Today I did 3000m, smooth aerobic set. The pool was 28 degrees C (83 F) which is about right- not too warm to make one feel sluggish, not too cool to shiver.  I had 5.5 hours of sleep last night- a bit of insomnia. I have not been getting enough rest for several nights and I am still fighting something off- my sinuses are swollen and congested. But swimming helps flush the nose and lungs-  a salt water flush would be better but the sea is still a chilly 15C (62F). The water was refreshing but I could tell after the first 200m that I was not 100%, but not fatigued in such a way that feared my immune system was going to be weakened further- sometimes it’s helpful to rest, sometimes it’s helpful to get the blood pumping.

The point of today’s longer swims was to experiment with the Tempo Trainer and see how my body and brain responded to a more extended tempo constraint. I am also just gathering data on how various tempos affect my stroke and SPL and times- from these experiments, I hope to design very specific sets with very specific focus and tempo guidelines to help me reach my speed goals.

[FG= Fistgloved, TT= Tempo Trainer setting, SPL= stroke per length]

  • 1000m FG (Fistgloved), TT 1.55, SPL held at 18-16, came in around 20:00
  • 1000m hand, TT 1.55, SPL held at 14-16, came in at 19:12
  • 200m FG, TT 1.50, SPL held at 18-17, came in at 3:54
  • 200m hand, TT 1.50, SPL held at 14-16, came in at 3:35
  • 200m FG, TT 1.40, SPL held at 18-16, came in at 3:45
  • 200m hand, TT 1.40, SPL held at 15-16, came in at 3:25

The first 1000m tempo felt a bit fast at first, as I was warming up, then toward the end it felt too slow. It was a good warm up tempo but it revealed how much my stroke would fluctuate if I swim unassisted by the TT.

I believe it is best to coordinate the beep of the TT with the grab of the stroke- I tried it in various points and found that if I timed it toward the end of the stroke I would shorten the stroke in order to keep timing. But if I kept it at the beginning I would maintain a long stroke, and adjust the recovery to keep the timing.

The trick of timing the beep with the grab for every length is at the flip turn and push-off from the wall where the rhythm with the tempo is broken. My natural surfacing point is about 1m past the flags which I don’t want to shorten and so I either lengthen (the glide) or slightly shorten the first two strokes to put my grab on cue with the beep then continue on tempo (kinda like breaking into a marching band and taking a shuffling couple times to fall into sync with their steps.

During the 2nd 1000m my left shoulder started to feel slightly irritated. I always have to keep an eye on them for unusual strain, since I had severe tendonitis 20 years ago and suffered bursitis off and on until I discovered TI 9 years ago and was liberated. Shoulder soreness is a sure sign that I am doing something wrong, so at the slightest hint I start scanning for the culprit in my stroke. For me it is usually a reminder that I need to concentrate on powering the stroke from the torso (i.e hip thrust), not the shoulders. So I started to focus on that, on just letting the shoulders transfer the power, not generate it- I had to let the stroking arm go at the pace that my torso set, not that my shoulder muscles could force. Yes, I could ‘push’ those arms faster, but then I would interrupt the development of my core power (and imprinting the habit) and continue to strain the shoulder joint.  I want to stroke faster but I will do it by developing the core connection and rhythm, not by relying on my less-effective and injury-vulnerable shoulder tissues.

I noticed, despite getting winded that I could hold my SPL quite consistently. The TT ‘forces’ the mind to keep up, but I didn’t notice the lactic fatigue that I would expect from trying to speed-up my times on repeats, unassisted by a beeper.

If I slacked on the quality of my push-off from the wall, coming up 1m shorter than normal, it would add an SPL to my count, and slow my time down. The long smooth glide is so critical. If a person is strained on their breathing then I would recommend taking a good gulp before the flip-turn where it is less-costly to the time and rhythm than shortening the glide from the wall.

Another nice feature of doing these longer timed swims is that I have time to check several aspects of my stroke, lap after lap. I noticed on the 2nd 1000m that I was not keeping my head looking straight down and cheek tight enough against the shoulder of the extended front arm. I was creeping back into the old fashioned broad-shouldered swimming. Once I did tuck the head in, I did notice that it improved my glide distance- such a little thing added so much drag! So I focused on tucking my head in tighter each stroke after taking a breath. At first I could feel it adding a little strain to my neck and shoulder, but it is one of those strains that will be eliminated by repitition until it is as natural as any other part of my stroke.

Another thought on my shoulder strain- for my size I think I have an unusually long stroke length, which might sound good in one respect, but it is also a danger in another. Early on in my TI experience I caught onto the “Front Quadrant” concept and did tons of catch-up drills until I could not stand to have my hand leave the front until the other arrived to take its place. I have a very patient hand, but that must also become a wise hand. A longer stroke and faster times means I will be transfering more power through that shoulder joint. I must be very careful that the joint merely transfers core power in unison, but does not try to make up for a lack of it. So as I develop more speed with a tempo trainer, I will need to be willing to adjust that point at which I grab the water and start sliding past the hand. My hand is patient enough that I have room to spare- but I will do it as a precisely calculated trade-off between SL and speed, while protecting the precious streamline.

And one more comment on the FG. Alternating between the FG and open hand is wonderful. Before TI I used to use paddles (not very wise for a shoulder injury prone swimmer!) to get the thrill of big-hand swimming- but then you take them off to swim ‘normal’ and you feel so small. Now I come at it from the opposite direction. Small-hands swimming with the FG adds no strain to my shoulders, and then when I return to open-hand, I have the normal stroke loads but with the more powerful affect where I need it. The FG don’t interfere with my balance or breathing, nor do they create an exaggerated swimming experience. Because I swim balanced in the water already they don’t lower my pace to an unpleasant level. They might even be the key to allowing me to develop my faster stroke at higher tempos without adding greater strain to my shoulders before they are ready take that level of power going through them.  We’ll see.

-Mat

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