View Full Version : hard effort + times no faster = ?

February 25th, 2006, 07:53 PM
Not that math was ever my subject, lol!

Anyway, here's something odd I'm noticing: during the masters' workouts and on my own, I notice that when I put out max effort, the times aren't too different (sometimes even slower) than when I'm putting out only a moderately hard effort. For instance, one of the elements in today's workout involved swimming a hundred easy, then two hard 50s. In the first of the 50s, I picked up a bit but was conserving energy for the next one. In the next one, I was--I THOUGHT--picking up the effort to the max. BUT... the second fifty was a second or two slower than the first. HELLO?

The coach told me later that he noticed that my stroke got more choppy, that it didn't have the reach that it had when I was swimming easy or even medium hard. When I went all out, my form suffered. I gather that's fairly common. I could in fact feel a difference in myself: I was more tense, I think. Yet I want to improve my speed. The coach said that as I got stronger, I'd find it easier to hold technique while swimming hard, and that sounds reasonable too.

If you've run into this, what were/are your strategies to deal with it? Obviously it takes some practice, and that's something I'm working on. But any/all tips appreciated.

Here's what's curious too: when I run, the opposite happens. If I'm running easy, my form is so-so, improving when I push myself (although even there, it can deteriorate if I'm running a longer race).

February 25th, 2006, 08:40 PM
Keeping proper form becomes more difficult as you increase effort, that is no mystery I am sure. I have run into the same problem you are having. I corrected the form issue by working up more slowly to a higher output level as opposed to taking it easy for the majority of practice and then hitting it hard on a few sprints. I now make certain that in every practice I swim a fair amount of my yardage at about 80% effort. This seems to have helped maintain form and it makes the most of my relatively short practices.

Another problem I had with going from easy swimming to 100% effort is breathing. When I am in cruise mode I will breathe every other stroke and that is not beneficial to a good sprint. I now limit my breathing to about 2-3 breaths per 25 when I am sprinting and it seems to have made a significant difference (over a second).

Matt S
February 27th, 2006, 12:42 AM

Congratulations. You've just discovered an insight that can help you learn how to efficiently go fast. You now know how to inefficiently go just a little faster, at a greatly increased expenditure of energy. You are experiencing what happens when you let your arms thrash independently of your thrashing just as hard legs. They aren't working together, and you are seeing the difference between, oh say for example...bunting in baseball as opposed to a coordinated swing that starts with your legs and involves all you major muscle groups.

Here is a technique for playing with this concept. This is called swimming golf. Let's say you are doing a set of 50s. Most swimmers will notice the time they touch, and try to play with how fast they swim each 50, as you described in your post. Instead, count the number of strokes you take. (Beginners' tip: if you breath every 2 strokes, count your breaths and multiply by 2. As you get more familiar with the counting, you'll start to notice when you take the odd extra stroke and account for it.) Add your time in seconds to the number of strokes you took for the 50. Voila, there is your swim golf score for that repeat. Now, play with that concept. See how low you can get your golf score, and at what stroke count. See how fast you go a various stroke counts. Try this over different distances. You will learn all sorts of interesting things if you pay attention to efficiency (measured by stroke count) as well as speed.

Warning: you do not want to try this with very low rest, aerobic intervals. Or at least not at first. Give yourself a little extra time on the wall to do the math when you are starting out.


February 27th, 2006, 09:55 AM
Thanks for the tips, guys!

SCY, when i do workouts on my own, I usually try to do them in ascending levels of effort, although sometimes I'll try things in reverse. But in the supervised workout I do on Sat., the coach has set up the easy 100 followed by the hard 50s--but are you saying, then, that it's still better to increase the effort on the "easy" 100 even so?


I definitely think I'll need to do that stroke count thing in my unsupervised workouts b/c my math skills are such that I'd have the coach wondering if I was planning to start up again! ;) But seriously, that sounds like a good suggestion. Sometimes I've tried counting strokes just on easy laps and seeing if I can decrease the number, w/out necessarily trying to go fasartter. When I'm trying to go faster, I think I lose a lot of focus on the how while trying to reach Point B ASAP. But obviously, that's been the problem...maybe stay with focusing on the "how" and the speed will work its way in....

I should mention that I'm 55 and while I've won a couple awards at swim races by default (i.e. no one else competing in the same age group), 5-year-old age groupers could beat me. But hey gotta start somewhere! :)

Allen Stark
February 27th, 2006, 09:17 PM
Here is another idea. On the hard 50's don't start hard but instead start at about 80% and then increase the pace with each stroke. Does that help your form? Then try a 50 starting at 80% but then increase your effort with each stroke without increasing your pace. Play with it.