Today I swam 3500m. The water was 29 degrees C.

My focus today was to hold SPL across the set and descend times. My goal was to hold 17 SPL for the Fistgloved , and 15 SPL for the open-hand legs.

2x 400m, 4x 200m, 8x 100m, 8x 50m where I alternated FG and open-hand (e.g. 400 FG, then 400 open-hand = 2x 400).  The FG leg was not timed, but effort was steady, holding momentum. The effort level progressed from warm-up in the first 400 to controlled sprint on the 50s.

Fistgloved Open-Hand
SPL held SPL held time
400m 16 14 6:59
200m 16 14 3:14
16 14 3:12
100m 16 14 1:32
15 14 1:30
14 14 1:29
14 14+, 1:29
50m 15 15 :42
15 15 :42
15 14 :43
16,15 14 :43
16,14 14 :43
15,14 14 :43
15,14 14 :42
15,14 14,15 :41

100 recovery

100m timed. Came in at 1:20 (a new PR for this spring)

100 recovery


My goal today was to hold SPL at 17 FG/ 15 open-hand and ease into speed with that interesting accelerating affect that SPL controlled sets have. I was immediately pleased to find that I settled into 16/14 SPL on the 400s instead. Then I became curious what my 50 sprint times would be like if I could hold this. Would holding such a low SPL end up making me slower than I would expect to swim otherwise?

What was remarkable was that even my FG SPL dropped over the course of the workout. I didn’t time them but I could feel that I was swimming faster in those as well without trying.

Now how did I go faster without trying to go faster? Did I just start so slow that it was inevitable that I would speed up? No. I kept momemtum all the way, no decelerating glides. To swim 14 SPL I had a very specific pattern I had to hold for each length- the push-off had to be just right, the first catch, the quality of the entire pull, the last reach to the wall before the flip-turn… if 14 SPL were easy in order to swim it slow I would have to deform my catch and pull. If it were hard I would have to make an exaggeratedly long, decelerating glide to make it. There was a pattern and a momentum to the rhythm that had to be held. Each 25 had to be swam just as solid at the beginning as the end.

And I have already learned that if I tried to concentrate on swimming “faster” I would have had to add another SPL. So I focused on setting the pattern and rhythm and swam the 400 and the second 200 I found my benchmarks from which I would try to improve. The 100 results really encouraged me. I felt that if I could break 1:30 for a 100m at only 14 SPL then I was truly making some progress on how efficient and full my stroke was.

On the first few 50s I must have wavered on my focus because I added an SPL and wondered what was going on. So on #3 I pulled back into 14 SPL and gave up 1 second to do so. Then for several it seemed I had found my speed limit at this SPL. On #7 I tried putting more hip thrust into it and making what I can only describe as a subtle short-axis wave (a little like sliding over the barrel my forearm is holding) as I tried to slide past my hand- and I got that 1 second back. Then on #8 I dug down and gave a bit more on both these motions- it cost me one SPL on one length, but I gained one more second. (I may have made an even better time had I not had a couple lounging obstructions at the end of my lane. There is not much in the way of the ‘lane ettiguette’ here that I am used to from US pools where lap swimming culture is much more common.)

I was pleased with this SPL performance. After spending 3200m imprinting 16 SPL at higher and higher tempos I wanted to see how such SPL restraint conditioning would immediately affect my 100m time. I thought surely, after such a workout and after seeing those results I would maybe cut a few more seconds off and come in at 1:26 or maybe even 1:24. So I was pleasantly surprised to see 1:20 on my watch when I touched the wall. And that was at the end of 3200m of work! It did not feel that fast while I was swimming it although I was giving full effort with a full quality stroke. I was tired going into it but still I came out with a new PR for this spring season. Now I am encouraged to think that 1:17 and lower is within reach.

I look back at last Tuesday’s TT times (1.20 to 1.10 tempo). I was coming on on the :46 to :44 with 16-17 SPL! Coming in at :42 with 14 SPL roughly calculates to 1.32 tempo! Very interesting. I was moving incredibly fast (for me) in each stroke length- this can only mean I had achieved some superior combination of lower drag and greater power from this SPL control set.

Last Sunday’s times for 100m: hold SPL at 16 = 1:31, 1:30 (a 1.25 tempo), 1:29, 1:26

Today’s times for 100m: hold SPL at 14 = 1:32, 1:30 (a 1.42 tempo), 1:29, 1:29

(Now I had wished I had counted SPL on that PR swim today.)

How did I do this?

  1. I warmed up and loosened up in a natural way according to this precise pattern of movement. So the engine got oiled and just ran smoother as a result.
  2. I was being conditioned by the set to both reach long, and have a consistent full catch at the same time. It just got easier and easier to do a a faster rate than I was being fatigued by doing it.

A long time ago when I was a triathlete I remember that feeling of getting out of the pool with my chest feeling so pumped up and my legs feeling so puny and weak. One had to be careful about their balance on the barefooted tromp to the transition area. Then from the bike to the run there was that rubbery-leg sensation. During the repetitive motion of the swim my body took all the resources to support those patterns of movement as efficiently as it could. So when I transitioned to the next event my body needed a little time to re-route all that blood and stuff to the sections of the body that were starting to need it. I knew it would take a few miles to settle in on the bike and it would take a mile to settle in on the run. In this long, SPL controlled set, there was no transition to a different set with different rhythms. So my brain and body were just getting more and more dialed in to the pattern of movement and therefore it got ‘easier’ – or rather, for the same amount of effort I got faster. With just the right amount of recovery between repeats I could keep descending.

Now the simple way to use this kind of set to improve my speed limits is to reduce the recovery time between repeats to stress the system a bit more.  I don’t think I have so much need to lower my SPL. I need to improve my ability to sustain higher tempos and maintain low drag form while I do so.

[How I estimate tempo: take 25m split minus 2.5 seconds (the time until I begin the first stroke cycle) divide by # SPL. I might minus by 3.0 seconds if it is on a long-distance swim because I glide a bit further]

© 2010, Mediterra International, LLC. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mediterra International, LLC and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Translate »

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

To receive the latest news and updates from Mediterra.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Discover more from Mediterra Swim & Run

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

[css] body .gform_wrapper ul li.gfield { padding-bottom:40px; }