at the same stroke count throughout.  I was frustrated and not in a very good mindset. It was the first time this week that I was feeling internal resistance to what we were doing.  Not because I didnt understand it, but because I couldn’t do it.  Of course, Terry’s response would likely have been , “its just information to collect”.  But in the context of the practice, we were supposed to see a drop in stroke count. 

Then we went back down with the tempo trainers.  The goal was to see if you could maintain the same stroke count. if you could keep the same stroke count with a faster stroke rate, the result is  FREE speed!  “Voodoo speed” in TI terms.  Well, my stroke count us stayed the same. So I guess that was good. It was around 18 for most of the sets.   But at some points I was down to 16 and I was having a hard time figuring out what the differences were.

In the end I was just very frustrated, and felt like my body had failed me. I suddenly felt like I had simply failed.  Of course this was absurd, and I had to coach myself back into the correct mindset.  The fact is that something had simply “changed” as the stroke count decreased, resulting in the same count despite a slower stroke rate. Something was different and it was my job to discover what it was exactly.

Buck Up Little Tadpole!

A little encouraging text message from one of my athletes also helped.  “Buck up little tadpole, you’ll be a frog soon enough”.  It made me smile. During lunch my thoughts alternated form obsession to acceptance.  Why was this bothering me so much?  It’s just information for you to learn from.  Rationalization ensued…I haven’t been swimming much at all.  When was the last time someone gave me a timed stroke workout?   I allowed all these thougths to race and roil in my mind, all the while knowing that the ultimate ‘proper’ thought process was to simply use it as information to be learned from.

After lunch, I was the first in the ppol.  I had done some math while walking back from the opposite end of the island…I had deliberately took a long lunch walk to let my thoughts unscramble.  At the fastest pace of the set, and at my slowest stroke rate, my time would be about 45 second per 50 or 1:30 per 100.  That’s pretty good I thought, especially since I now have an objective measure of performance…the tempo trainer and my stroke count.

I considered my recent 45 second 50s in the pool, and my recent 1:33 PR in the 100 all out…I was super sloppy in my stroke and felt tired, fatigued and not at all in control of my stroke.  At least with the tempo trainer, I was feeling very much in control… I just needed to discover what it was that had allowed me to go 16 strokes at some points and 18 at others.   I think I did about 8 25s before practice started and finally did get down to 16 strokes at a tempo trainer setting 1.30 seconds, with my next goal being 16 strokes at 1.20 seconds. I put the TT away and we held afternoon session.

A the end of the student session I was still obsessed with my stroke counts. I knew I could get them lower, and I knew that something ‘bad’ was happening when my stroke count rose to 18 for that rate.  I continued to rehearse previous stroke thoughts, focal points and drills striving for that elusive 16. Dammit…I had just done it the day prior.  Each lap I was about 8 inches short.  I looked for ways to get 1/2 inch on each stroke.  Eventually I hit it. My glide was becoming less efficient as I would try to stroke faster.  It seemed like my stroke would get short,  my legs would start to drop and the glide would slow down significantly.  Once I focused on a patient front arm, maintaing my glide with a pressure on my armpit, it once again felt whole and relaxed.

Suddenly, I had it.  I was down to 16, then 15, the 14, then 13, the 12 and finally I reached 11!  This was a painfully slow stroke count.  I tried to repeat it and Dave, immediately told me that I was hesitating too much on the hand entry.  I’m not sure if that is something that can be avoided on the super slow recover sets when trying to get a low stroke count, but I took his advice and focused on falling into each stroke, while still trying to slow my recovery.

Overall, I was pleased with my ability to revisit a task to try to improve it, I was pleased with the repeatability of the tempo trainer and stroke counting set design .  I was pleased with the face that I figured out my 16 stroke count lap, and that I was able to get to an all time low of 11 strokes per 25 yards without looking like total crap. 

So…I’ll continue out work on my stroke, work in stroke sets with the tempo trainer until I can recreate the Maffetone like method of tempo trainer set design la Terry Laughlin. 

Overall a great day despite the challenges. It was wonderful to meet a challenge like this and have a plan to overcome it.  Part of me can’t want to get home  to start practicing

Today’s Pratice Set

Obtain stroke Count:

4 x 25 1 fingered swim, focus on no turbulence.  Finishing stroke count to be used as starting point.

Hold Stroke Count for following set with Tempo Trainer


Then set Tempo Trainer to 1.20 sec to start and increase by .02 sec each 50, ending at 1.30s. Allow 3 beeps for pushoff, first stroke on 4th beep. Count extra beeps towards rest (10 beeps rest)

6×50 (increasing by .02 each set). Does SC go up or down?

then 5 x 50 decreaseing TT by .02 s each set, keep SC the same.