During a fantastic session on Tuesday and Thursday this week more than 35 swimming women spent the sessions counting their strokes and their times. The initial concept was to see if they played SNAP. Did the number of strokes they took match the time it took to swim the distance? e.g they took 50 strokes for a 50m and did it in 50 seconds – SNAP!
Tuesdays session in case you missed it and may like to try it yourself included:
8 x 25 – SNAP – count strokes and monitor time + 15 seconds rest/25, 100 swim, 4 x 50 alt drill / swim
8 x 50 – SNAP – count strokes and monitor time + 30 seconds rest/50, 100 swim, 4 x 50 alt drill / swim
What this session did was bring awareness to how each individual swims. The Swimming Women logically fell into 1 of 3 groups. :
- Group 1 took fewer strokes than the time to swim. They have a relatively low stroke rate taking less than one stroke per second. Ian Thorpe had a really low stroke count taking around 30 strokes per 50m yet he swam faster than 30 seconds /50 as well!!!. (try that at home!)
- Group 2 played SNAP for nearly every swim, either through adjustment of elements of their stroke, and or because that is the way they naturally swim.
- Whilst the third group took more strokes than seconds and in some instances by 15 or 20 % more. A classic example of this is world marathon swimming champion Shelley Taylor-Smith who would take more than 80 strokes per minute for more than 10k!!! (try keeping that rate up if you were in group 1!)
It was good to repeat the exercise over several swims and distances to find an average rate as an element of fatigue set in. The question I was asked though repeatedly was : “Is one is better than the other?”
There is a swimming concept out there that if you take fewer strokes per length, you are swimming more efficiently therefore you are a ‘better swimmer’ and this is how we should all aim to swim. What I have observed and this session was classic in proving it is in fact the following:
- Every body and everybody is completely different. Our swim strokes are like our fingerprints in that no two are exactly the same. This needs to be appreciated and acknowledged when swimming coaching and working on stroke technique.
- Everybody has different reasons for swimming and this also needs to be acknowledged. For example some swim for relaxation and meditation and are not concerned by how long it takes to swim a set distance. Others have one hour to burn as much energy and huff and puff as much as they can and need to move everything, rapidly, constantly!
- Fewer strokes, the same or more is not relevant if your stroke works for you and helps you achieve what you want with your swimming session.
Having said that…….. most people would like to swim better and improve their fitness or aspire to a specific swimming goal. In this instance knowing if your stroke is doing the right thing is more critical than the number of strokes you take. You need to ascertain if your stroke:
- has any dead spots that may be slowing you down. You may speed up by eliminating the dead spots and adding more strokes to each length. Chances are high that if you take less than 1 stroke / second you could benefit from playing with your stroke rate as you are probably loosing some of your umph through the water!
- is as effective as it could be. Are your hands slipping through the water, are you dropping your elbow and closing your armpit too soon? You may benefit from reducing your stroke count and slowing things down a touch to ensure you get that all important first catch at the start of the stroke correct.
These factors apply regardless of your stroke count being more, less or the same as your time!
When this 4 week block is finished we will start work on a 4 week block of focus on the front of your stroke (yes more cat patting and water falling lies ahead!!!!). It will be interesting to see if that impacts upon your stroke count. In the interim you would benefit (yes great assumptive statement) from reading this link and watching the associated footage regarding overgliding and dead spots by the amazing people at Swim Smooth.