I bought a tempo trainer last week and had the opportunity to try it out at the pool today. This waterproof plastic gadget is an audible metronome pacing device. Today I used setting 3 which allows you to set a certain stroke rate.
In warm-up, I figured out my natural stroke rate. I set the tempo trainer to beep at a rate of 50 strokes per minute and tucked the device in my swim cap. While I swam, the device beeped at a constant rate of 50 strokes per minute. I quickly determined that this rate was too slow. I increased the tempo of the beeps each length until I settled at 60. My arms naturally moved at this rate when swimming easily. Note: initially I really felt this chunk of plastic against my head but I got used to it quickly.
I have a long smooth stroke but have been aware for years that I have a tendency to over glide which results in a slight dead spot out front. I’ve tried to correct this by swimming faster or differently but I have never been able to change my stroke.
The main-set of my swim today was 4 sets of 10×50 where the effort remained constant at 80% while the intervals changed after each group of 10 . Each round got a bit harder as the amount of rest decreased. This was a perfect swim to try to work on my stroke tempo.
Because the effort of the main-set was a bit harder than my warm-up swimming (80% vs. 70%) I set the tempo trainer slightly faster to 63 beeps per minute.
Results: I had the same experience in every single 50m swim. The tempo seemed a hair slow for the first 25m. Then, from 25-35m the pace seemed bang on. But, after that point (as I would fatigue slightly) I would have to work a little bit to stay with the beeps. I was fine when I wasn’t breathing but as soon as I took a breath I would be slightly behind again. Realization: my pause is due to an interruption caused by slow (inefficient) breathing. I kept the device in my cap for the entire set and for the last 15 50s worked hard at keeping my stroke rate constant even when fatiguing. It helped if I changed my breathing pattern from bilateral to every stroke during the last 10m. The audible cue was great. My stroke felt very balanced and consequently quite different from how I normally swim. I wonder if it looked as different as it felt?
I can’t wait to swim with this device again although I’m not sure if my lane mates are ready. The person swimming behind me did comment that he could hear the beeping and it wasn’t matching his stroke rate so it was a bit annoying. Next time I think I will use the tempo trainer for a bit, then remove it and see if I can hold my new stroke without the audible cues.
If you know your stoke is not balanced or has dead spots I would highly recommend trying out this tool. The one I used today is made by Finis, has a replaceable battery and costs around $55. You can use it while running too! I will definitely be having my athletes play with this tempo trainer.