View Full Version : Best way to track speed progress?

February 23rd, 2002, 01:55 AM
Evening all,

I have a question to pose. Now that I am free of a former job which took me out
of the country 80% of the time (and in places where there ain't exactly a pool
on every corner LOL), I am finally back to a regular training regimen.

One thing I have always lacked however is a good reliable way to test my speed
improvement and know if I am improving at a good pace. I would like at some
point to begin competing in USMS meets. I have never competed as an adult, just
when I was a kid.

Specifically I wonder when and how often and what to expect. In other words, is
it best to time my 50, 100 and 200 free at the start, during or at the end of a
workout? Should I squeeze it in on distance day, tuck it into one of my drill
routines, or do it on sprint days?

Also, how often is optimal to balance the desire to track progress closely yet
also not disrupt the day's routine? Running three little races will surely have
an impact on the rest of the workout if I am supposed to test myself before or
during my routine for that day.

I know it varies by person, but I would be interested to hear feedback on the
progress others have noted, or any good ways to gauge and anticipate what
results I should expect based on my progress in practice.

So far all I know is what it was like when I got back into swimming 5 years ago
for the first time in 10 years. At that time, I could barely make 200m on the
first day- I was hyperventilating. 2 months later I did a 50 free in 31
seconds. About two months after that I managed one in 27 seconds. Soon after
that I graduated college and moved here to Houston where I have not been with a
regular masters program where we checked our times periodically. So no data
since that date.

When I was in Venezuela this past October, after rarely touching a pool in
almost a year, I managed a 50 free in 33 seconds. Have not raced one since.

So based on that, what do you think is realistic to look for in terms of
shaving time? At what point does the fast improvement really begin to taper
off? I am guessing that doing a 50 free in 31 seconds and then at 27 seconds 2
months later does not mean I would be breaking the 23 second barrier two months
after that (though it would be awful nice LOL.)

I know this is a LOT of subjective questions, but any general guidance will
help me a lot to ensure I set reasonable expectations and create a monitoring
program that will be reliable and not disruptive.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts. I really need to set this up to help keep
me motivated.


February 23rd, 2002, 09:58 AM

I'd test your speed under the best possible conditions, after a good warmup at the beginning of practice. This might be 400-1000 swim, 0-200 kick, 2-8 50s drills and buildup swimming. Whatever you need to get loosened up and warmed up. Then go for it. If you do a 50, a 100 and a 200 you might get pretty tired. This is almost a complete meet in itself! Swim easy inbetween.

I would test yourself this way every week at the most. It is fun to go fast but it is hard on the body. Mix up your practices.

To track your progress, keep a practice log. Write down every practice, every set, every time you do. If you can't remember the detail, remember a range, like most times were at about 43 seconds, and the fastest was 38 seconds. Checking this log will show progress as you go faster on similar sets. If you keep a log long enough you can compare yourself year to year.

Go swim in a meet as soon as there is one nearby. This is the best way to check your speed. If you feel that you are not ready for this, try to go watch a masters meet. There are fast and slow people of every age there. Some familiarity with how it works will increase your comfort level.

In terms of progress, nobody can predict. Look at your weaknesses. Do you need to fix your technique? This can take quite a bit of time, or it can provide a very quick benefit. Is it mainly conditioning? How are your starts and turns? How is your streamlining?

If you are swimming hard, then a few days of rest ("tapering" down the workload) will make you go even faster. So, don't be surprised if you go slower on some days rather than improving every time. Watch the long term trend instead.

It is likely that the pool in Venezuela was meters rather than yards, so 33 would be more like a 30.

Swim fast,

February 23rd, 2002, 01:04 PM
Hey Tom,

You're one of the lucky ones. Check Emmett's website at http://H2OustonSwims.org. Or, better still, hop on your bike and ride across town and see him.

February 24th, 2002, 04:18 PM
Thanks guys!

Greg- yes it was a 50 meter pool, so guess I did better than I thought! LOL. Thanks for shaving another 3 seconds off my 50 time :)

Strong440- I will definitely be contacting Mr. Hines soon. I know of him by reputation and was just wanting to get back in the swing of things first. Thank you for the link too- I found the website a long time ago, but I had not saved the link and had forgotten the site was even there.

Based on your comments Greg sounds like it might be best to do one of the three once each week which will keep the testing to once a week and give me a status update on each every three weeks. And I will go ahead and do it first thing after the warmup.

Good idea on the log too. I always keep track of total distance, but I have not usually tracked times.

Thanks again for the help! I have just finished developing 5 workouts to use to get going again. Would this be a good board to post them for comments and suggestions? Every other thing I have asked has yielded some great advice, so comments on my workout plan would be greatly appreciated.


Bert Petersen
February 25th, 2002, 02:54 AM
One other idea would be to time the first half of your race at the start of practice, when you are fresh, and the back half at the end of workout, when you are more tired. This would give you a realistic idea of your 1. basic speed and then 2. your ability to finish strongly. Bert

Steve Ruiter
February 27th, 2002, 05:18 PM
I am not so sure it matters what you use to gauge your progress, but it would seem most valuable to find some set of benchmarks that are easily and accurately measurable and repeatable.

For me, I frequently do a 1000 yard swim for time, and sometimes a 400 IM kick with a board for time. You may need to find other more appropriate benchmarks that work for you. I like to set my watch to beep on the pace I am trying to go, so I can tell how I am doing along the way.

From the times I do on these, and having done them enough times under similar circumstances, I have a very reliable way of measuring where I am against my personal history. Right now I am in a "don't ask, don't tell" level of conditioning, where I won't even do it, because I know the results will be worse that I want to know.

Beyond that, participating in swim meets can't be beat for providing accurate measures of your progress.